Pursuing a Career in Advertising Law

This post discusses how law students might pursue a career in advertising law. Immediately after law school, the two most likely advertising law job options are:

1) a position at a private law firm that has an advertising law department. The Bay Area doesn’t have many such firms/departments. Most advertising law departments are located in New York, Washington DC or Chicago. Elsewhere, most law firms don’t have an advertising law specialist, but their trademark attorneys handle advertising review and counseling as an ordinary but small part of their practice. As a result, new attorneys seeking to build an advertising law practice may find it easier to start as a trademark attorney. Unfortunately, even new entry-level trademark positions are relatively rare in the Bay Area, and these positions usually don’t handle the full range of advertising law issues such as consumer class action litigation.

Alternatively, a new advertising law attorney can start as a litigator. If a firm doesn’t have an advertising law department, investigate its commercial litigation practice; firms may have an active class action defense practice that will present substantial advertising law crossovers. Sometimes, this work is housed in the firm’s antitrust/competition practice.

2) a government job with a regulatory agency that includes advertising oversight, such as the Federal Trade Commission (which has an honors program but otherwise may not regularly hire entry-level attorneys), the Federal Communications Commission (which covers lots of interesting broadcaster advertising issues), Department of Justice (its civil fraud division handles consumer fraud), other federal government agencies with an advertising law portfolio (e.g., the FDA), or state consumer protection agencies. Some DA’s/prosecutor offices have dedicated divisions to consumer issues. Some state AG offices, such as New York and Florida, have particularly active advertising law dockets; and California’s AG has a Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit. A few city/county prosecutors’ offices have dedicated lawyers to consumer/advertising issues.

Many larger companies, especially those in the consumer products arena, have dedicated in-house counsel positions focused on advertising law. Like all in-house counsel positions, it can be difficult to get those positions as a new lawyer. Instead, those positions are typically filled by attorneys who take one of the two initial routes described above.

Another entry-level route is to seek out a position in a plaintiff-side litigation firm, such as those that specialize in class actions or other consumer-related litigation. It’s rare for those firms to focus solely on advertising law issues, but it is common for those firms to regularly litigate, and become well-versed in, many of the advertising law statutes. These firms rarely do on-campus interviewing, so finding job opportunities with them requires independent legwork.

Finally, many public interest organizations address advertising law issues in one fashion or another.

Some resources you might use to help launch your career:

* the ABA Antitrust Section has several committees of interest, including the Private Advertising Litigation Committee. They have an email list and regular teleconferences.

* Consumer Attorneys of California is one of the major plaintiff-side bar associations in California. There are local analogues, such as the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, the Capitol City Trial Lawyers, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, and Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. Nationally, the American Association for Justice is the leading plaintiff-side bar association, and it has various topical groups related to consumer and advertising law.

While in school, some of the courses worth taking include:

* advertising law (naturally!). If your school doesn’t offer it but you think a professor might be interested in teaching the course, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with the prospective instructor. Consumer law may be a useful substitute for or complement to advertising law

* complex litigation courses, such as class actions or pre-trial practice

* research methods/statistics

* intellectual property courses, especially trademarks and publicity rights

* administrative law

* antitrust

* privacy

* Internet law

A few blogs you should consider reading:

* My blog, the Technology & Marketing Law Blog

* Rebecca Tushnet’s blog, 43(B)log

* Kimberly A. Kralowec’s blog, The UCL Practitioner