Creative types within advertising agencies occasionally come up with campaign ideas that breach Advertising Standards Authority rules or stray dangerously close to costly defamation or the infringement of third-party IP rights. To keep them on the right lines, agencies turn to specialist lawyers to provide copy clearance advice. They also seek advice in relation to contracts with their big-brand clients and the celebrities who appear in their clients’ commercials. This is a fresh and exciting area of legal practice, and a clutch of firms have specialist lawyers keen to keep this very British industry safely at the vanguard of corporate creativity.
As is the case with so many commercial solicitors, Louisa Dixon’s passion for law has always been more driven by the fact that it can be used to achieve tangible results in the business world. Having graduated with a classics degree from the University of Warwick, Louisa was keen to move on from the more cloistered environs of academia. "I wanted to work with businesses to help them navigate the law, rather than pursue a career at the Bar where the focus is more on the technicalities and academic aspects of the law itself," she explains.
A training contract at Nabarro followed the conversion course and Louisa had an "excellent experience" over the course of her six seats. "It was great for my professional development because I was treated as a proper lawyer and given real responsibility, even as a trainee," she enthuses. "The social side was also really good – there were always lots of events going on."
Throughout her training contract Louisa was interested in all things intellectual property, a specialism she chose to pursue upon qualification. However, two years ago she decided that it was time to leave London and start a new chapter, which turned out to be at leading technology firm Taylor Vinters, which is based in Cambridge. "The overall decision to move to Cambridge was because I had grown up there and wanted to relocate," she explains. "My partner was setting up a business in Cambridge, while I also have family connections to the area. I didn’t think at the time that I would be able to experience the same quality of work anywhere outside London, but when I started exploring the possibilities around Cambridge I found that the area is great if you are an IP lawyer – the technology centre, science park and of course the university mean that there is a whole technology ecosystem here and Taylor Vinters is at the heart of it."
Since joining Taylor Vinters, Louisa has built a specialist practice in brand protection and enforcement, an IP-based subset of advertising and marketing law. "I am an IP lawyer at heart and it is the area into which I originally qualified, but I have always focused on trademarks," she explains. "It has been a real highlight to grow my own brand protection practice at Taylor Vinters, as there wasn’t one before I joined."
Brand protection involves a mixture of contentious and non-contentious work. "My job involves clearing and registering new brand names for use by clients, firstly by making sure that no one else holds rights over the name in question and that the name is available for use both in the United Kingdom and internationally," Louisa explains. "More often than not, a client will want to operate not just in this country, but also around the world, so I help them to clear and register their trademarks in relevant jurisdictions."
Louisa also helps her clients to tackle brand infringements once the relevant protection of their trademarks has been put in place. "This is obviously where my work becomes more contentious," she explains. "I might be writing cease and desist letters to people asking them to stop using an infringing mark, for example, and in some cases this might progress to full-blown litigation."
Aside from the variety of contentious and non-contentious work, Louisa most enjoys the satisfaction to be had from fully engaging with businesses to help them achieve their aims. "I get really involved in companies’ brand strategies – it’s great to speak with chief executives and marketing people on a daily basis," she explains. "On the flipside, working as a commercial solicitor obviously means that there are periods when the hours are long. However, that doesn’t matter if you really enjoy what you are doing!"
For those interested in intellectual property, Louisa emphasises the importance of understanding that this is an area of law that is constantly changing. "At the moment there is a lot going on regarding changes to copyright law – in fact, some are calling for the current copyright system to be entirely overhauled," she explains. "There are also changes to the current Community Trade Mark Directive in the pipeline that anyone interested in this area of law should be aware of. These are the kinds of issues you might get asked about at interview."
Finally, Louisa’s advice for anyone considering a career in this area is to focus on developing three key qualities in addition to the obvious technical legal knowledge you will need: "You need to be organised – I’m managing hundreds of different trademarks and there are lots of things going on in different countries. Thoroughness is also important because there is a lot of law in this area and it’s always changing – you need to be able to keep up with it and apply it. Finally, you need to be commercial and pragmatic. It’s all very well to know what the law is, but you need to be able to put yourself in your client’s position and come up with practical solutions when you’re actually providing advice and forming a strategy."