LEAH ALYSANDRATOS (FAME Careers and Sponsorship Coordinator): Hello and welcome to the FAME Law Students’ Association’s podcast: The Brief. For the uninitiated, FAME sands for the Film, Art, Media, and Entertainment. The FAME LSA is a group of students from Melbourne Law School who are passionate about the arts and culture.
In this podcast series, we chat with lawyers and artists working in the creative industries, learning about their daily work, career development, and topical issues facing the industry.
In today’s episode, Matthew interviews Sarah Ramsey-Caudle, a solicitor and trademarks attorney at Studio Legal, which is a boutique law firm specializing in protecting the creative Industries. As a person with a deep passion for design, Sarah uses her personal experience to express the importance behind having a genuine interest in your clients work. Moreover, as a Melbourne Law School alumnus, Sarah is one of the younger guests indulging our listeners with fresh advice as to how to understand your legal future and provides a real perspective on a Covid-19 transformed world. We hope you enjoy this episode.
MATTHEW HEALY (FAME External Engagement Officer) : Hi, Sarah. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and where you work?
SARAH RAMSEY – CAUDLE: Okay, I am Sarah Ramsey-Caudle and I work as a solicitor and trademarks attorney at Studio Legal, which is a fun little Boutique firm based in Windsor in Melbourne who represent clients predominantly in the creative industries.
MATT: And what do you do at Studio Legal? What does your day to day look like?
SARAH: It’s a really busy fast-paced little practice. So I do work across both the IP and Commercial practices, but I tend to have more of an IP focus, to be honest. So most of my work is in trademarks, copyright and designs and then I also do a little bit of commercial contracting for the more sort of IP heavy businesses.
So, the trademark side of things there’s a lot of trademark prosecution. So lots of trademark applications and sort of managing those all the way through to registration with IP Australia and dealing with anything that happens along the way like adverse reports or oppositions and that sort of thing. I also have a lot of copyright infringement matters, which I really like so that’s sort of my bread and butter. I guess a bit of ad hoc advice too, which is cool.
We have a pretty varied client base at Studio Legal, which is amazing. So we’ve got people from all different sorts of industries and different sizes and stages of the business. So even though I’m doing a lot of the same work every day, it’s quite different. Most days are not really the same because it’s sort of involving different businesses in different industries. So it keeps me on my toes.
MATT: It’s almost a trick question. The response from everyone is that no day is the same.
SARAH: Yeah. It really isn’t like it. Really. Yeah, I have can have the most like amazing day planned and it just will never happen. I’ve had to let go of my planning.
Matt: Something our members and other students love to hear about are the stepping stones that get you where you are today. We were just wanting to know what was your path to the law?
Sarah: So it’s a little bit random. I actually hadn’t really thought about a career in law, to begin with. I actually wanted to be a journalist. I first started doing law/journalism as a double degree, but that degree was sort of you do a year straight journalism and then a year straight law. Journalism didn’t really grab me and the law was just to kind of an add on thing I suppose.
It was a few years out of school that I came to the law. I had someone really close to me go through a reasonably public case which went to trial and Supreme Court of South Australia. So I grew up in Adelaide. I kind of took on a bit of a support person role for them during that process and that was really my first experience with the law. I guess for someone who’s not necessarily familiar with the law or it can be really complicated and confusing and to be honest pretty intimidating actually.
So in that experience, I got an appreciation for and saw firsthand just how much trust and reliance people put in lawyers to help them navigate these things. So without giving too much of a cliche answer, I think that that was definitely a major drawcard. I love the idea of being able to do that for people. I guess aside from obviously how stressful and awful it was for the person involved I actually really enjoyed the process of being involved and sort of following it along and I’ve got on really well with the barrister. He said, ‘you know, you really getting this to be thought about doing law’ and I said, ‘oh, well, actually I started a law degree but I didn’t ever really get to it and it hasn’t even really thought too much about it’. And I’d actually let the law side of things go and I was sort of just going on with journalism at that point. So he said you should think about it. Then a few days later I sort of switched it over and was back doing law.
