Aicha Tohry/ Art Lawyer

After being called to the Bar, Aicha decided to go off the beaten path to start ARTY LAW, a legal practice that offers legal services to creatives. Fuelled by her love of contemporary art and innovation, Aicha makes it a point to educate her clientele, whether in fashion, arts, tech or entertainment, on the legal side of their business and to eradicate some legal myths through online content.

Photo by Rym El-Ouazzani

Photo by Rym El-Ouazzani

Let’s start with the basics. What are you doing now? In a sentence or so, describe your work/practice(s).

I have my own legal practice called ARTY LAW where I offer legal services to creatives. I work with freelancers and corporations in a variety of fields such as fashion, visual arts (including marketing), entertainment, and tech.

Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

I think I started considering law school when I was in high school, so I think we can say that's relatively early. It stemmed from a love of music, so I really wanted to be a music industry lawyer at the time.

At what moment did you realize you wanted to take your legal education and career in your own direction? 

I never liked taking the same path as everyone else. I always got involved in fields and activities that most people in law school weren't interested it or just weren't getting into, so I always had the need to take my education in the direction I wanted. However, I think it hit me when I realized I had no interest whatsoever in la course aux stages.


What were the steps you took and opportunities you seized in order to get where you are?

I knew I wanted to work with creatives and that usually requires a very good foundation in intellectual property, so I took every single class related to IP: IP basics, entertainment law, etc. I was a research assistant for Ysolde Gendreau, UdeM's IP professor, for a bit. I also wanted to know more about how creative industries actually worked so I volunteered for a few non-profits in the arts. I love writing so I spent a good part of my bachelor's and bar school writing for online publications. I was an editor for Osgoode's IPilogue for more than year and I've been writing for Law on the Runway, a San Francisco based fashion law firm, since the summer of 2016 (a job I found on Twitter by the way).

What makes your current practice “lawfully uncommon”?

The type of people I work with and the way I do it make my practice relatively uncommon. Not everyone knows that fashion law is a thing or that lawyers who work with creatives exist and because of that, I spend a lot of time trying to educate my clients/potential clients. Social media is a big part of what I do and I make it a point to keep up a very aesthetically pleasing branding because I know creatives are most likely to read a caption if they like the picture it comes with (my brain functions the same way). I publish blog posts every single week, which more and more law firms are doing, but I still find that a lot of the legal content online is written for lawyers and not for entrepreneurs. Some would say that the fact that I've never met some of clients is uncommon, but seriously, it's 2017. 

Is there anyone influential in your life that helped you realize your goals? Mentors or role models in the field that inspired you?

Rachel Fischbein, Law on the Runway's founder, really confirmed where I wanted to take my career. She gave me the chance to develop my knowledge of American law and fashion law, and most importantly, she did it with the kind of trust very little people are able to give (she didn't even interview me, she just read some of my IPIlogue articles and decided to hire me). Francois Achim, my maître de stage at Technology Evaluation Centers, where I articled, was also very influential. Being exposed to his thought process taught me how to stop thinking like a lawyer and consider the business repercussions of the legal advice I give.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?

I just loved intellectual property. Nothing made me happier and I still love talking about it today.

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?

To be frank, I thought most classes were boring. The only thing that kept me going were IP, entertainment law, information and communication law, and other classes in the same vein.

Were there challenges you faced in the transition from law school to the profession?

No one teaches you that law is a business, especially if you want to start your own practice. Many solo practitioners don't know how to market themselves, don't know how social media works, and are frankly just clueless about what works and what doesn't. I'm lucky that I got to manage Law on the Runway's social media accounts and that I learned a lot about content marketing through that, but maintaining a constant online presence is very time consuming. I also work with people who usually don't think lawyers are necessary (I'm often told contracts aren't needed, so you can imagine people's response when it comes to hiring a lawyer). Educating my clientele and demystifying the law is very demanding, especially because I keep stumbling upon individuals on social media who like to propagate some legal myths and I do make it a point to correct them and give proper answers whenever I can. 

Do you still see the law all around you?

Yes, and I do not think I will ever stop. It started when I first learned about trademarks in my IP class, and I think it only got worse from there. Frankly, the law really is everywhere and I'd rather acknowledge it than ignore it.

What advice would you give to a first-year law student?

This is going to sound very cliché, but there is no such thing as "the right path." Do what pleases you. Go out and get some real life experience because your legal knowledge will only be useful if you can apply it to real life situations. Do not give up your hobbies because they will make you a better person and a better lawyer. You might not realize it now but connecting with your clients on a level that does not have anything to do with the law is primordial. Finally, make it a point to learn things on your own.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

I want to be boring and say sleep, but I think I'd just take that time to go to galleries, museums, and visit local boutiques.

Any regrets?

I don't believe in regrets. You make decisions and live with them.

Photo by Bianca Diorio

Photo by Bianca Diorio