Most people know me as Kanye’s former head lawyer at YEEZY and the co-author of Sneaker Law: All You Need to Know About the Sneaker Business. I am also a law school professor, early-stage business advisor, husband, father, and now Counsel to Jayaram Law (more on all this later). I wear many different hats, but everything I do at this point in my life is interrelated and purposeful. I’ve worked extremely hard to design a certain role for myself, but more importantly, I’ve worked equally as hard to break out of the one that was designed for me. As Ye would say, “sometimes you just have to be fearless enough to break the f*cking simulation.” What am I talking about, what does this have to do with Sneaker Law and what even is Sneaker Law?
I will explain.
When people ask me about my career path and why I chose to develop this specific niche of expertise, I often talk about my first day of law school. It was August 1999, I was just a kid, dripped in a baby blue velour Enyce jumpsuit and some Nike Air Max Plus Hyper Blues, feeling equally confident about my fit and my new academic journey. To my surprise, when I walked into Brooklyn Law School, I felt completely out of place, like an alien who had been beamed down to a colony of button downs and khakis. What was this foreign place and why did I look like the oddball? It was like that scene in Legally Blonde when Elle Woods showed up to the party in a pink bunny costume, but without the fuzzy ears. Ironically, just outside the law school on Fulton Street, where you could get any pair of sneakers you wanted, lots of people dressed like me. But inside, to me, it felt like a different world.
I realized that first day, if I wanted to have an easier time being accepted in law school, and eventually hired by a law firm so that I could pay off my student loans, I would have to look the part. Growing up as an interracial kid in a diverse town in Northern New Jersey, I could easily weave in and out of different social circles. Blending in was no problem. And so, after I graduated and got a little money in my pocket, I developed my own sense of sartorial style, sporting increasingly slimmer suits with pocket squares, colorful ties, and a variety of fancy footwear: Cole Haan (pre- and post-Nike acquisition), Ferragamo, Church’s and more…I had traded in my crispy J’s for shiny wingtips. I quickly got the hang of this game, and it felt pretty good to dress up and act like a big shot attorney, walking out of my Park Avenue law firm and inside Federal courtrooms. Like Harvey Spector, before Suits was even a thing. But when you stripped away the hubris and ego, deep down I never really felt like my true self. I was playing a role; one that was predesigned, neatly packaged and handed to me the day I decided to become a lawyer.
What does it mean to become a lawyer? Going to law school and practicing law is really just conditioning. Think of it as the most rigorous mental training possible. Bootcamp for the brain. I’ve been a lawyer for almost 20 years now (yikes), and during that time, reading, writing and public speaking have been my daily workouts. Digesting and reciting vast amounts of caselaw and legalese; intense editing and proofreading of lengthy briefs, memos, and contracts; and countless hours spent negotiating, arguing with adversaries and judges. For 20 years, I’ve been conditioned to think, talk, and act like a lawyer. Great, so what?
Five or six years ago, just before I turned 40, I started to ask myself “Is this what I love to do, is this the person I wanted to become and the career I was meant for?” In part the answer was yes, I did enjoy the practice of law and I was grateful for the education I received and the financial success it had brought me. But what about that kid that I was when I walked into law school? The ambitious and hyper kid who loved sneakers, made hip hop beats, wore streetwear and had all these other diverse views and interests? How could I get back to that?
Well, I didn’t quit my job on the spot, but I did start rethinking the way I marketed myself and the type of work I wanted to do more of. Up to that point, I had worked for fashion clients and even on some interesting sneaker deals. I decided to find more of that work. I relentlessly studied the sneaker game and how it had evolved since I was kid, learned who the key players were, networked my a** off, bought more (and more) sneakers, and just made it a point to surround myself with what I loved. I started channeling my passions and infusing them into my work, even if it was just something as simple as wearing a dope pair of kicks on my commute to the office.