But yeah, I guess in terms of the creative industries, I’ve always wanted to have a career that feels, you know, authentic for me. Something that I genuinely enjoy. Having a job just for the sake of it or just as a means to an end was never really something that appealed to me. So I always was pretty clear from the get-go that I wanted to be able to use my law degree in a way that aligns with this. I love fashion and art and design and beauty and all of those things so I had had some experience in those fields. So I think that was really where I developed an understanding of how important IP is in that space and how commercially valuable IP assets are and that’s what really sort of drew me to IP as a practice area. So yeah, and I sort of just did my law degree and ended up in insolvency actually straight out of uni figure. Figured out pretty quickly that wasn’t for me. And then I guess since then I sort of, you know been doing things to set me up to get a position like I’ve got now so doing more broad commercial roles as they came up, moving interstate and doing a master’s to get that specialized knowledge in the area.
Matt: I guess you’re proving the point that it’s easier to find your place if you really do have a passion for it.
Sarah: Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Matt: I just might bring you back to what you said about your creative experiences. Can you talk a bit more on them?
Sarah: Yeah, so when I was straight out of school, I didn’t really 100% know what I wanted to do. I was sort of playing around with journalism and ended up doing Commerce degree somehow. I’m not sure how that happened. So in that time I was I guess a bit starved of creativity and I ended up doing makeup actually and I worked for Chanel as a makeup artist and that was sort of my little creative outlet. I’ve worked in fashion as well in styling and that sort of thing was always my creative outlet. Working with reasonably big well-known brands was really cool.
Matt: A good mix of the corporate space and the art space all in one
Sarah: Exactly right. I love art, I don’t do art but I really love it. Like I love going to galleries and seeing exhibitions and stuff like that and design. So I just love working with my like artist and design clients.
Matt: I guess that allows you to defend and appreciate and come to it with an opinion yourself as well.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely and it’s really cool like every time so often at Studio Legal some work come through and I’m like ‘oh my god, I love that. I love that business. Or his art’. Super exciting. That’s when you really do have that genuine passion for it an interest in your clients and what they do it makes you a better lawyer for sure.
Matt: Thank you for that summary Sarah. I know it’s long but it’s so important to hear those stepping stones and what brings you to those places. What do you consider to be essential skills and qualities for a successful lawyer working with clients from trademarks and copyrights perspective.
Sarah: I think for trademarks definitely commercial acumen is really really important. You have to be able to really understand your clients business. Not sure how familiar you guys are with trademarks but obviously trademarks is a subset of IP. It’s all about protecting a brand and so you can’t just sort of have a trademark point blank, you have to have a trademark very specifically in relation to goods and services that you’re offering under that brand and so to be able to really come up with a good strategy and execute it and actively sort of defend your client’s branding you have to really have that understanding of what they’re doing with that branding. So I think that’s really important.
And then copyright I think is more is more human. It’s more about people skills and empathy I think. At least from my experience and I’ve only had a few years under my belt, the key thing for me that I’ve noticed in copyright cases, particularly those infringement matters where someone’s copyright has been infringed, is it’s not about money. They really don’t care about that, that’s very much a secondary consideration. So much personality and passion and soul that goes into creations and for artists, it’s an extension of themselves in a way and to have that copied, it’s almost like a violation of themselves and it’s really quite distressing for them. So having that empathy and valuing how important that is is really important because you know, I’ve had some people that are so they’ve dealt with lawyers and they sort of don’t really get it like this. For a lot of clients it’s actually about the apology and a public apology for copying their work and not attributing it and I guess that says why you’ve got moral rights in the copyright act as well as those that economic rights as well.
So I think for a copyright lawyer if you don’t appreciate creativity and how much of someone’s soul goes into their work I think that’s really important.
Matt: I know you said you’ve only been a lawyer for a very short period of time, but the reason your success and the reason for your current position and passion are that you have involved yourself and you have a personal interest for a long time. As a very recent MLS graduate, what do you think law students can do now while studying to realistically equip themselves for a career in the creative legal industries?
Sarah: One thing that really I really wish I had done was put more emphasis on plain English drafting. I think there is such an emphasis in law school. It’s obviously a reasonably prestigious profession when it’s quite academic and there’s always sort of language that sounds really fancy and that’s amazing. But like in the creative industry like they’re just don’t care. Just say it how Especially when you’re drafting contracts, for example, we have this amazing photographer client. I love her work. She does really cool things with really big brands in Australia and we put together this contract for her and we sort of thought it was quite short. But it was too long! It such a skill to be able to transform convoluted and really unnecessary clauses into very short sharp, shiny and easily digestible language.
