An Elon Law residency-in-practice with the global apparel company introduced Kionie James L'21 to corporate and intellectual property law while providing an opportunity to present research on ways to avoid cultural appropriation in fashion lines.
This is the second in a series of occasional stories on residency-in-practice experiences for Elon Law students in the Class of 2021.
When you’re a global apparel brand with thousands of employees around the world and over $2 billion in annual revenue, it’s important that you pay attention to your commercial deals and intellectual property rights.
And if you’re a law student with an interest in transactional law, studying in the same city where this global brand is headquartered, it makes a lot of sense to work full-time with the company’s legal team as part of your academic studies.
Kionie James L’21 sure thought so. And her recently completed Elon Law residency-in-practice with Kontoor Brands, Inc. – the company behind Wrangler, Lee, and Rock & Republic – couldn’t have turned out better.
For more than two months this winter, James assisted in drafting service agreements, researched diversity & inclusion matters, assisted with trademark work, and prepared and presented an internal regulatory training.
“Being able to help manage and contribute to so many issues and questions is important,” she said. “You also get to work with people in many different departments. Putting into place their many ideas for running a business efficiently is what inspires me.”
Elon Law’s Residency-in-Practice Program is the only one of its kind in American legal education. Students earn academic credit by working full-time under the supervision of a judge or attorney during the winter or spring of their second year.
The experience is grounded in a learning plan that students develop with their supervisors and a professor to increase proficiency in at least two legal skills and in an area of law practice.
That was part of the satisfaction James discovered in her placement. “Some of the trademark work I was doing is really interesting,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, which is something I didn’t know. I’d like to explore more along this pathway to see where it goes.”
“And Kontoor is really big on inclusion and diversity. They asked me to help research an issue surrounding diversity and inclusion and give feedback based on my research. It meant a lot to me to be asked to research such an important issue.”
What led to her interest in Kontoor Brands, Inc.? A previous internship at Legal Aid of North Carolina. “I enjoyed helping clients,” James said, “but just watching in court, and knowing I’m a very empathetic person – and they tell us not to take it personally when things don’t favor your client! – I knew that was something I’d carry with me. The state some clients are in? It broke my heart. I couldn’t see myself doing it every day.”
So instead of litigation, James returned from her summer internship at Legal Aid for her second year at Elon Law intrigued by opportunities in corporate law. Kontoor did not disappoint.
“Everyone here is so great and so helpful,” James said. “If diversity and inclusion are important, I also recommend it. They try to incorporate these ideas and practices into the company.”
Originally from Lancaster, South Carolina, James first thought about the legal profession when a city councilman visited her middle school for a career day. The local leader shared with students the opportunities and responsibilities of working as an attorney.
She would graduate from Wofford College with a math degree, briefly teach in an applied education program in her hometown, then attend Regent University for a Master of Arts in law with a concentration in human rights before pursuing her Juris Doctor at Elon Law.
And the Kontoor residency offered James a guide to her final two trimesters in law school en route to a possible career in corporate law.
“I plan on taking Intellectual Property in the fall,” she said. “This experience has taught me to be really flexible.”