Technology, media and telecommunications

Technology, media and telecommunications

Charlotte Scott

Hogarth Chambers

University: University of Cambridge
Degree: Law

Media and entertainment barristers have clients in a variety of sectors, including theatre, film, music, publishing, broadcasting, sport and advertising. They advise and represent clients in court and before other tribunals on matters that might include defamation, privacy and confidentiality, contract disputes, advertising standards, sponsorship, intellectual property and restraint of trade.

The prospect of a life at the Bar proved a powerful draw for budding legal eagle Charlotte Scott: “It sounds clichéd, but I wanted to do advocacy and liked the idea of being in court. The opportunity to explore quite technical areas of law also appealed to me.”

After graduating from the University of Cambridge and taking some time out to set up a successful business with a couple of friends, Charlotte gained pupillage at Hogarth Chambers, which is predominantly an IP set. “Hogarth is a really friendly, welcoming set and I was able to explore many different and interesting areas of law within IP, so the pupillage experience was as good as it could be, really,” she recalls. “But in general, pupillage is quite a horrible year – the pressure comes from the process – it is essentially a year-long interview. I don’t think anyone truly enjoys pupillage and most people are happy to gain tenancy and for it to be over!”

Today, Charlotte specialises in media cases. Her clients are largely in the music industry, so there is a significant overlap with IP in her work. “Cases range from the run of the mill – for example, where premises have failed to take out licences to play music and there is therefore not much of a case to make in their defence – to matters which are much more involved,” she explains. “I do a lot of work for the big music collecting societies, many of which have grown more willing to pursue contempt of court proceedings as a form of enforcement action against people who choose not to take out licences.”

Rock ’n’ roll

Charlotte’s clients also include bands of yesteryear for which the bright lights have been replaced by not-so-rock ’n’ roll financial wrangling: “I do quite a lot of work to do with the rights issues of disgruntled former band members after a band has split up. Most of the clients I have worked with in this area formed bands in the 1970s and 1980s, and the issue of who owns what, such as the band name, song-writing credits and so on are never clear cut – the band members of course just started making music without thinking about the legal ramifications. It’s all brilliant when the band is successful and making money, but when someone wants to leave or there is a falling out, there is usually no legal framework in place and in many cases people are hazy about what happened and what was said, as they were doing a lot of partying at the time!”

The workload varies, but Charlotte gets plenty of opportunities to hone her advocacy skills, especially in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC). “The IPEC has been a great avenue for junior barristers such as myself to gain advocacy experience; as is the Trade Marks Registry of the UK Intellectual Property Office. I have also been able to do quite a lot of interim applications and case management conferences in the High Court. Outside of court, my work predominantly involves drafting pleadings, pre-action correspondence, written opinions and giving advice via teleconference or in person.”

“The IPEC has been a great avenue for junior barristers such as myself to gain advocacy experience; as is the Trade Marks Registry of the UK Intellectual Property Office”

Holy Grail

Meeting interesting people is guaranteed in Charlotte’s line of work. One highlight which really stands out is the first trial she was involved in as a pupil, in which she helped to represent the members of Monty Python. “Even though I was still a pupil, reading through transcripts and just generally sitting in and learning, it was a brilliant experience,” she recalls. “The Monty Python guys were being sued over the merchandising royalties relating to the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and in particular the royalties relating to the stage musical Spamalot. Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones were all heavily involved, as much of the case rested on what was said and done during the creation of the film. They were in chambers every day for a couple of weeks and we had lunch with them on several occasions, and they were as funny as you would hope they would be!”

Another milestone was a two-day multitrack trial in the IPEC: “It was almost exactly a year after I had qualified as a barrister and was my first full trial on my own, with cross-examination and so on. It was a moment which really vindicated my career choice; the run-up to the trial had been stressful and I was nervous and worried, but when I got into court I loved it – I knew that everything I had done to get there had been worth it.”

Charlotte is enthusiastic about life as a barrister: “I love how the work is so varied and that I don’t do the same thing day in, day out. One day I could be being instructed by a big music collecting society, but on another I could be representing the little guy against a big corporation. The work is interesting, intellectually challenging and it keeps me on my toes. The other thing I love is being self-employed. When I was applying for pupillage, I don’t think that I appreciated enough just how important a factor this should be to anyone considering a career as a barrister. Being self-employed is both my main cause of stress and my main cause of fun at work – I have to do all my accounts and tax returns, not to mention all the other admin, which is unpaid and tiresome; but I also have the luxury of being able to work from home when I want and a lot more flexibility and control over my hours.”

If there is a downside, it is the solitude involved in much of a barrister’s work. “It can be quite a lonely job, but it helps that everyone at Hogarth works with their doors open and people pop in and out to talk to each other, so there is camaraderie; but it’s not quite the same as working closely with and bouncing ideas off of a colleague,” admits Charlotte.

Running your own business

Charlotte is keen to stress the benefits of having some prior experience outside law for barristers in this area: “Before I came to the Bar, I spent a year setting up a business, which is still running and I’m still involved in. I’m not sure everyone would agree with me on this, but I think that having a commercial mind set is important and it is therefore really beneficial to get some commercial experience before coming to the IP and media Bar. Clients want to know their legal position, but they also want commercially sound advice which tells them how they can achieve their aims.”

Finally, Charlotte would advise anyone considering this career path to make sure that they appreciate what being self-employed really means: “It is a stressful job – there is a lot of pressure on you as an individual and while I’m sure that is the case with all professions, it is slightly different when you’re self-employed, as the pressure is not coming from your boss, but from having no one but yourself to rely on. You go from being a pupil where there is always someone keeping an eye on you to being out there on your own. Remember that being a barrister is essentially like running your own business, so it is crucial to be commercially proactive and to market yourself, as well as to know the law.”