An eclectic blend of legal & creative pursuits
BY IAN M. FISHER (3L)
Many attorneys dress for work in suits. Others prefer business casual. But for a few years, Cathryn A. Mitchell (JD 88) commonly showed up to work dressed looking more ready to play a quick tennis set than to litigate. From 1991-93 Mitchell was the in-house corporate counsel for Prince Sports, a tennis/racquet sports company in Princeton, N.J.
“Prince has tennis courts in the back, and you could wear tennis clothes to work, so that was very fun and inspirational in terms of trying to stay in shape so you don’t look ridiculous in a tennis skirt going to work as a lawyer,” said Mitchell, who grew up playing tennis in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
After Prince, Mitchell worked for a New York law firm and then started her own firm in Princeton. Mitchell focuses on corporate/business law, business litigation, worldwide brand development and intellectual property, entertainment and new media, and is developing a specialty in succession planning for entrepreneurs and family businesses as well as business and family issues for nontraditional families. Her practice is a combination of her work at Kenny Nachwalter in Miami and her in-house job at Prince with some emerging areas that reflect a change in the world in which we live. Mitchell has many international clients, including sporting goods companies, pharmaceutical companies, athletes, entertainers and authors. Mitchell strongly recommends students having a varied work experience out of law school instead of specializing right away in order to figure out what is best for them.
“It’s good to have a lot of different experiences,” Mitchell said. “I think the goal of every person professionally is to get to know themselves. And try to fit interests with skills. That’s one of the benefits of having different experiences — you learn about yourself. The goal should be to find out what environments and types of work suit you best. I think there is something to be gained everywhere.”
Mitchell came to UF Law with a degree in business from UF. She thought she might like business law as a result, but she is also a musician, so she spent several years as research assistant to Dean Emeritus E.L. Roy Hunt, who sparked her interest in intellectual property, and provided her with the chance to help him develop the curriculum for his new seminar in art law.
One of her favorite activities, along with spending time having increasingly interesting conversations with her teenage children, is writing — a bi-weekly law and business column for the Times of Trenton, the largest circulation in central New Jersey. To say Mitchell was persistent in landing the columnist gig about 11 years ago would be an understatement.
“I begged them,” she said. “Never underestimate the power of begging; I don’t know where I learned that. I don’t know if I learned that at Florida, but it is an important skill. I knew a very important person at the paper and about 12 years ago I started begging him to write a column. At first he did not like any of my ideas. I asked him 100 times; I really wanted to do it.”
Eventually the editor caved and let her write a “Dear Cathy” type of question-and-answer column, but there was a slight problem.
“I was asking myself some of the questions and they caught me,” Mitchell confessed. “They said, ‘Gosh, these questions look like a bunt; are you writing to yourself and asking yourself questions?’”
The editor told her she could instead write about whatever she wanted. The subject matter has loosened up over the years as her editor impressed upon her the benefir of reveling more of herself in the columns. So now Mitchell will sometimes write about Supreme Court cases and business law issues, but does not shy away from more controversial topics such as gay marriage and reproductive rights when they are in the news and an important topic of public interest.
Mitchell has written about 300 columns, and she enjoys having a creative outlet that allows people to know more about who she is as a person.
“Any time I want to see what I was thinking in 2003, usually it’s related to whatever is going on in my mind at the time,” Mitchell said. “It’s pretty scary to have a chronology of your ridiculous personal thoughts.”