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Media law: area of practice (barristers)

Media law clients can include musicians, songwriters, newspapers and broadcasters, says Mark from Blackstone Chambers.

Media law combines celebrity clients, interesting cases and cutting edge points of law. The solicitors in this field are also cheerier and more informal than most.

Media law encompasses all the legal aspects of the music, film, TV, news and publishing industries (apart from defamation, which is generally regarded as a separate specialism).

A media law barrister's work

Clients can come from all sides of these industries, for example musicians and record companies, songwriters and music publishers, newspapers, broadcasters and the people on whom they report.

The work can range from urgent applications for injunctions to substantial cases that can take years to get to trial. Day-to-day practice in media law involves a lot of paperwork (giving advice, drafting statements of case and skeleton arguments) as well as appearing in court. The workload is not abnormally high but urgent injunction applications involve a short period of ‘full-on’ work for the lawyers on both sides.

Media law combines celebrity clients, interesting cases and cutting edge points of law. The solicitors in this field are also cheerier and more informal than most. However, it can be difficult to get into media law, since solicitors tend to want to use barristers who are already specialists in the field. It is necessary to acquire a good understanding of the relevant industry (for example the way royalties are earned and paid under record deals) at an early stage.

Is media law recession-proof?

The entertainment industry has a reputation for doing well in an economic downturn, but there is undoubtedly some belt-tightening going on. The industry has also been seriously affected by online piracy in recent years.

What skills do media law barristers need?

  • An interest in, and understanding of, the media industries.
  • The ability to deal with tricky legal questions and complex facts.
  • Willingness to socialise with clients as well as working with them.

Media law pupillages

There is no reason why a pupil working in this area should work harder than in any other, except when urgent injunctions are involved (see above). A pupil is likely to be very involved in the paperwork side, such as drafting documents and legal research.

Types of law practised

  • Breach of confidence.
  • Contempt.
  • Contract law.
  • European law.
  • Human rights law.
  • Intellectual property law.

MARK VINALL is a barrister at BLACKSTONE CHAMBERS. He studied law with French law at the University of Oxford and was called to the Bar in 2002.

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