Ella Wesley J.D. '23Ella Wesly ’23 currently holds the position of General Counsel Fellow at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (“SFMOMA”), made possible through the support of Santa Clara University and the creation of the law school’s first fellowship program.

Ella’s journey began with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, focusing on ceramic design, followed by an MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art with aspirations to open an art gallery. However, her career trajectory shifted after years of reflecting on her graduate Art Law course; Ella reached out to her prior Art Law professor, took the LSAT, and enrolled at Santa Clara Law for the strong Intellectual Property Law program. She noted something she appreciates about law is that “you can always work harder and prove yourself.” Moving around the country in her early career, she finally chose to settle in Santa Clara because the Bay Area showed signs of becoming a budding environment for Art Law.

When she started in 2020, Santa Clara Law had no Art Law programs, so Ella created the space and established Santa Clara Law’s first Art Law Society and edited the first Art Law column of the Santa Clara Business Chronicle. Through networking with Art Law attorneys and interning for the General Counsel of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, Ella met SFMOMA’s General Counsel. Although Santa Clara Law did not have an existing fellowship program, Ella reached out to Assistant Dean of Career Management, Debbie Snyder, and Dean Kaufman to discuss creating a sponsored fellowship, eventually resulting in her new position. “A lot of times we have moments where other people are telling us we can’t do something, and we tell ourselves we can’t do something, and every time that happened throughout this experience, I tried to take a deep breath and tell myself the only thing I can do is my best,” commented Ella.

She credits clinics as the best preparation for her role today, with classes including IP Survey and Contracts preparing her for the basics of practicing Art Law. Ella remarked, for an in-house counsel position, “Clinics give you useful experience dealing with external clients.” She mentioned that knowledge of contemporary and modern artists also proved useful for her work in Art Law. Her advice to those following her path? To take risks, and to authentically network yourself with those around you. She noted how small the Art World is and although it can be intimidating, especially as a woman of color and a child of immigrants, taking intentional risks and reaching for opportunities can lead to exceptional results.

Licensed to practice law in California, Ella also serves as the Secretary of the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Art Law Section. During her free time, she provides counsel on the Board of Local Color, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit that funds public art and supports artists across San Jose.