Elissa D. Hecker ’95 majored in political science at Union College before earning a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. Today she is principal of the Law Office of Elissa D. Hecker, where she represents businesses, the entertainment industry, individuals, creators, entrepreneurial ventures and for-profit and not-for-profit entities. She has extensive experience with contracts, licensing, digital issues, trademark law, copyright law, intellectual property and all aspects of running a business. Elissa optimizes legal and business affairs for individuals, startups and businesses of all sizes. The winner of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.’s Award for Excellent Service and a repeat Super Lawyer, she is active in pro bono legal clinics and is the creator and co-chair of the EASL Pro Bono Legal Committee. Elissa is also chair of the board of directors of Dance/NYC, as well as a member of the Westchester Jewish Council and an executive committee member of Westchester Women. Frequently a guest speaker, she has presented at a variety of functions for many organizations and has lectured at a range of institutions – from the Manhattan School of Music to Hunter College. Elissa has also edited three books about media and entertainment law and has been the editor of the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal for over 20 years.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
Most rewarding: Helping people. My goal is to help my clients resolve their issues, enabling them to do what it is that they do best. Whenever I am able to accomplish that, it’s both satisfying and rewarding. Being an attorney is really about building relationships and creative problem solving. I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I love with the clients I represent. Most challenging, especially during the time of coronavirus, has been helping those who have the greatest needs. It’s been very hard seeing what is happening with my performing arts clients. Their careers have been pretty decimated. As chair of the board of Dance/NYC, I have been involved with the COVID-19 Relief Fund. It really showed me at the individual level just how hard it is to survive economically during this pandemic, with very few resources available for gig and other performing arts workers. The pandemic has also highlighted so many justice, equity and inclusion issues, and I’ve been deeply involved with that as well. Finally, recognizing the economic issues hitting everyone in 2020, I try to take on as many pro bono clients as I can, as well as work with not-for-profit organizations to provide webinars to those who need legal assistance.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My parents. My father is an attorney who loves what he does, has always had the most interesting clients, and inspired me from an early age to be a copyright nerd. I even put © on my kindergarten materials. He modeled how to be a strong, kind and ethical advocate, while respecting the adversary. That way, everyone walks away with something. With regard to my mother, who is a teacher, she is the strongest and smartest woman I know. She taught me that I could have everything, just not all at once, which was an excellent life lesson. My parents have also always been civic and political leaders who raised my sister and me to understand the importance of voting, organizing and doing for others.
What advice would you offer today's women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Be strong, know who you are and listen well. It is important to understand, as well as to be heard.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
Meeting my husband, David Strauss ’94, on the first day! We both were in West; we have been together for 29 years and married for 21.