Alumnus Craig Curran joined us to study the part-time LPC and has gone on to become a Senior Legal and Business Affairs Manager for ITV Sport. We caught up with Craig to discover what his role entails and to get his advice for students wanting to practice in media and sports.
When it came to choosing law, I initially just found it academically interesting above all else. Being the first in the family to go to university, I didn't know any lawyers apart from my A-Level law teacher, but I enjoyed the subject and thought, why not take this through to my degree? At the time it felt like it was either that or become a history teacher. I thought that law might be more fun.
I then did my entire undergraduate degree without knowing I wanted to be a lawyer. I liked the intellectual property module, which was taught by this Canadian guy who had markedly different approach to other lecturers, and I enjoyed that. The type of law that drew me in was law that you could ‘touch’ - law you could experience the product of. In everything I’ve worked on, I have always been able to watch the television programme or pick up the book or the toys (I used to do a lot of kids’ TV) at home.
When I was growing up, you could still buy CDs with sleeve notes in them. Flicking through those notes, you would see credits for the songs that used samples – “this song used with the permission of this record label…”, with the little copyright symbol. I found it really interesting, that there was a whole business behind the record that you couldn’t know about just from listening to the song. That really stuck with me when it came to starting my career.
All the lawyers I came to know through my first job in London had gone to ULaw. So it seemed like a very natural choice. I still went to other law school open days, but The University of Law stood out because it had a central location, it was close to where my office was, and I liked the idea of open book exams. In all honesty, ULaw didn't just act like they wanted my money, they also showed me they cared about what the experience could be like.
My classmates really inspired me during my studies. It sounds like a cliché, but I was really lucky to have the group of people I studied with. It took real dedication for all of us to go to an office, work during the day and then study at night and on weekends. The last thing you want to do is spend the evening contemplating the vagaries of the Companies Act, and yet we were all there doing it. Because most of my classmates were mature students, I got to see people qualifying at different paces and with very different life experiences, which brought a great energy to the classroom.
My time at ULaw didn’t take any prisoners. You couldn’t get away with not doing the work. Before I started my LPC, I was told that it was going to be 20 hours a week, because it was part-time. It was two evening classes a week, and the prep work before them. That meant putting in seven and a half hours in and around each class, and they really meant it. You have to do that work and commit to it.
I put in that work and got the rewards for it. My final grades were among the best academic marks I ever achieved, but that was because I was truly ready to go in and do the work.
I lived the first few years of my career through the credit crunch, when training contract numbers were way down, so simply winning a training contract was my overriding priority. It wasn’t until I hit that milestone where I was able to ask myself “what do I really want to do?” By then, I was aware that sport - my true passion in life - was an industry that needed lawyers too. But while I thought working in sports would be great, it was a difficult thing to jump into, even coming from a commercial media background. I was incredibly fortunate that the opportunity to work in sports came up within ITV.
I am now a Senior Legal and Business Affairs Manager at ITV. On the day-to-day I look after all aspects of ITV Sport’s television business, starting with getting the right to put sports on the television in the first place. If you flick through our schedule on any given weekend you might see the FA Cup, England’s Women’s football, the Six Nations Rugby, the crown jewels of the horse racing calendar, lots of snooker, and much more besides – all of which I have been involved with. I spend lots of time working with the owners of the rights in those competitions and events to bring the broadcast rights to ITV.
Once we've acquired the rights, the other half of my role is spent dealing with the production. Everything you see in a live sports programme, I will have had a hand in. It may be that I’ve written the underlying agreement with the production company that supplies the cameras and crew at the stadium, or dealt with the contract that gets the pictures from the venue to your TV screen, or signed up the commentators and the ex-pros in the TV studio. Usually it’s a combination of all three. I also advise on the kinds of advertising and sponsorship that we can put in and around our broadcasts, which of course is how ITV makes its money.
I really love the variety of my role. It’s probably quite unique even within ITV. The company has something like a hundred lawyers, and like any large organisation you work in a department where you can end up having a very particular speciality. By comparison, ITV Sport is like a complete business all of its own and because I am the main lawyer looking after it, no two days are ever the same.
I’m a football fan first and foremost and to work across the FA Cup was a real thrill but also a massive intellectual challenge because the contract with the FA was very complex. To have the opportunity to work on the sports that I would actually watch anyway is what it's all about.
Recently, I was also very proud to see that Anne, a biopic of Anne Williams, mother of one of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and campaigner for justice for the 97, finally made it to air. The programme tells her life story in the aftermath of her son's death.
My work on Anne was done two or three years ago, whereas a drama like that is often broadcast within six months to a year of it being produced. But because of the ongoing legal cases with the police officers involved, the programme had to be held back. To see it finally broadcast and for it to receive the critical reception it did, that was really fulfilling and the kind of work that I got into being a lawyer to do; to be just a small part of a compelling finished product about a subject I really care about.
On the lighter side, it's also nice to work in an area where my Nan vaguely understands who I work for. For her, the proudest moment of my career would be seeing Peter Andre in the corridors of ITV.
The majority of my career has offered a really good work-life balance. The challenge lately has been the role that I’m in now is in a much busier part of ITV where everything is always live. But because I'm doing something that I really want to do, it's never too much of a hardship if I end up spending the odd Saturday on a really important project.
However, it's not like the work you end up doing isn't noticed. I'm fortunate that there are senior people within ITV who take the time to say thank you when you are really working hard on a particular event.
I'd forewarn students who are interested in working at ITV that it’s not all glamorous. The perception of ITV is shiny floors and stars everywhere. And yes, when contestants got voted off Love Island, you'd see them in the canteen or pass them in the corridors when they came in to do their appearances on Loose Women, This Morning and so on. But, as a lawyer, you'll often be getting stuck into a lot of stuff that bears no relation to what's happening on screen.
When ITV recruit, needing brains is a given, but the other thing you need is personality. With private practice solicitors I can often quickly tell if they are an “ITV lawyer” – someone who is practical and commercially minded with enough of a hint that they’ll be fun. They will have to really care about what ITV does differently to other broadcasters and go beyond the Coronation Streets and crime dramas. Go beyond the obvious, because we're a full public service broadcaster and there is something for everyone every day.
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