Following on from our podcast launch interview, where Tyrilly Csillag, Head of In-House and Commercial at Practical Law interviewed Michelle Dillon, General Counsel at Verifone, our latest Inside In-House episode is a pivot from the FinTech space to the entertainment sector.
Tyrilly spoke with two experienced corporate counsel on the program. They are Ivana Kovacevic, Assistant General Counsel at Aristocrat and Cameron Stewart, Senior Legal Counsel at Foxtel. Hear their stories from the entertainment industry in the podcast below, or continue reading for the show notes.
Podcast show notes
The in-house X factor
This particular episode sparked a ‘full circle’ moment for Tyrilly. She met and worked with Cameron while back in private practice. Whilst there, Tyrilly found herself on the opposite side of litigation with Ivana, when Ivana was practising at a law firm! The legal profession is indeed a small world.
This leads us into our first section of the podcast, in which Cameron and Ivana discuss the pathways and reasons for moving in-house.
For Ivana, while the opportunity came up for her in an unplanned way, the decision to remain there remains clear.
“I work with a great team and the company is full of such talent – both legal and non-legal. We have artists, mathematicians and everything in between! It’s really inspiring to go to work and be surrounded by people like that,” she said.
Work-wise, like most in-house professionals will tell you, no two days are the same for Ivana. But another plus factor is the commercial focus. At Aristocrat, Ivana is pleased with how close she is to her client and its business. As Ivana explained:
“Immersion into the business comes with a unique ability to support the business, to really understand what it wants and also to have a seat at the table when strategic decisions are being made so you can influence and support it from the start”– Ivana Kovacevic, Assistant General Counsel at Aristocrat
Over at Foxtel, what attracted Cameron to join its legal department was his love for entertainment content and commercial law.
“You don’t really get that in-depth experience from private practice, where you’re working on the periphery and you’re working for multiple clients. When working in-house, you kind of gain plenty of knowledge around what drives different facets of the business,” said Cameron.
A typical day for Cameron and his legal team is very diverse, depending on the projects they have operating at the time.
“If I’m working on a production, particularly a scripted production, that will take up an inordinate amount of time during the day, and everything else can get pushed back because there are certain time-frames”– Cameron Stewart, Senior Legal Counsel at Foxtel
Furthermore, Cameron added that while the variability of each day may be challenging, it is also the feature that makes working in-house fun.
Related article: Legal Operations Manager at AustPost Shares her Career Story
Entertainment industry challenges
Providing legal guidance to businesses operating in the entertainment sector is challenging, as it is very highly regulated. This can make for an adrenaline-filled legal environment at times. Tyrilly invited the guests to share some stories about any crisis or unique challenges they have faced. Cameron responded:
“Often you’ll be in a situation in a room where, particularly with the creative guys, they want to add some controversy, particularly in TV, they want to say risqué things.”
“You’ve just got to pull them back a little bit. Your concern is of the company and its reputation as a whole, whereas their concern is getting the ratings or whatever it may be…It’s about finding a balance and there’s always a solution to such problems”– Cameron Stewart, Senior Legal Counsel at Foxtel
Ivana shared a bit about her experience working in a crisis management team, which she called out could be really intense and important work. In a real-life crisis scenario, it usually starts with a phone call.
“We’ve been here before,” Ivana told Cameron and Tyrilly. “If it’s a particular type of problem, then it might require the crisis management team to be formed straightaway.”
By way of advice to other in-house lawyers, Ivana considers crisis management experience to be an excellent development opportunity, because as a lawyer, you will learn a great deal more about your company and your colleagues in other departments and their drivers.
Crisis management in respect of cyber security is explored in the recent Thomson Reuters webinar, Cyber Risks and Data Threats for Virtual Workforces.
Technology tips for legal teams
According to Ivana, anything that can free up time for staff so they can do more value-adding work, is a bonus. One example of this is delegating repetitive tasks to trusted technologies.
“We do have different technology in this space. We have, for example, Practical Law, which I think I’ve heard someone describe as like having a specialist legal in-house team within your legal in-house team. It really is like that. It enables us to answer questions on, say, new areas of law where there aren’t many experts and to do that quickly for the business, which is really good”– Ivana Kovacevic, Assistant General Counsel at Aristocrat
Ivana’s legal department also has electronic billing, which has been a huge time-saver, as well as electronic document execution.
“For people listening who don’t have much tech in their teams, this is the low hanging fruit. It’s visible to the rest of the business, not just to the legal team.”
Related webinar: The Legal Operations Balancing Act and In-House Success Stories
Features to look for in external counsel
Does it matter whether your law firm adviser utilises legal technologies to help provide you with guidance? For Cameron, it’s becoming more important.
“If we’re farming out trademark work or patent work for example, we want to ensure that our external advisers have the right technology to sit behind so they don’t miss any critical dates”– Cameron Stewart, Senior Legal Counsel at Foxtel
However, responsiveness and committing to deadlines is really important too, especially in the entertainment industry when the show must go on.
“Be practical. We want our legal advisors to know our business and to know the industry,” said Cameron.
In addition, a feature that Cameron looks for are soft skills which enable external counsel to provide honest and unambiguous legal guidance.
Making the move to in-house
When you work in a corporate legal team for a number of years, whether it’s in the entertainment industry or otherwise, you become entrenched in your area as a specialist. As Cameron emphasised, it’s very hard to swap into another sector or industry.
This is why Cameron urged new law grads to work out what their strengths and interests are, then follow them.
“You’ve got to ask yourself, is private practice the best route for me? In-house, community law centres, or government? What’s going to benefit you the best? You’ve got to kind of be thinking about this all along the way,” said Cameron.
To our readers and listeners who aim to become a GC, Ivana’s offered some pointers. The first, is to get exposure to more areas of the law before you venture in-house. This will put you in a really good position, because it’s what your daily work will look like.
“You are not going to be expected to be the expert in every conceivable area of law. But you need to know enough about a lot [of different areas of law], if not all, to at least know when you need specialist advice,” said Ivana.
The second tip Ivana provided is to be commercial and know your client well.
“Embrace that you’re not providing advice in a vacuum. Be commercial, be practical. Think outside the box and give your client options. They can choose what suits them,” she added.
For more corporate counsel insights, listen to General Counsel as Trusted Advisers on the Inside In-House Podcast.