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Getting to Know Newhouse NYC’s Law Instructor, Po Yi

By Liesel Rickert, Senior Newhouse NYC student and PR major 

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Po Yi has taught the Communications Law class at Newhouse NYC since the program began in the fall semester of 2014. Her extensive experience with media law began as an associate and later a partner during her nine years at the advertising and entertainment law group Loeb & Loeb. She then transitioned to in-house law for six years at American Expresses as the vice president and chief of advertising counsel before becoming a partner at the law firm Venable.

However, Po wasn’t always sure she wanted to be a lawyer. After graduating from Carleton College with an economics degree, she worked in financial public relations. It was there, while working with lawyers, that she thought to herself, “I can do what they are doing. This looks interesting.” She decided to try law school because she liked the discipline and realized how much she loved it. Communications law was a way for Po to marry her love for words and content with her newly found love for law. “I was very lucky to land a job in a law firm that did entertainment, media and advertising.”

At Venable, Po’s main priorities involve counseling brand clients about advertising and campaign decisions regarding the law and drafting and negotiating contracts against other companies. Po is most interested in digital media so she does quite a bit of work in the digital media space such as writing Venable’s Digital Media Link newsletter. Additionally, she is very passionate about her work with newly minted lawyers helping them develop their skills.

It was from this small-scale teaching of associates and presenting to or training clients that Po realized her interest in teaching. “I’ve always wanted to try teaching once, and had, to some extent, but never to students. When the opportunity came I wanted to try it and see what it’s like.” The most surprising aspect she has come across while teaching students is their need of visuals. “Students now require Power Point presentations. When I was going to school nobody even used a blackboard.”

Po also wanted to teach the Communications Law class because she realized the need for students in communications and media to understand the discipline. “The law is in everything you do. When students eventually become professionals, they will deal with lawyers all the time, whether they are creating promotions, advertising or marketing campaigns. The law is always there and advertising is regulated. Students have to know the laws and what the pitfalls are to make sure they develop legally sound campaigns.”

Her advice to students is to avoid assumptions. “There are a lot of assumptions from the people within brands about what is and is not legal, and I blame social media for that. When you see something on the Internet you think it is legal, but you don’t know that.” She also believes that the most important aspect of communications law for students to understand is intellectual property, including ownership of intellectual property, when consent is needed and rights of publicity issues. These concepts are not always intuitive, where as false advertising issues are about not lying or exaggerating, which are ideas you learn in kindergarten. “The worst mistake I’ve seen agencies make is when they come up with a fantastic idea and get their client excited about it without vetting it though legal first. When the client’s legal goes though and sees the potential problems, they have to back out of that campaign. It is a very uncomfortable position to be in and makes everybody look bad.”

One of the best parts about teaching for Po has been the chance to brush up on and gain a new appreciation for the different types of legal disciplines and theories that she hadn’t thought about in a while. “I don’t use all the things I teach in class in my job. I work with advertisers and do media work so I don’t necessarily have to use all the principals, such as First Amendment law and defamation. It’s been a great refresher for me.”

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