Contracts, Intellectual Property, and Food Blogging: A Q&A with Lisa Lin, JD '13

Headshot of Lisa Lin, JD '13
September 10, 2019

Lisa Lin, JD '13, started a food blog in February 2014 and has since built a robust online community on her blog, healthynibblesandbits.com, and her Instagram. Ms. Lin started blogging about approachable healthy recipes, but now she also shares traditional Chinese recipes and videos of her cooking with her mother, Lan Lin. Earlier this year, The Washington Post profiled Ms. Lin and her mother on their pursuit to preserve their family's food history. 


Q&A

Q: What inspired you to start filming cooking videos with your mother?

LL: I didn't initially intend to share videos of my mother cooking. When she turned 70 a few years ago, it dawned on me that I needed to learn how to cook some of the recipes she's made since I was a kid. She loves to cook and has been cooking for decades. I realized that if I wanted the tradition of cooking her traditional sponge cake and other Chinese recipes to live on, it was up to me to learn how.

Q: Why do you think your cooking videos resonate with your viewers?

Lisa Lin and her mother stand side-by-side, holding a tray of egg rolls.LL: I think my audience enjoys watching my mother cook and share this specific food heritage perhaps because she reminds them of their own mothers or aunts or grandmothers. I'm from a particular area of China, and a lot of people don't hear that dialect spoken on social media; it provides a connection with people in the diaspora from where my family is from. A lot of Asian Americans don't feel connected to their Chinese heritage because they may have grown up in communities where Chinese culture isn't quite as emphasized, so they appreciate what I'm doing because it builds a stronger connection with their own heritage.

Q: What did you study at GW Law?

LL: I initially applied to GW Law to study environmental law, but I fell into studying government procurement and contracts. Government procurement is a very strong program at GW Law, and I was able to intern at the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Acquisition and Procurement Law Division at the US Department of Homeland Security during my studies.

Q: How has your law degree helped in your creative and entrepreneurial pursuits?

LL: The part of my legal education that helps in my business is having experience in contracts. Often when I'm partnering with brands, it's helpful to be able to read a contract and rewrite it to something that works for me. If I'm doing a sponsored post, oftentimes companies will want the right to use a photograph I took for their own social promotion or to use on their website. It's been essential for me to have an understanding of what rights I'm granting a partner and whether that's too expansive to protect my personal interests. 

Given that the nature of the creative field is social media-based, information and ideas spread so quickly. As a creator, you must have a basic understanding of what your rights are and how to enforce your rights in the event that someone takes your ideas. That isn't the fun part of being a creative or entrepreneur, but it's something you have to come to terms with.

If you don’t have a legal background, oftentimes what happens is that you have to go through a lot of different experiences to gain an understanding of what those words mean. It helped that I understood those issues right off the bat because otherwise a lot of it involves trial and error and some problems may arise where you have to learn a hard lesson that could cost you money either immediately or down the road.

Q: What advice do you have for current students?

LL: Take an intellectual property (IP) law class! I focused on government contracts which have helped me immensely in my business, but I wish I had taken an IP law class. If you take an entrepreneurial path, you may at some point want to trademark something for your brand or patent a product you want to sell. Your knowledge of intellectual property is going to come in very handy. Even if you're not a creative or an entrepreneur, today's creative and business space exists on the internet and social media, and you very likely may have a client that has an IP need.