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What was your path: Cynthia Blake Sanders

sanders-cynthia-blake-webEach issue we ask a Top 100 Women or Leading Women winner to answer questions about their career and life path.

This issue Cynthia Blake Sanders, Of Counsel, Baker Donelson, shares her story.

How did you choose your career path?
I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and worked for many years doing commercial art work and my personal artwork. As a student I worked as a gallery guard which eventually led to me becoming director of security at MICA. As director I initiated and managed compliance for various federal requirements for higher education including publishing campus safety statistics and ADA compliance for MICA’s shuttle transportation. It was a great job but I was unlikely to become chief of a larger security system. A friend suggested applying to law school. Since I was an artist, artists of all levels and media began calling me about copyright, licensing and contracts.

What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I was the first MICA graduate to graduate law school and practice law. My background was in the visuals arts and college administration. I was turned down by all of the schools the first time because I attended art school. Dean Jim Forsyth saw me in his office monthly and I was accepted by all the schools I applied for. Not surprisingly, law school was a puzzle I could not decode. That is, until I started clerking in law offices. Once I put it together law school and lawyering made perfect sense.

What lessons did you learn?
Have balance. One part keeping in contact with clients, one part delivering an excellent work product at a good price and one part maintaining diligent accounting; and ignore nay-sayers, including those in your head. Keep your head down, make lists and keep on working.

How do you maintain your passion for the job?
My practice area is an interesting mix of copyright, media, technology and entertainment. To develop my practice I took on pro bono work through Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and looked for mentors when my colleagues could not help. I also taught as an adjunct at the law school for the same reason and for the chance to mentor law students both through the law school and MdVLA.

What’s next for you, personally or professionally?
When our previous law firm recently merged with Baker Donelson we acquired numerous colleagues in 22 offices from Baltimore, across the south to Houston and I am looking forward to traveling to all of our new offices.

What advice do you have for younger women hoping to follow your career path?
Work hard, use pro bono opportunities to sharpen your skills and give back to the community. Develop a practice that is sustainable, and demand to be paid what you are worth.

Personal:
I love living in Baltimore and gardening in my Roland Park gardens.
Education:
Maryland Institute College of Art, BFA, 1985
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Professional: 
I focus my practice on copyright, trademark, advertising, arts and media law matters and technology transfers. I counsel a broad range of clients involved in creative endeavors — from designers to publishers, ad agencies to educational institutions and interactive companies to film producers.
Three things most people don’t know about me:
1. During my first year of practice, “Family Magazine” put my family on the cover for an article about alternative parenting.
2. I toured with a mannequin named Tourist Bud.
3. I was a downhill ski racer in New Jersey.

This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Path To Excellence: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Path to Excellence magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Path to Excellence.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact reprints@thedailyrecord.com.

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