Ex-Pinsents trainee gambles on boutique firm

Joanna Brown trained at Pinsents and moved on qualification to a boutique firm in a particularly niche practice area.  We spoke to her about why she made this choice and how life compares to working at a big City firm.  


mtl: Hi Jo, tell us about your training contract.


Jo:  I trained at Pinsents in London and sat with a partner called Julian Harris for six months.  He specialised in gambling law and I really enjoyed the seat.  When I qualified, he left to set up a law firm with John Hagan specialising in gambling law and they offered me a job if I wanted to go with them.


mtl: Was it a hard decision to make?  


Jo:  It was probably more a leap of faith as I would be joining a start-up in a very specialised area.  I have no regrets though and four years later I am still here and am really enjoying it. The business has grown from two partners, a secretary and me (and some external consultants) in May 2004 to nine staff now, plus the consultants, and a third partner, Liz Southorn, who specialises in liquor, entertainment and betting.


Everything has been a great experience and opportunity to learn.  We had to work a lot out for ourselves, for example outsourcing support services such as IT.  I have had fantastic client exposure as the partners always introduce me and, working directly with the partners, I’ve enjoyed a lot of responsibility from day one. 


mtl: Tell us about being a gambling lawyer.   


Jo:  The mix of clients and variety of work make it great fun.  I come into contact with a wide range of people including directors of listed international companies and talented and charismatic individuals who have risen through the ranks in gambling companies from being croupiers and dealers.  The three partners are highly rated in their fields, and the firm as a whole is ranked in the top tier of the legal directories.  We’ve been busy from day one and the firm is going from strength to strength.




Career timeline



Law, University of Bristol



LPC, Nottingham Law School



Training contract, Pinsents



Gambling law, Harris Hagan


I advise on all issues surrounding gambling in the UK, such as the licensing of land based casinos, including contentious work, online and marketing issues and all regulatory aspects of the Gambling Act 2005. The introduction of this Act was a highlight for the firm as it is rare to see a complete change in the law in your practice area.  Harris Hagan started at just the right time as there was a good deal of work coming from the last days of the old system and there has been plenty of work surrounding the introduction of the new law.


mtl: And what about working for a boutique firm?    


Jo:  I highly recommend working in boutique firms because you can be exposed to high quality work and surrounded by people who are the best in that area, without being in a large law firm environment. 


I get to work in a small firm environment yet we’re based in the City and have clients which any City firm would love to have (and who generally use City firms for their other work).  My hours are regular and reasonable with busier spells at times, just as in any job, but my work/life balance is very good.   


The only downsides are that I have to take responsibility for my own training as there isn’t an HR department to organise my CPD points, we don’t have a great deal in the way of support services and there isn’t a structured process for, for example, unpaid leave or secondments.  The partners are, however, very reasonable and I get on with them well, so there is generally much more flexibility available than I would otherwise get.  As an example, the Partners recently agreed for me to do my Higher Rights course because it is something that I particularly wanted to do.


Harris Hagan is the only firm in London which specialises in gambling and leisure law only, though there are a few others which do it among their other practice areas. Specialising early suited me perfectly as I am now more experienced than most other lawyers in my area at my level.  Of course if you aren’t sure about what you want to do, it’s a big jump to ’go boutique’ so early, but I’ve been very lucky and made it successful.  I have no regrets and am very happy with my career.


Jo died tragically in a trekking accident in Siberia in August 2008.  Inspired by Jo's passion for sport, Jo's family set up a charity in her memory to promote and encourage involvement in sport at all levels. To find out more about The Joanna Brown Trust visit www.thejoannabrowntrust.org.


You can see the Harris Hagan website here: www.harrishagan.com


Obviously very few people do gambling law as a trainee and as a result it is rare to have the appropriate experience to go into this field.  However, if you have a sound legal background and an interest in specialising in gambling and entertainment (law!) then please contact info@harrishagan.com as the partners are always interested in receiving speculative applications from good candidates.  


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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