“Sometimes you start somewhere, but end up somewhere else,” laughs Cassidy Grunninger (MM ’14), a musician most of her life who’s now an Associate at Dunner Law PLLC, a Certified Woman-Owned firm in Washington.
“I started piano lessons when I was 5, and added cello and voice lessons in high school,” Grunninger recalls. From there, she earned a BA in cello performance at Mercer University and a performance certificate in music at the University of North Florida.
Yet Grunninger felt a growing realization that perhaps a performance career wasn’t quite the right fit for her broad interests. “I’ve always been passionate about the history of things, so the next logical step seemed to be studying musicology. That’s how I ended up at CU Boulder.”
Indeed, at the College of Music, Grunninger embraced exploring and learning “the cultural and social ways that music has impacted society."
“It was fascinating,” she adds. “But once again, as much as I was enjoying the path I was on, I wasn’t sure that I would get a career out of it—a career that would make me happy.”
Feeling somewhat at loss, Grunninger decided to enroll at the University of Georgia School of Law.
“I’m good friends with [Associate Professor of Composition] Carter Pann and in my last semester at CU Boulder, he graciously allowed me to crash in his basement,” she continues. “He was in the process of publishing something at the time and I became intrigued by the hoops he had to go through from a legal perspective. And I thought, ‘If I go to law school, I could use my understanding of music to connect with creative people in a legal sense.’ That’s how I started focusing on intellectual property within the law.”
Rounding out her legal studies, Grunninger landed an internship with the Recording Industry Association of America in Washington—focusing on copyright issues in the recording industry—followed by a clerkship with the U.S. Copyright Office, where she researched copyright law and policy for the General Counsel’s office. From there, she worked at the House Committee on the Judiciary, assisting the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet on various intellectual property issues.
“There are surprisingly few lawyers that come from an arts background,” she says. “For me, it’s a strength. My background in music inspires me and influences how I approach my work, the connections I make and the insights I have.
“My law degree was my fourth degree, but I’ll never regret the three music degrees that led up to it—knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Having an arts background makes you more well-rounded, interesting and interested in the world … no matter where you end up.”
Where Grunninger ended up is a small boutique firm comprising four attorneys. “We have a range of clients—including a lot of academic and other associations—that are concerned about intellectual property, branding, and other legal matters related to publishing journals and books.
“We help researchers, authors and others ensure that appropriate copyrights and trademarks are in place, and that they are protected from potential infringers.”
She regularly conducts domestic and international trademark clearance searches, renders use and registrability opinions, and prosecutes trademark and copyright applications around the world. Additionally, she handles trademark and copyright audits, and drafts licensing and assignment agreements. Grunninger’s work also emphasizes protection and enforcement of matters related to false advertising and unfair competition.
“Looking back, I’d say it’s all about being open to transitions,” she says. “And getting support from great people around you. I’m still in touch with Carter and other faculty and friends I went to school with. Those are lifelong connections, just as I also consider myself a lifelong musician.”
These days, Grunninger counterpoints her career in law with active engagement as a junior board member of Washington Performing Arts—a leading presenter that connects the community to artists, in both education and performance.
Note: Previously, Cassidy Grunninger was Senior Online Editor of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law and authored “A Tale of Two Composers: An Argument for a Limited Expansion of Moral Rights for Composers” (2017).