Douglas Hand ’97 has a passion for fashion law

As a partner at Hand Baldachin & Amburgey, Hand represents some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. 

Douglas Hand '97

Douglas Hand ’97 grew up in Orange County, California, but he has a fondness for sweaters, tweeds, and earth tones that makes him particularly suited to life on the east coast. It is New York City’s status as one of the fashion capitals of the world, however, that originally drew him to study at NYU for his JD/MBA. “New York City has been a captivating place for me ever since I was first introduced to it in my early teens,” says Hand. “There are just so many creative people in the city.” Now, as a partner at Hand Baldachin & Amburgey (HBA), Hand participates in the industry that inspires him as a legal representative for some of fashion’s biggest players. 

Hand honed his legal skills after law school as a member of the M&A practice of Shearman & Sterling, where he worked in both the New York and Paris offices. “I gravitated towards M&A because, in a large law firm, the M&A group still represents one of the true generalist-type practices,” says Hand. “If you’re buying or selling a company, you might wrestle with real estate issues, intellectual property issues, environmental issues, antitrust issues, and more.”

Those generalist skills became essential when Hand, along with two former Shearman & Sterling colleagues, founded HBA, a boutique law firm specializing in venture capital, M&A, real estate, and intellectual property. Building his own firm gave Hand the chance to bring his expertise to focus primarily on the fashion industry—something he had not been able to do in Big Law. Designers Phillip Lim and Charlotte Ronson and design label Rag & Bone were among his earliest clients. “They weren’t household names at the time. Today, certainly in the fashion industry, they are. And I had the good fortune of being able to grow alongside them,” Hand says.

Now, as a seasoned fashion lawyer, one of the knottiest issues that Hand regularly confronts is the mismatched paces of the fashion and legal industries. “The cycle of fashion is a swift one, and the cycle of legal protection is not. The process of even attempting to protect certain designs just does not keep pace with how quickly seasonal changes in fashion are occurring,” Hand says. “To tell a client that you might not be able to get a ruling on a particular dispute within twelve months is almost like telling them you’ll get it to them when they’ve retired.”

Hand’s personal passion for fashion comes in handy when he has to communicate these issues to his clients. “He’s very fashionable, and he has great knowledge about the industry,” says Marc Reiner, one of Hand’s partners at HBA. “Clients understandably love that, because it is a peculiar industry. You need to know what challenges there are in taking a company from working out of a studio apartment to working out of a warehouse in the meatpacking district.”

“Doug has really become part of the fashion community,” says Nicole Marra ’96, general counsel of Gucci, noting that Hand serves on the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). “He understands the needs of his clients, both in the traditional legal sense, and from a business perspective as well.” Hand was involved in the CFDA’s decision to bring New York Fashion Week: Men’s back to the city—a project that he found particularly rewarding given his own interest in menswear.

This spring, Hand will bring his fashion law expertise back to the Law School, where he will be teaching a course on Fashion Law and Business. NYU Law students are fortunate, Hand says, in that they can learn so much about the fashion industry from the city around them. “There’s a thriving retail community down in Soho and up on Madison Avenue, there’s the garment district, and so many ancillary parts of the fashion industry that are great, and compelling, and all located here in New York,” he says. “As a law student, that all really inspired me to become part of the industry.”

New York City will provide the perfect backdrop for Hand as he shares his own fashion industry experience with students.  “There’s a lot of ground to cover, in all the various legal aspects that can affect a fashion and lifestyle company—not just intellectual property, but also corporate law, real estate law, employee benefits, and import/export law,” Hand says. “But I’m excited to roll my sleeves up and get going.”

Posted December 14, 2016