Encountering Mrs. Smith

It would take more than a doubting guidance counselor to keep Miguel Alexander Pozo from his dream

Published in 2015 New Jersey Super Lawyers — April 2015

As a lawyer who represents luxury brands, there’s a pretty good chance that Miguel Alexander Pozo can get his hands on any tie he wants.

But his favorite is the one his mother made him when she was a factory worker sewing men’s ties in the 1980s. “Blue, semi-cool print, nothing flashy or fancy,” he recalls. “But I keep it to this day as a reminder.”

A partner at Lowenstein Sandler, Pozo, 43, has cultivated a niche protecting high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz and Thomas Pink, advising such companies on trademark and employment law issues. At the same time, he is focused on helping the less privileged.

“I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was 7 years old—and when I was 9, my grandmother made me promise that when I became a lawyer, I would never forget where I came from,” he says. “I had a notion that lawyers help people, are a mouthpiece and advocate for people.”

He’s kept his pledge. He devotes his talents to the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), for which his term as president ended last September, and other groups devoted to opening doors for people of color.

Pozo says HNBA is a culturally rich and diverse group, whose members have roots throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. He gains insight by listening to a broad spectrum of concerns, just as he does with his luxury brand clients.

“Building consensus is one of the most important roles of a leader,” he says.

Home-grown at Lowenstein, Pozo started as a general commercial litigator. He became intrigued with luxury brands when he worked on a breach of contract suit with an executive at a posh retailer.

“I learned what kinds of things keep him up at night,” he recalls. Those issues included brand image, product distribution, licensing, trademarks and more.

He parlayed that opportunity into several more, working on matters for dozens of brands spanning all four luxury categories: wines and spirits, leather goods, cosmetics, and jewelry and watches. He’s also moved into the luxury automobile space.

Pozo represented Christian Dior in a lease dispute and counseled The Juilliard School on trademark, licensing and employment issues. He’s gone to work for Thomas Pink and Tag Heuer on multiple issues, including supplier distribution.

Louise Firestone, senior vice president and general counsel at LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc., says she appreciates Pozo’s energetic, forward-thinking approach to practical issues.

“He is the opposite of the stereotypical lawyer who sits in the back office and cranks out memos,” she says. “Miguel is curious about our business. He is super proactive and hyperaware. He picks up the phone or texts whenever he comes across something that could be applied to our business.”

A vital concern for luxury brands is image protection. But vigilance extends far beyond monitoring for counterfeit goods—Pozo also works to defend against those who try to knock off a client’s public persona.

“It only takes a matter of minutes for [a malicious comment] on the Internet to go viral,” he says. “Luxury brands want lawyers who are vested in what they are doing, partnering with them to achieve their objectives.”

That diligence extends to upholding the integrity of the supply base and distribution.

“When I go into a retailer and you don’t have the watch I want, even though you are supposed to have it, that is a matter of great concern,” he says.

Pozo splits his time between Lowenstein’s office in Roseland and Washington, D.C., where he is helping to establish the firm’s newest location.

The oldest of three children, he was first introduced to the legal system by reading documents to his mother, a native of the Dominican Republic.

“She did not speak the language, so I have very early memories of reading documents for her,” he says.

In high school, Pozo’s guidance counselor—whom he has given the moniker “Mrs. Smith”—told him he was not college material. She suggested a trade school.

“That encouraged me to run faster and harder,” he says. “When I look back on it, I realize that just about everyone has encountered a Mrs. Smith at some point in life. I tell them to stick to their dreams, to be true to themselves.”

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