Intellectual property law isn’t inherently loaded with the cinematic qualities of, say, a private eye’s or superhero’s line of work, but Susan Rosenfeld’s introduction to IP might as well have had a soundtrack behind it. Two years out of undergrad and working various odd jobs, Rosenfeld was still wondering if law school was the right path forward or if she should pursue her other interests, such as a career in advertising. Then the “aha” moment happened.
While working as a document clerk at a law firm, she attended a barbecue hosted by a friend of hers who worked as a paralegal. She was chatting with one of the guests, an attorney, and asked him what kind of law he practiced. The man pointed to his bottle of beer—to the “circled R” after the brand name. “That’s what I do,” the lawyer said.
In the movie version of this interaction, there would be stars in Rosenfeld’s eyes as she realized what her future looked like. The reality is more nuanced.
After careful consideration, Rosenfeld decided to attend the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, which is to this day one of the top IP law schools in the country. The school’s exceptional, IP-focused curriculum and practical approach to education prepared her for a successful future in IP law, where she combined her interests in law and advertising.
Rosenfeld’s twenty years of IP expertise is driven by an advertiser’s eye for consumer trends, a psychologist’s insight into the motivation of individuals, and an executive’s drive to lead with practicality and approachability.
The seasoned IP attorney explains that what makes IP so interesting is also what makes it so challenging. “Legal principles may stay the same, but you have to be adaptable,” Rosenfeld comments. “This area of the law is always changing—how technology works, how people interact with it, and what and where data is being collected. These are all things I have to pay close attention to.”
Rosenfeld’s interest in advertising has helped inform her IP career. For instance, she pays close attention to the influence of millennials on more consumer-centric marketing. “The millennial generation was born into a digital age that was skeptical of typical advertising,” Rosenfeld says. “They are on social media platforms that give them access to public opinion and reviews that really let them see behind the curtain.” This shift gave rise to influencer-based advertising, which relies on an everyman approach that seems less motivated by pure profit and more tied to a product’s quality.
She has been in the IP game long enough to see the consumer model shift dramatically. “Consumer-centric marketing means focusing on the customer, not the product,” Rosenfeld says. “You’re asking the consumer what they want and designing or innovating to that need or want.”
As consumers increasingly demand greater transparency and social responsibility, companies need to do more than deliver a good product to fulfill customers’ expectations, Rosenfeld explains. “You also need to be a good corporate citizen and contribute to society,” she says. “Consumers care about whether you care.” Understanding what drives consumers at a deeper level lies at the heart of any successful business strategy.
“The common thread of my interests is the question, What motivates people?” she says. Rosenfeld is as intrigued by politics as she is human behavior and the technology that effectively delivers news, advertising, and other information in an increasingly connected-disconnected world.
It’s Rosenfeld’s multitiered interest in people and their motivations that has made her effective in her role. To her internal clients, Rosenfeld prides herself on being anything but disconnected. “The strong relationships that I build with my clients and business partners allow them to trust me and create open lines of communication, which help us work closely together to meet their needs in a legally compliant manner,” Rosenfeld says. “Building those relationships has made my work more interesting, more satisfying.”
Time Away from the Computer
Susan Rosenfeld is a student of human behavior, a political junkie, and an advertising law aficionado. She’s also in training for the New York marathon.
“It’s time not at a computer,” the lawyer laughs. “It’s a different goal that isn’t work related that gives me time to unwind; it’s just so rewarding to be part of such an inspiring community.” Though running 26.2 miles may not seem like the most relaxing activity, it’s one of the ways in which the IP lawyer is able to truly unplug.
Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP:
“Susan is a skilled practitioner with a keen business sensibility. She is well versed in the substantive areas of the law and knows how to apply that knowledge together with a unique practical approach. She is dynamic, intelligent, intuitive, and a pleasure to work with.”
–Karen Artz Ash, National Co-Chairperson, Intellectual Property
“Throughout the course of our business relationship, I have had the pleasure of watching Susan utilize the same creativity to solve intellectual property issues that PVH is renowned for applying to the fashion industry. Susan’s breadth of knowledge allows her to make light work of developing innovative solutions to complex legal issues while still mitigating risk. I am honored to count her among my clients and look forward to every opportunity to work alongside her.”
–Edward Vassallo, Senior Counsel