The art of making it in the Big Apple
Alex Kirk was raised in Dallas, Texas, but she was destined for New York City. The daughter of a lawyer, she was raised with a deep appreciation for the law. “When I was growing up, my father often told me stories about great attorneys like Thurgood Marshall,” she said. He encouraged her to see the law as “a noble profession,” despite its many challenges.
“Ever since I can remember,” she said, “I wanted to be a lawyer.”
But Kirk’s father was by no means dogmatic on the subject, nor was he insistent about his daughter practicing the law. Rather, Kirk’s parents raised her to be imaginative and open-minded toward her pursuits, and they cultivated in her not only an appreciation for the law, but also a passion for the arts. She counts herself lucky to have had “parents who encouraged me to pursue my love of the arts from an early age.”
A study abroad trip her junior year of high school galvanized her fledgling interest in art.
“I knew that I wanted to study art history after I studied in England,” she said. “I took AP art history and visited some of the most renowned European art museums and historical sites.”
It’s no surprise that Kirk found herself, two years later, majoring in art history at Columbia, or that she spent two subsequent semesters abroad, in Florence and Venice, studying the Italian Renaissance—or that still later interned at Sotheby’s and Steven Kasher Gallery, in New York, as well as the Dallas Museum of Art.
Add the fact that Kirk’s sister, Catherine, is a dancer in Kyle Abraham’s company, Abraham in Motion, and you get a student with a unique passion for both art and law, not to mention a special calling to a city—and campus— that’s singularly suited to enriching her special blend of interests.
“New York is the epicenter of arts and culture in the United States,” she said. “Living in New York has afforded me unique opportunities in both my educational and professional life that are typically not available in other cities. Many of the best law firms with art law practice groups and law schools with art law programs are located in the city.”
But it’s not only the city’s many professional opportunities that make it an attractive place to study art law and intellectual property; Fordham, in particular, has encouraged Kirk to deepen her engagement with the city’s cultural and artistic offerings through the journals and student organizations with which she’s been privileged to participate.
Kirk has been, since 2015, a member of the Fordham Art Law Society, which hosts events designed “to promote an understanding of the intersection between the arts and the law, both at Fordham and in the larger legal community.” Bolstered by its proximity to Lincoln Center, New York City’s cultural core, the society has welcomed organizations including the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the International Foundation for Art Research.
“Since I first joined, we have hosted lectures on art restitution, the impact of international trade law on the arts, proposed regulations on the ivory trade and their impact on various communities, cultural heritage protection, and pursuing a career in art law,” said Kirk, who during the 2016–2017 academic year served as the society’s secretary.
This exposure to diverse subjects and practices is particularly important to the intellectual property field, given the rapid rate at which the law must adapt to its ever-changing range of subjects. It’s now more important than ever that students and professionals keep up to date on current practices and ideas, Kirk said, “given the proliferation of emerging technologies, and concerns over privacy and data security.”
The benefits of the art law society haven’t been entirely intellectual, of course. The group has afforded Kirk and other students countless social and professional opportunities as well—many of which may overlap with their academic offerings.
“I wanted to find a like-minded community of students interested in the arts,” she said, “and have the opportunity to learn more about art law through this organization.”
Indeed, she seems to have found that intersection. Kirk said the society has provided “an invaluable platform for students to learn about emerging areas of the law,” as well as the opportunity to “interact with alumni and legal professionals working in those fields.”
Kirk is serving this academic year as editor-in-chief of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, & Entertainment Law Journal, where she has already worked as a staff member and published a student note.
Like her participation in the art law society, Kirk’s involvement with IPLJ has not only allowed her to deepen some of the classroom lessons she has learned over her two years at Fordham; it has also allowed Kirk to network with senior colleagues and practicing lawyers—forging connections that have proven to be among Fordham’s most valuable gifts.
Of her participation with the Black Law Students Association, for example, Kirk said, “I was able to meet a diverse group of students outside my designated 1L group.” She said the opportunity to learn from a student mentor, as well as the occasion to get advice from senior colleagues, has proven indispensable.
“One aspect of Fordham that I have come to appreciate,” she said, “is how diverse the students’ interests are.” She added, “I enjoy learning from my classmates just as much as I do from my professors. I love that Fordham encourages you to pursue a career in all different types of law, no matter how obscure.”
It’s no wonder, given Kirk’s background and acumen, that she would make the most of Fordham’s diverse opportunities. She was raised not only to respect the law, but also to value the arts. And her passion for each— which she’s managed to shape almost seamlessly into one ambitious and promising career path—will no doubt serve her well as she navigates the heady current of art, law, and intellectual property on which she’s set her sights.