L’Oreal’s associate general counsel on moving from lawyer to talent agent to inhouse counsel, influencer marketing codes of conduct, non-linear paths, and the uplifting power of beauty.
You started a law career, became a talent agent and then returned to law. Can you tell us about this progression?
Like many lawyers, I followed a fairly traditional path into private practice. While I was doing my legal education, a friend mentioned that a law firm was looking for a paralegal. I joined the firm, subsequently became a trainee and qualified as a lawyer and, before I knew it, was working in the insurance litigation area. In time, I realized that becoming an insurance litigator was not so much a conscious decision as an available opportunity.
I knew that this wasn’t a field which excited me and I didn’t want to be boxed into such a narrow area of law so early in my career, so I decided to explore my options. My father had a career in media at the BBC for many years and it got me thinking outside the box about different fields that would value my legal skills and negotiating abilities. I speculatively wrote to some entertainment talent agencies and got lucky that one agency happened to have an opening and were willing to take a chance on me, given I was a rather different prospect! It worked out brilliantly and I worked as a talent agent for a number of years.
Before we talk about your return to the legal world, can you tell us what it was like to be a talent agent?
It’s a million miles away from a career in law. It’s the difference between a great deal of structure, piles of files and very professional contact with clients, to a world of glamour and air kisses. But I loved it. The environment was so much less constrained than in a corporate law firm. My day was filled with business meetings but also attending my clients’ photo shoots, press interviews, tv show recordings and awards ceremonies. One moment I would be negotiating the finer details of a lucrative sponsorship deal, and the next I would be slathering a client with fake tan lotion in a bathroom stall before a photo shoot – there was never a dull moment, that’s for sure!
I learned an incredible amount from this experience and it has shaped my approach to everything in life. You learn through doing and discovering what you do and don’t like. Only through having experienced these two professional extremes, did I realise that what suited me best was a happy medium between the structure of a legal career and the creativity and client proximity of a more commercial role.
So, how did you find your way to an in-house position in the luxury beauty industry?
After life in a talent agency, it’s somewhat of a hard sell to explain why you want to go back into law. But I knew that an in-house legal position would provide me with the right environment to fully showcase the business and legal skills I had honed. My transition back into the law started with a maternity cover Legal Counsel position at the Press Association in London. It was a wonderful role and I spent 14 happy months there, before a position at L’Oréal became available. I jumped at the chance, as this was really a dream role for me.
I have always loved beauty and I knew the company’s brands inside and out, so had a natural enthusiasm for the products. I also care deeply about the business side of what I am doing and that enables me to serve my clients well, developing solutions that go beyond the strict legal remit and thinking about things in a commercial and marketing-oriented way.
I can truly say that my experience in the talent business has served me well. Working with talent is a huge part of life at L’Oréal, with our brands actively engaging spokemodels, ambassadors and influencers on a daily basis. I also serve as chair of ISBA's Influencer Marketing Working Group and am Co-Creator of ISBA’s Influencer Marketing Code of Conduct. This important piece of work has created a collaborative way for various industry players – advertisers, influencers and talent agencies – to come together through the creation of a joint Code of Conduct which helps to raise standards across the influencer marketing industry. This is a true passion project of mine.
Your career has taken so many interesting twists and turns. What advice do you give to younger lawyers?
Not surprisingly, I tell them not to be afraid of a non-linear path. Embrace it. If anything, that’s what will make you stand out. In a world where law students with strong credentials are plentiful, you can carve out a fulfilling path by differentiating yourself through unique experiences, skills and pursuits.
It's about making your own opportunities. Luck and serendipity are always factors but you have to build your network and be fearless in the pursuit of what you want. When you start on that path, clarity will develop as you go along, and no doubt some happy accidents along the way!
What’s next for you in your career?
I adore beauty and the wider luxury industry. No one knows what the future holds but I will always be challenging myself and broadening my skills. I’m constantly being inspired by different people and influences every day, none moreso than my best friend Chris who also works in the luxury beauty industry. He always says to “eliminate the noise but nurture your ability to listen” – that extends to personal reflection and really listening to yourself and what motivates and drives you. I’ll definitely be continuing to do that throughout my career – life is all too short, so you have to invest in experiences that will be meaningful to you.
With all your experience in the beauty industry, you must have a beauty tip or two to share.
Beauty starts and ends with skin care. For me, a proper skin care routine creates the foundation for your own natural beauty. And I am something of a fragrance advocate - I have a lot of fragrances for different occasions and moods! There is something very special about the uplifting power of beauty and its ability to instil confidence and empowerment.