‘The secondment provided me with excellent commercial law experience.’ Jamie Heatly
Senior Assoicate London

What was a typical day like on secondment?

I worked in the Commercial team whilst on secondment. This meant dealing with a very broad and constantly changing workload on a daily basis, from drafting software / website development contracts to tracing the chain of intellectual property ownership on a film that was being acquired to commercial due diligence on a large European restructuring. The main areas of work I was dealing with were the commercial agreements surrounding technical operations, advertising / marketing and facilities / procurement activities. A lot of work that came across my desk would raise IP or data protection issues, so I would regularly speak to the lawyers in those teams and get their input. Most people had individual offices, but it was very much an open door policy.

  • One of my main areas of work was providing support to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I would be in daily contact with the team based up at Leavesden Studios to discuss commercial agreements, event hire and promotional activity.
  • The company offers staff screening of its up-coming films, so I tried to get along as often as I could.

How has your secondment experience benefitted you?

The secondment provided me with excellent commercial law experience and really encouraged me to take ownership of my work at a level beyond that of a trainee; from taking the initial phone call or meeting with the relevant team to producing a finished solution or document which could be implemented by the business. I was given a lot of responsibility for drafting agreements and communicating directly with members of the business in order to explain a document or provide advice. Going in-house at an early stage in my career provides a great basis for avoiding bad habits. When you work for a large international firm, in-house lawyers are your immediate client contacts. So, knowing what they expect in terms of communication style, fee updates and response times is extremely valuable.

What are the main differences between in-house and private practice?

In private practice you get a really interesting selection of clients from a range of industries to work with. A good lawyer will get to know each client’s business intimately; however, you are by definition the external service provider. On secondment, you only have one client and I really enjoyed feeling a part of that business and truly connected to the product. On a daily basis I would interact with members of different teams, from film production to theatrical distribution. These interactions were a great way to get clear insights into what was happening in the business and any future plans, which also allowed the lawyers to plan for upcoming projects.

You never know what work will come your way as a lawyer, either in-house or in private practice. However, as a trainee working in-house, the difference is that anyone from any department in the business could get in touch directly and ask you for some advice. Although this might sound daunting, often the best way to learn and improve as a lawyer is to have a go, as long as you have a good supervisor to run work by when necessary.

What has been the best/most significant moment from your secondment?

At Leavesden, Warner Bros. has both the Harry Potter Studio Tour as well as a working film studio. I visited there regularly due to work and it was great to see some of the film sets of the current productions.

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