Ohio Legal Help recently sat down with Jose Bautista, Legal Counsel for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., to talk through his career and time as an Ohio Legal Help Board Member. A graduate of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, Jose told us about what drives him and what he hopes to see for the future of Ohio Legal Help.
Ohio Legal Help (OLH): Tell us a bit about your background and what led to what you do currently.
Jose Bautista (JB): Currently, I work for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. where I practice intellectual property law, particularly in the trademark and copyright space. That was not where I always envisioned myself ending up while growing up in Chicago, but I love what I do and am very happy.
My family is originally from Mexico, but I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. I attended the University of Chicago and graduated not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, much like many recent graduates. I thought a career in law could be interesting, but it was a bit of a challenge because I came from a community where there were not a ton of lawyers who I could talk to about that path.
I worked for a law office in Chicago for a few years after graduation, and it gave me a sense that I could use my critical thinking and problem-solving skills to work in that field. I applied to The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and got in, and that is when I decided it was time to try living somewhere new and get out of my comfort zone.
My time at OSU was great. I worked at Bricker & Eckler during my 1L and 2L summers, and I was grateful for that opportunity. One of my first assignments there involved trademarks and online search engines, and I did a lot of research on how some of these new technological innovations are impacting the law. The law wasn’t built for the internet, so it really piqued my interest in getting more involved in that space. During my 2L summer, I reached out to my former trademark law professor who also happened to be the head of the intellectual property (IP) team at Abercrombie & Fitch Co, and let me know about an internship on his team that I was able to do for my entire 3L year.
After graduation, I worked for Bricker & Eckler as an associate doing as much IP work as I could. Not long after though, there was an opening at Abercrombie on the IP team which seemed like a great fit for what I wanted to pursue long term. They took a big chance on me (being only one year out of law school) but I have been very happy working there.
OLH: What led you to serving on the board of OLH? What do you like best about being a board member?
JB: I had a Bricker connection from my time there who spoke to Sally Bloomfield about Ohio Legal Help launching and they felt I would be a good match due to my IP experience and interest in technology and the law. I spoke with Sally a bit more and it really aligned with what I’m passionate about, including diversity, equity and inclusion work. She told me that one of the goals of Ohio Legal Help is to make the legal system more accessible and understandable for everyone and it was incredibly inspiring to me.
There is a lot of work and discussion around increasing access to justice in the criminal justice space which is amazing and long overdue, but I’m very excited to see that happening on the civil side as well. The legal system can be difficult to navigate and a lot of people don’t see it as a way to help solve their problems, so I’m glad that Ohio Legal Help is working to bridge the gap.
This is my first board position, so it’s been a positive learning experience for me. I feel as though the whole team, board and advisory committee is collaborative and it makes everything work smoothly.
OLH: What OLH project has most excited you? What are you looking forward to seeing happen with OLH?
JB: I am really excited about the launch of the Spanish translation version of the website. I think of my grandmother who primarily speaks Spanish and how she goes to a Spanish speaking doctor. They are able to describe to her what she needs to do in a language she understands. I think similarly with the legal system, if the necessary documents aren’t in a language you understand or feel comfortable with, it’s yet another layer of difficulty that makes it all so much more daunting.
OLH: What aspects of your background have helped you with serving on the OLH board?
JB: I think the marketing piece of Ohio Legal Help has tied in well with some of what I do at Abercrombie. I know how much planning and work go into promoting a brand and I love being able to help with those projects. Additionally, I think my work in the DEI space has been helpful as well.
OLH: What motivates you on a daily basis? What advice has helped guide you along the way?
JB: Being a leader pushes me to be the best version of me so that I can help others do that as well. I hope that by leading by example, I can not only help people understand DEI issues in the legal community but encourage younger people in the BIPOC community to pursue their passions like I did.
My family motivates me always. My grandfather used to say “querer es poder” which translates to “to want is to be able to.” The thought being that if you put your soul into something and work hard, anything is possible. My family and my mentors have reminded me along the way that I have to be an advocate for myself. We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for a lot of the time.
OLH: What do you like to do in your free time?
JB: I love to travel and am looking forward to when that can happen again more often. I also spend a lot of time with my husband and our three dogs and cat at our home in Clintonville. I enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen – Ina Garten being one of my role models. One of my favorite things to do on a Friday night is to head to Weiland’s grocery, figure out what I want to cook for dinner, grab a bottle of wine and head home to spend my evening cooking a great meal.