The Art and Cultural Heritage Lawyer

Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with Leila Amineddoleh.  Leila is an attorney who works in the area of art and cultural heritage law.  Read about her career path here: 

Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?

After graduating from law school I began my career as an IP attorney at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, where I focused on complex patent litigation. But I always knew that I wanted to work in the arts so I took steps to move into that sector. After three years at Fitzpatrick, I began working as a legal consultant for artists, small businesses, and art collectors. Eventually I went to a small law firm where I founded its art law group. About a year ago a former colleague (a talented litigator and good friend) and I founded Galluzzo & Amineddoleh LLP. We handle all aspects of due diligence, litigation, and arts transactional work. We represent major art collectors and dealers in disputes related to multi-million dollar contractual matters, art authentication disputes, international cultural heritage law, the recovery of stolen art, and complex fraud schemes. I’m also honored to work with talented artists and creative entrepreneurs protecting their intellectual property and artistic rights.

In addition to my private practice, I also teach International Art & Cultural Heritage Law at Fordham University School and St. John’s School of Law.

How did you end up working in art and cultural heritage law?

I always knew that I wanted to work in the arts. I’ve played the piano since I was very young so the musical arts have always been a part of my life. I began my career with the intention of working as an intellectual property attorney for musicians, but then learned about heritage destruction around the world and was inspired to segue into art and heritage. I made the transition by volunteering my time with artists and entrepreneurs, and by researching and writing about heritage issues. As a lifelong patron and lover of fine arts, this transition was incredibly fulfilling, although exhausting.

Could you tell the readers about how you are involved in art and cultural heritage law?

My private practice is a mixed bag; I work with artists, musicians, collectors, dealers, and business owners—anyone who has confronted an art or IP issue. My first most highly-publicized case thus far involved an asset forfeiture proceeding over a stolen 13th century painting. The work was illicitly removed from a safe deposit, it went hidden for nearly three decades, and then appeared at Sotheby’s. The government seized the work and my law firm represented two of the partial owners in the case. We successfully represented their interests and had their rightful shares of the work returned. The painting is going to auction this January.

My work in private practice informs my teaching. I teach a seminar on art and cultural heritage that focuses on art crimes (thefts, vandalism, and forgeries), artists’ rights, Nazi-looted art, museums and auction houses, and cultural heritage (international laws regulating the movement of heritage and the trade in antiquities). I absolutely love teaching as it gives me an opportunity to meet so many interesting people. I must admit that I often learn a lot from the students in my class and it inspires me to continue with my academic goals. I thoroughly enjoy researching and writing about current art and heritage topics, and it provides me with great opportunities to speak at conferences and share my findings with like-minded colleagues. 

And my final professional role is as Executive Director of the LCCHP. I’ve held the post since April 2013, but recently announced my decision to step down as Executive Director. With a growing legal practice, it is very difficult to also play such a time-consuming role with the non-profit. I will continue involvement with the organization because of its outstanding and essential contributions to cultural heritage preservation.

Is there anything particular or unique to this area of law that you would like to share with the readers?

Art law is like any other area of the law, and it is a blend of many specialties including intellectual property, Constitutional law, contracts, property disputes, estate planning, and even construction law. Although the subject matter is art, the law is still the law. My practice involves litigation skills, transactional considerations, and legal consultations. It is essential for anyone entering art law to foster a commitment to the law, develop lawyering skills, and work with integrity and respect for justice. And it also helps to love art!

Do you have specific advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who are embarking on their careers?

One of the exciting things about art law is that there are many female attorneys in this field. The general counsels at many major art museums, artists’ foundations, and auction houses are women. In addition, some of the top academics in this field are female, and women are getting more and more involved in art collecting.

For women interested in entering art law, the most important trait is determination. Finding a position in this field is challenging because it is such a small field. Most people do not enter art law directly upon graduation, but rather gain experience at a law firm before moving into art and cultural heritage.

Is there anything that I did not mention that would be helpful for the readers to know about your career or your current positions?

For me, art law is not just my career, it’s my life. As a musician and performer, I am passionate about working with artists and protecting their rights. As an art collector, I am involved in the art market and it is a pleasure to advise fellow collectors and patrons. And as a heritage preservation activist, research and writing on this topic is fascinating and intellectually stimulating. I feel incredibly fortunate to work in this fascinating area of the law.

Leila A. Amineddoleh is a Partner and co-founder at Galluzzo & Amineddoleh where she specializes in art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law. She began her career as an associate at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, where she specialized in high-stakes intellectual property litigation, and then worked Of Counsel at Lombard & Geliebter where she founded the firm’s art law group. Ms. Amineddoleh is involved in all aspects of due diligence and litigation, and ahs extensive experience in arts transactional work. She has represented major art collectors and dealers in disputes related to multi-million dollar contractual matters, art authentication disputes, international cultural heritage law violations, the recovery of stolen art, and complex fraud schemes.

She also works with artists and entrepreneurs to protect their intellectual property and artistic rights.

Ms. Amineddoleh teaches International Art & Cultural Heritage Law at Fordham University School of Law and St. John’s University School of Law. Ms. Amineddoleh also serves as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. She is also a musician and regularly performs the piano in and around New York City.


Ms. Amineddoleh received her Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School. In law school, she was an Editor of the Intellectual Property and Technology Forum online journal. Prior to law school, Ms. Amineddoleh received her undergraduate degree in economics from New York University.

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