Patricia Zurlo is the founder of Zurlo Law Office, which represents artists and arts organizations. There are many ways artists need legal assistance, and Zurlo Law Office—with ten plus years of experience—is equipped to help. Patricia Zurlo was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
NEMAA: Your legal firm, Zurlo Law Office, focuses on representing creative individuals and organizations. Your website explains some of the work that you do, but could you speak briefly about the types of situations where your firm is equipped to step in and provide counsel?
Patricia Zurlo: Often people come in because they’ve encountered some kind of obstacle in their personal or professional lives that is preventing them from expressing themselves fully. Some examples might be the beginning or an end to a partnership, the creation of a new business or enterprise, strategic planning or issues around production, the need to protect or sell creations, the lovely problem of a contract presented for the purchase or license of their work, or even a crisis in purpose which could be either personal or professional. There are so many different scenarios that bring people to my office, but in all cases, we start by taking all the time we need to unravel whatever is going on and we work collaboratively to create the best resolution possible.
NEMAA: You are a classical musician and fiber artist yourself. Has your artistic practice informed or assisted you in your legal practice in any way?
Patricia Zurlo: Absolutely. I identify primarily as an artist in all the ways that word implies: creative, dedicated, disciplined, committed and deeply spiritual. Being an artist is a way of life, not a job, and I live my own life in that way. I have been told by artists that they appreciate that I understand their process, as well as the challenges of making your way in a material world that doesn’t necessarily value that process. I always work from a place of knowing that we are all happy by nature, and that our best life and work comes when we feel the freedom to be our most authentic selves.
NEMAA: I think artists are curious about the best way to approach a lawyer. Are there any steps that artists or arts organizations can take in order to come prepared to an initial legal consultation?
Patricia Zurlo: The most important thing at an initial meeting is that you be yourself. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to be anything or know anything that you don’t already know. We’ll just take it from that starting point, and I’ll take excellent care of you. Secondarily, try not to wait until you have a crisis if at all possible. Learn to recognize issues as they come up, and get help when you think you might need it. In my teaching in arts administration programs, I always instruct students to be proactive and budget for legal services. You budget for HVAC, bookkeeping, software, etc, so why not be prepared for a legal challenge? I try to make my services affordable and accessible to the people I serve.
NEMAA: You sit on the Legal Advisory Board for Springboard for the Arts. Can you talk about the types of legal services that Springboard provides for artists and how that differs or complements the work that you do?
Patricia Zurlo: Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts (MnLa) is housed and operated by Springboard staff and funding. This is a group of lawyers already vetted by Springboard for their expertise in the law related to the arts. We host pop-up legal clinics, give lectures on pertinent subjects, and provide 30-minute pro-bono legal services to artists referred by Springboard. The program is growing, and I can’t say enough good about it and Springboard as an organization.
NEMAA: Can you share some of the questions you are most commonly asked?
Patricia Zurlo: How do I file a trademark application? How do I file a copyright application? How do I file to be a non-profit corporation? Should I form a non-profit or is my situation more suited to a for-profit structure? How do I handle my relationship with my partner/employee/boss/etc?
NEMAA: Is there anything we’d find surprising about art law or the work that you do?
Patricia Zurlo: After more than 10 years, surprises are rare. I will say having started out my professional life as a musician, I am a bit surprised at how much I love what I do and the people I work with. I am continually awed by the strength of my clients and their ability to heal from whatever issue is bringing them into my office.