Matt: But also unambiguous and clear.
Sarah: Exactly. Often times you’re almost having to translate legal language which you know, you go through a law degree and you become so familiar with these sort of terms, but you forget that for someone who’s never come across the wall before, they just want to know basically, just cut to the chase.
Matt: So clarity is so important and it’s important for clients especially. So how can we are students practice that clarity?
Sarah: So I guess, it’s always easier said than done but try and get as much a real-world experience as you can like. I always think school doesn’t prepare you for your uni and your uni doesn’t prepare you for practice. You learn so much, but there’s so much more to practicing as a lawyer than what you sort of learn in theory a community. So even if it’s internships or you know, unpaid PLT placement, shadowing someone. Get as much as you possibly can and see how it works in real life so that you can sort of have that in your mind when you’re at Uni. So it was helpful for me when I was at Uni because I was working in these industries and I was sort of coming across, you know, skincare patents every day or, you know, I worked in a for a fashion label and there was an ongoing design infringement dispute. Being able to apply what you’re learning in a real-world example is important. So I’d encourage people to really prioritize that.
Don’t neglect or play down your creative flare. It’s just as important if not more. All of my colleagues are all DJ’s. It’s so important. It’s important to honour that side of yourself and nd prioritize it just as much as you prioritize your academic things.
There are so many law students. There are so few jobs. Then you narrow that down so that niche part of the law being IP and the creative industries. If you’ve got a lawyer who’s also a DJ or also Fashion Stylist or also an artist or also a designer you’re going to go with the lawyer plus Real World experience.
Matt: It’s not about having extra things and bells and bells and whistles
Sarah: No, it’s about understanding. I think it just comes down to that genuine understanding and genuine interest and passion. I think that’s so important. There is a sort of misconception or outdated way of thinking that things like fashion and beauty and those sort of typically feminine things are, you know, superfluous or surface level and don’t necessarily go hand in hand with being a lawyer. When I was in my final year of law school my mentor put me in touch with someone very high up in the profession who specializes in IP. She’s on the bench. I was so excited because I have this meeting with her and I was just going to pick her brain about IP and how to get into the profession and all of those things and I left feeling really deflated because she said to me ‘you’re going to have to work three times as hard to get people to take you seriously because you know, you look a certain way you dress a certain way, you’re into fashion into makeup, very feminine bubbly and you sort of have that kind of persona. You’re going to have to work extra hard to get people to take you seriously.’
I remember thinking maybe not maybe I’m not cut out to be a lawyer. Maybe I shouldn’t be a lawyer. Maybe this isn’t for me. I think I mentioned earlier but I was always very clear that I wanted to practice law in a way that works for me and it felt genuine and that I genuinely enjoy. No one should have to sort of try and amend themselves or play themselves down to fit into, you know, a stereotype. The fact that I love fashion and all those things but that doesn’t make me any less good of a lawyer. I think in the area that I practice in it probably helps me be a great lawyer for my clients. I think particularly young females probably hide their femininity a little bit and most really feminine interests out of fear that it’s a little bit too fluffy and not serious and legal.
Matt: I hope there’s a change in that conversation around embracing who you are no matter who you are. And that what makes you a good lawyer is not your gender scope or where you fit on a spectrum. It’s how hard you work and how passionate you are field of law. I wanted to thank you for telling us that story and I think it’s really important for young people to hear.
Sarah: I think it is special and it’s the same for men. It’s not even it’s not just a female thing. It’s like if you are a guy and you’re into fashion and you’re in I don’t know film production or you’re an artist or you’re into music, like don’t lay down that side of yourself. Honour that side of yourself and prioritize it because it’s important.
Samara: No, I thank you for that because I think there’s a bit of confusion from what I hear from other women at the law school about expectations around that sort of thing. Whether we do need to present ourselves as more feminine or less feminine and what happens if we don’t wear makeup to work.
Matt: Returning back to what you do at studio legal. How have you had to adapt to covid?
Sarah: Obviously about all working from home and you know to transition to zoom and meetings instead of coffee meetings. I think most people have adapted really well to this virtual meeting way of life.
I think we always sort of still try and prioritize face-to-face as much as we can. So instead of just email or phone, we do like to jump on a Zoom call, even to put a face to the name and connect with our clients as best we can. Going to court via Microsoft Teams is really weird. That’s one thing that I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
I’m just so used to going into court and getting a bit nervous and making sure that like you bow at the right time and sit and stand at the right time and like. I just feel a bit strange on Teams, you look nice from here up and you’re wondering if the judge knows I’m in my pyjamas!
