Ex-Linklaters lawyer transfers to the Football Association
This week we speak to Karen Moorhouse, formerly of Linklaters, now a lawyer at The Football Association. She gets to gossip about the England team and free tickets to their matches. So how does it compare to life in the City?
mtl: Hi Karen, tell us about how you got to where you are and what it’s like.
Karen: I studied Law at Cambridge, did the LPC at Oxford and then joined Linklaters in September 2001. I had a rewarding and varied training contract. I did litigation and employment seats, spent 6 months in the Bangkok office and 6 months on secondment at Cable & Wireless.
I came back and qualified into the Banking department (a decision based on the work I had done in my litigation seat and during my time in Bangkok). I enjoyed qualified life at Linklaters but my time at C&W had made me think about the possibility of going in-house at some point in my career. It seemed like a more balanced way of life, which I thought would suit me long-term. I also liked the variety of work that you see in-house.
I was working late one night when I saw this job at The FA advertised. I’m a big fan of sport - I used to play rugby, spent a large amount of time at university rowing and have also done a few triathlons - so it appealed to me.
The role was advertised as ‘general/commercial’, and I wasn’t sure I would have the right experience; however I decided to go for the job anyway. Fortunately, the other in-house lawyers (there are four of us) are all from IP/Sport backgrounds, and I think they thought that my experience would complement theirs quite nicely. So here I am!
mtl: And how is it?
Karen: Very varied, very interesting and good fun! Since I have started work here, there has been a lot to learn about how the organisation works legally, commercially and also politically. Fortunately, I think my varied experience at Linklaters and my enthusiasm for the job has meant that this has been an very enjoyable learning curve.
Graduated from Cambridge (Law)
LPC (Oxford Institute)
Qualified into Banking department at Linklaters
Joined The FA
There is a really broad range of work. A big part of what I do relates to ensuring we achieve value for our brand through sponsorship, supplier and licensing deals. This includes everything from drafting and negotiating the sponsorship deals for the lead England sponsor (Nationwide) and the lead FA Cup sponsor (E.ON), to licence and supplier agreements for a myriad of products in the run-up to the World Cup.
The legal team also takes action when there is an unauthorised use of our brand. During the World Cup this included stopping a well-known 'adult' retailer using the England Crest.
Other aspects of what I do include drafting agreements relating to the staging of our events. For example, when Old Trafford hosts an England match we have to ensure that the stadium is cleared of all branding for Manchester United’s sponsors in order to protect our sponsors and deliver the rights we have granted to our sponsors.
A separate department within The FA, the Compliance Department, is responsible for enforcing The FA’s rules in relation to all participants in the game. This includes on-field incidents (e.g. red cards) and off-field rules (e.g. agents’ regulations or child protection issues). However, if any of those matters lead to litigation, the legal team will take over.
We’ve got a few relatively high profile matters ongoing at the moment, including a dispute with Paul Stretford (Wayne Rooney’s agent).
Work relating to Wembley Stadium is another big part of what I do, both in relation to the construction phase and also in relation to holding events at the stadium once it is open. This includes work relating to the financing of the stadium which fits in well with my previous experience. It’s fascinating seeing the project approach completion and everyone is very excited that we will be watching England play at Wembley again. I looked round the stadium a few months ago and even though at that stage there was still a lot of work to be done it was clear that it is going to be a fantastic stadium. Work in relation to Wembley is made more interesting and challenging because of the press interest that we get.
In fact, that is a big part of the job – managing the media. We obviously have a large and expert press team but we lawyers have to think about media interest in everything we do. It adds a certain pressure but also gives the work a buzz, because you know there’s a good chance you’ll be reading about it in the papers pretty soon. Apparently The FA is the most quoted body in the English media after the Royal Family and the Government. That’s a pretty extraordinary statistic when you consider that there are only about 290 people working in the organisation.
mtl: It certainly is. But what we really want to know is whether you get any great perks (like free tickets to matches) and whether you’ve got any juicy gossip.
Karen: Ha! Well, there is certainly plenty of gossip in the office – there is a great bunch of like-minded people here and we all enjoy sport and like to discuss all the issues surrounding it. That makes it great fun.
Perks? Yes, there are a few. We get free tickets to all the home England matches and to The FA Cup semis and the final. We didn’t get free tickets to the World Cup (as that’s a FIFA tournament) but had the opportunity to buy them at face-value, and I went to see three of England’s matches, unfortunately including the defeat at the hands of Portugal.
mtl: And what about the more usual comparisons with other legal jobs: the hours and the money?
Karen: The hours are definitely more regular than in private practice. I usually get in quite early (8.30 – 8.45 am) but leave before 6.30 pm. Occasionally I work late if we are very busy, but that’s relatively rare. I took a pay cut from Linklaters, but if you calculate it on an hourly basis I probably earn more.
mtl: Do you think it is easy to go back to private practice once you have been in-house (if you wanted to)?
Karen: I think private practice firms will certainly want to take you. Having worked in-house I would be able to offer a private practice firm different but complementary skills to those offered by someone who has always been in private practice – including a broad range of experience and the ability to think in a commercially astute way. Additionally, if your experience has meant that you have good contacts in a particular sector and might be able to help a law firm bring in work I am sure that they would be very keen to take you on. Indeed, you may be in a better position than people who have been in private practice all along.
I left private practice relatively early, at two years’ qualified, but that was because I knew the FA role offered broad experience at a high-profile organisation that would be unlikely to close any doors. At the end of the day, drafting more loan agreements at Linklaters for another few years was not going to make me any more suitable for this role than I was already.
mtl: So what does the future hold?
Karen: Who knows! Within The FA, because the work is so wide-ranging, there may be opportunities to move into other areas of the business, including policy formation, which is an area that interests me.
Alternatively, I think my role here is a fantastic stepping stone to other things. First, it is well respected and, secondly, it gives you a good idea of how businesses and the sporting industry work from a commercial point of view.
mtl: Indeed. Karen, thank you very much for speaking to us and good luck at The FA.
You can also visit the FA's website here.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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