Striking a chord

September 25, 2023

Intellectual Property

The Richmond Octaves undergraduate a cappella group belts out some impressive melodies, accompanied by a backstage harmonizer: its legal team. Professor Ashley Dobbs directs the Intellectual Property and Transactional Law Clinic that helps these singers address the trademark and copyright issues that arise in their field.

“Under my supervision, the law students in my clinic have the primary relationship with clients. I give them a lot of autonomy,” says Dobbs, who describes the clinic as a teaching firm. And while clients are typically members of the community who could not otherwise afford legal services (nonprofits, entrepreneurs, startups, makers, artists, etc.), this case became another example of Spiders helping Spiders.

“The Richmond Octaves approached the clinic to ask about copyright law,” she says. “They sell recordings of their performances, so they needed to be sure they understood how licensing rights worked. And our relationship with them built from there.”

Dobbs’ clinic allows students to apply what they’ve learned to real clients with real cases. They learn the practical side of entity formation, copyright and trademark, contracts, and corporate governance.

“We talk about how to apply all the skills they are using in any practice area. They interview and counsel clients, strategize and negotiate, and develop the skills that they need to be a good lawyer, regardless of their ultimate practice area. These skills are the scaffolding of good lawyering.”