Matt: Has it had an impact on formality?
Sarah: It’s made things so much more seamless. I was having this conversation with our barrister the other day, it could take up sometimes a whole day just to have a case management hearing. And it’s really good. Now you can just have the case management hearing it’s over and done in half an hour. It’s so much more efficient and cost-effective for clients, so I think it is really actually beneficial in that way, but it’s just weird being in court in your pyjamas. I still actually still put my life after work clothes on!
Matt: I can only imagine. I was actually listening to a judge and he was saying he’s getting so much more work done. Writing judgments the quickest that he’s ever written them because he doesn’t have the two hours of travel
Sarah: I actually think I’ve been I think we all have been way more productive at home. I love a chat with colleagues but at home, it’s so much less distraction and you can actually just sit down and make get all of your work done. It’s been actually quite good for productivity.
Matt: What parts of covid normal do you see going forward and what of those benefits do you think will carry forward?
Sarah: Yeah, I will be interesting to see what happens with the courts and whether they will keep these sort of yeah virtual court hearings for the more administrative cases. I’d like to see that continue. I mean, for example, most IP cases as you know are in the federal courts and the IP specialist judges based in Sydney. So I think that’s something I would like to see continued. I think it’s great for lawyers and for clients. Because now there’s not that sort of barrier to connecting you can connect virtually, we’re servicing clients all around Australia. So our business has actually grown.
There’s not that pressure to have an in-person meeting anything. Now you can organize a zoom call, you can do work remotely and you don’t need to have that sort of physical presence necessarily.
Matt: There was always that sense that the legal industry was one of those that couldn’t do it online. You just need that face-to-face and it’s so invigorating to know that we can do it.
Sarah: Oh we can absolutely do it. Absolutely. I mean, I think there definitely be more flexible workplace arrangements for the law because now they have seen that we can work effectively from home. So I think that that’s going to be really positive particularly for you know, lawyers, men and women who have a young family, you know, I think where law firms will be hesitant to sort of allow working from home. I think for Studio legal and I hope industry-wide as well, but I guess going to be a big shake-up for the legal industry.
Matt: As a talented IP lawyer, where would you like to progress within the industry? Where do you see yourself going?
Sarah: Well, thank you. That’s very flattering. To be honest. I actually just really love what I’m doing at the moment. I’m really just sort of relishing the role that I’m in at the moment. I’m still very early on in my career. I’m really just enjoying where I’m at. And you know learning from the more senior lawyers who have this really specialized knowledge and hopefully I will progress through the firm in the sort of near future, but I guess beyond the sort of immediate few years. I mean, who knows? I just feel like I’m in the right space and I feel happy and fulfilled in my work. So I guess I’ll just see what opportunities come my way and how it all progresses and make my decisions based on that.
I think like most people who are lawyers are very planned with their lives.I used to be very like that perhaps to a fault. But now I’m kind of just happy to let my career unfold as it will because I know that I’m in the right space as I said and that’s something I’m really grateful for because I think it’s reasonably rare to find your thing so early. Especially in the law.
Matt: Thank you so much, Sarah. I just have one question for you. So what’s your favourite legal movie / TV show?
Sarah: Oh, I could be very cliche here and say Suits because I do love Suits but my actually my favourite legal movie ever… Pelican Brief. Have you seen that movie with Julia Roberts? It’s a good one. Honestly, it’s really really good.
Matt: Thank you so much, Sarah, for your time.
Sarah: You’re so welcome. Thank you for having me.
Leah: You’ve been listening to The Brief with FAME LSA. This episode was hosted by Matthew Healy and Samara Jones. The theme song and sound was produced by Leah Alysandratos. A very big thankyou to Sarah Ramsey-Coudle for chatting with us. A special thanks to Samara Jones for producing the transcript which is available on our website. Thanks also to all the FAME LSA committee members and ambassadors for their support. And thanks to you for listening!
If you want to hear or learn more about FAME LSA, like us on Facebook and Instagram, or visit our website at famelsa.com. If you’re a lawyer working in the film, art, media, publishing or entertainment space and want to get involved with FAME, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at email@example.com.