Getting that first role/foot in the door is really what you need to focus on and it’s amazing what opportunities those roles can create.
Sarah Thorner Crossley
Working for entertainment company Fremantle, handling shows like The X Factor, has provided kiwi lawyer Sarah Thorner Crossley with some key commercial law experience, as well as supplying some tips for lawyers seeking good jobs overseas.
The lawyer who worked for entertainment media group Fremantle has just returned to New Zealand to work with Tauranga-based Holland Beckett but her work on shows like Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor has helped shape not only what sort of lawyer she is now, but also what she sees as how the law can challenge and change those working with it.
Her work at Fremantle, where she spent five and a half years, including licencing formats for shows like X Factor, Britains Got Talent, Idols and other deals that involved negotiation and acquisition agreements with producers and broadcasters.
The legal work involved talent agreements, release deals and location agreements, with financing and sponsorship deals thrown in to the mix.
Her early work involved working for a commercial law boutique in Wellington, experiencing the different aspects of commercial law, due diligence, transactional work and commercial negotiations.
But it was trade mark work that caught her attention, beginning with clearance searches, proposals and basic applications. Later she worked on more complex issues in the same area, including some that went to Court.
“When I moved to London four years later I knew I wanted to use it as an opportunity to start specialising in IP Law. Three weeks off the plane and I was contracting for GlaxoSmithKline in their in-house trademarks team. It was a step down in terms of title, money and quality of work, but it was the opportunity I needed to start building my IP experience.
“When my contract was up a year later, I used this experience, as well as my background in commercial and corporate law, to secure a junior lawyer role at Fremantle.
“It was a fantastic opportunity but I often struggled with the fact that I was five years PQE in New Zealand and yet toiling away as a junior lawyer in London. I would look at where my friends were at back home and often wondered if I’d made the right decision.
“But it paid off, I progressed quickly, but more importantly was doing a job I was head over heels in love with for the first time in my career.
“The work was varied, creative and I had the opportunity to engage with people at all levels of the company. My role focused on content acquisition and copyright licensing, as well as day to day production and distribution matters.”
Tips for Law Job Seekers
In terms of advice for others following in her footsteps by seeking work abroad, she advises them to be prepared to lower theirsights for their first role, “unless you can afford to be picky.”
“Getting that first role/foot in the door is really what you need to focus on and it’s amazing what opportunities those roles can create. If you’re heading to the UK as a lawyer then I would also recommend having at least 4 years experience in NZ as most employers in the UK will take 2 years off your PQE.”
Her new role at Holland Beckett sees her working as an Associate in their Commercial team and hoping to build up an IP and Media practice for the firm, while also working across more general Commercial and Corporate work.