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Arts Smarts

Katherine Hendricks’ clients know their music and literature. She knows how to protect their work

Published in 2008 Washington Super Lawyers magazine

All good lawyers are taught to read between the lines. 

When Katherine Hendricks reads between the lines of lyrics to a John Denver song, for example, she sees a management litigation case. 

Hendricks, an intellectual property attorney with Hendricks & Lewis, knows what it takes to be an artist. She did, after all, play the piano, violin, organ and guitar while growing up. 

What’s thrilling about her practice, she says, is its ability to draw back the curtain on the lives and internal workings of passionate minds. “It’s a little bit of a behind-the-scenes look at someone like Jimi Hendrix. I knew who he was growing up and I loved the music, but I’ve had a chance to learn about his life and his family,” she says. Her firm represented Hendrix’s late father, Al, in a lawsuit in which Al Hendrix won control of the late rocker’s estate.  

An alumna of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (her law degree is from Boston University) and daughter of a physics and nuclear engineering professor, Hendricks has the technical background to garner famous clients such as Courtney Love, Delilah (“the radio equivalent of Oprah”) and well-to-do magazine publishers in Germany and Aspen, Colo.

She also finds time for pro bono work, channeled through Washington Lawyers for the Arts, a legal organization that caters to artists, where she has served as a president and board member.

Hendricks moved to Seattle in 1984 to take a job at the now-dissolved Wickwire, Lewis, Goldmark & Schorr. She admits she ruffled a few feathers when she married O. Yale Lewis and ran off with him into a furniture-starved office building 22 years ago to begin the arts and entertainment practice of Hendricks & Lewis. 

“When the phone would ring, I’d say to Yale, ‘You answer the phone. That might be John Denver calling.’ I didn’t want them to know I didn’t have a secretary,” she says.

Hendricks is a past chair of the intellectual property section of the Washington State Bar Association, a member of the federal Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel and author of numerous publications on intellectual property. The soft-spoken mother of two explains the legal technicalities well enough to make even starry-eyed artists understand. 

She says of thorny copyright, “It’s an intangible right, so it’s not something right there in front of you. It’s very different from something like shipbuilding, something that’s very tangible.”

The debate in Hendricks’ favorite book—which she’s read five times—is about “the effect of individuals on history.” She can see the impressions her clients and other artists have made on cultural history.

Oh, that favorite book? War and Peace.

Try reading between those lines.

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