Amelia Wilson is a ULaw graduate who studied the online LPC to achieve her dream job as a programme lawyer for Channel 4. We caught up with Amelia to hear more about her incredible journey into law and the media.
I am a programme lawyer in the legal and compliance department at Channel 4. I ensure that our content, be it programmes, social or sponsorship is compliant with the relevant codes and laws. I watch a lot of TV, naturally. But I also spend a lot of time advising on protocols, meeting with commissioners and producers and working on a whole host of programmes across a variety of genres. I work on the entire life cycle of a programme or campaign, starting at pre-production and sometimes continuing long after transmission. No two days are the same.
I always wanted to work in TV, but I didn’t have any connections. After I was ill at 17, I lost my confidence and felt that it was just a pipe dream. I was fortunate to get an apprenticeship in a firm that served the media industry. It gave me the opportunity to believe in myself. I started as an office junior sorting the post and making tea and after two years, I inquired about the account executive role in the media team, despite not having the required degree on the advert. I was lucky that I was given a shot at it, and I thrived. I realised I was good at dealing with TV accounts and managing clients, which gave me some connections within the industry. From there, I moved to Big Brother producer, Endemol UK, as an account manager. I joined Channel 4 on a short-term contract in 2007, mainly looking after the Big Brother TV show voting and I haven’t looked back.
I managed to get good GCSE results, but I didn’t complete my A-levels due to mental health challenges in my teens. I was embarrassed about this for quite some time, but I am very open about it now. I want to show that your education history doesn’t have to hold you back. I did an NVQ during my apprenticeship and got the courage to go to a university open day where they agreed to take me on to their 4-year LLB despite not having A-levels. I took my time doing that course, as I was working full-time and also had my daughter - I am lucky not to have given birth in my equity lecture.
I started looking into doing the LPC and found the online LPC that ULaw offered fit in perfectly with my work and family life. I was incredibly grateful to be able to log on and ‘attend’ my lectures and seminars in my spare time. This was possibly the only way I could have managed it. The support the tutors and administration staff offer is exceptional and I always found there was someone willing and able to answer any questions or queries I had about the course. I also chose to return to ULaw to complete my professional skills courses at ULaw.
ULaw set me up for success because the teaching and materials are of a very high quality. The flexible options it offers in terms of studying were crucial in allowing me to complete my LPC. It feels really good to have completed the LPC. I love the fact that I have no more exams and have finally accomplished it.
When I started working in the legal field, I didn’t think I was serious or smart enough for it to be my career. I now realise there is an area of law that appeals to all personalities and I am smarter than I gave myself credit for.
In my role I deal with hundreds of different people a week in various roles and having started my career in account management means I am good at using those skills to build relationships with our production and sales partners. I find that once someone trusts me and understands my collaborative way of working, I can offer advice that they will take on board more fully. I am also a people person, so this is a part of my job that I really enjoy.
Getting my job at Channel 4 has been the proudest moment of my career. It’s an absolute dream for me. It is very fast paced, and I work on a variety of genres and shows, from Dispatches to Naked Attraction. It means that I need to adapt my style and skillset accordingly. I also love it when we work across the Channel on a big project. We turned around a programme last summer called Final Replay 66, in record time, during lockdown. It was a brilliant example of teamwork and what Channel 4 are really good at.
For the programmes involving the emergency services, because of the types of cases we are dealing with, several issues can come into play. We work very closely with the production team on these shows, and I am very proud of them. It is important that viewers can see the incredible job the emergency services do and the challenges they face, especially over the past year.
I used the Employability Service at ULaw to discuss how Channel 4 could register as a training contract provider, as it was something they hadn’t done in some time. The person I spoke to had been a training principal himself, so I was able to offer some useful insight into the process. I also used the counselling services when I suffered a setback with my mental health. I found it incredibly helpful and would recommend it to anyone struggling; it’s a very useful resource.
I started my journey as a mental health advocate because I have struggled with my mental health both as a teenager and during my career, and I had thought it would count against me if I revealed it. I took part in a campaign at Channel 4 a few years back called ‘This is me’, where I spoke about my challenges. While I felt quite exposed, it was so worth it. I had many others approach me with their own experiences. Now we have a dedicated employee mental health group called ‘4mind’ and many colleagues have opened up about their own conditions. We also run many events to educate staff on mental health awareness and encourage staff to take part in our mental health first aid courses. Having such a supportive workplace really makes a huge difference in terms of wellbeing; I know that I don’t have to struggle alone; and knowing that is incredibly reassuring.
I personally struggle to keep a work-life balance and switch off, but Channel 4 is a great employer in relation to flexible working. This is especially true of the last year - it has been reinforced from the top down that flexibility is encouraged, especially when many of the staff have been home schooling or have caring responsibilities. I have a picture on my wall that says, ‘the greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow’ and that would be my advice; keep going through that storm as the rewards are worth it at the end.
Covid-19 has also had a big impact on TV production and every show has a very detailed set of strict protocols to adhere to, which adds to the workload. It is incredibly impressive how resilient the industry has been and how we have managed to produce some great programming to entertain viewers during this period, despite the hurdles.
For me, the biggest skill to being a TV lawyer (besides a great knowledge of media law and the relevant codes) is excellent communication skills. I fell into law, but I have always wanted to work in the media. The OFCOM code is my bible, but we refer to other industry codes as well. I also need to have a strong knowledge of defamation and privacy law.
My advice to law students would be to find a firm that allows you to be authentic and fits your values. It shouldn’t just be about what you can give to a firm, but what can they give you as well. I love my company because their values reflect mine; I have the freedom to be my true self, wear leopard print, champion mental health issues and help amazing content make it to air.
To find out more about how to study law flexibly like Amelia, visit our Online Learning page.