I also reached out to a law student who I came across in my research. Jared Goldstein was an intern at Complex Media, the only person I found who was writing legal articles on the protection of sneakers, and had the fly fits to match the legal skills. When he wasn’t traveling to the next Kid Cudi show and hanging out backstage, he was cramming for law school exams. Despite our age difference (and my pride), I hit him up on LinkedIn and asked if he would be interested in meeting to talk sneakers and the law. We immediately became good friends and connected on many levels. Our regular conversations brought us to the realization that until then, no one had written a book that covered all the many aspects of the sneaker business. Sure, there were plenty of sneaker design books, but nothing about the business of sneakers. One day we had a crazy idea, “let’s write a book on it…no let’s write THE book on it.” That day, we came up with Sneaker Law.
Sneaker Law is more than just a book. It’s a change in mindset; a break in the simulation. With Sneaker Law, we have entirely disrupted the way textbooks are designed and the way legal and business information is conveyed. We were both tired of intimidating, unrelatable education that didn’t appeal to us or our interests. What about the future entrepreneurs and kids like us, that wanted to get into this business but didn’t know how? Pass on the knowledge, put it all in a book and make it fun to read. It’s that simple. Maybe not so simple to execute (it took us almost four years to finish), but the concept was pure and came from a shared feeling of not fitting in, and wanting to change that feeling for others.
While we were working on Sneaker Law, my career evolution and desire for new energy ultimately landed me a job as the head in-house lawyer, or General Counsel, of YEEZY. I’ll spare you the details on how that happened, partially because I’m still bound by a confidentiality agreement, but there could not have been any more perfect job and role for me; I was made for that job and, for the next two and a half years, it was my life. I met many interesting people, learned about the business of fashion and sneakers from a rapidly growing start-up, which happened to be led by perhaps the most influential and polarizing figure of our generation. I went back to school for my Executive MBA and started feeling (and dressing) like a kid all over again. As you can imagine, this entire experience was life changing, but also validating. I had come full-circle.
Since Sneaker Law launched in February of 2021, not only has it been widely embraced by the sneaker community, but we have also guest lectured on Sneaker Law at over 20 different universities and colleges, including Harvard Law School, where the book is required reading in the Fashion Law Lab. Sneaker Law is also required reading at Parson’s School of Design, where for the first time, designers and other creatives are actually enjoying reading legal material that will help their career and protect their intellectual property. Jared and I have also both been hired as Adjunct Professors of Law at University of Miami and Georgia State University, where we are hands down, the flyest professors on campus or zoom (you’ll have to excuse my hubris once again – some things never change).
Sneaker Law is:
- A primer in design, law and business through the lens of kicks
- A multidisciplinary approach to teaching how to launch, grow and protect a brand from start to finish
- Written in plain language that is digestible, engaging, and occasionally, humorous
- As comfortable in your backpack and briefcase as it is on your coffee table
Beautifully designed from end to end, Sneaker Law is available at sneakerlaw.com and can also be found in the hottest sneaker and department stores, including Kith, Concepts, Bodega, RSVP Gallery and Nordstrom’s. Who would have thought a textbook could be sold everywhere you shop for the hottest sneakers?
OK, sales pitch over…
While this is just the beginning for Sneaker Law, it is also a new beginning for me at Jayaram Law. The only lawyer that could convince me to dip my toe back into private practice is Vivek Jayaram. We met when I was at YEEZY, and our friendship grew ever since. He and his amazing partners have not only amassed a roster of creative and successful clientele that are doing amazing things in fashion, tech and other industries, but they have also built an impressive law firm environment where young lawyers and staff members thrive, are respected, and actually enjoy their jobs. For those that aren’t familiar with law firms, this approach, is sadly, as rare as a pair of Air MAGs. Yes, Jayaram Law is the grail of law firms.
But back to me…today, whether it’s advising a creative client, teaching a classroom of aspiring law students, strategizing with a sneaker start-up, or being a father to two brilliant and hilarious sons, I do everything with purpose. I am working on things I love and giving back wherever possible. Still learning and teaching —for me these endeavors are not mutually exclusive. Most importantly, I’m no longer playing a role that wasn’t fit for me, because I have found my true calling. I’m not saying we should all become sneakerheads, but maybe if we each find our own way to break the simulation, we can make meaningful change within ourselves and for others.
by Kenneth Anand