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A Lawyer at Man Utd: Patrick Stewart on His Career in Football

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Left to right: Sean Cummings, Patrick Stewart and Colin Carroll

Left to right: Sean Cummings, Patrick Stewart and Colin Carroll

On Tuesday night Keltie hosted and sponsored a presentation by Patrick Stewart, Director of Legal & Business Affairs at Manchester United. The event was organised by LBDC (‘Lawyers Business Development Club) and brilliantly introduced by LBDC’s CEO Colin Carroll and Keltie Partner, Sean Cummings. We had a full house and were sorry that several interested people could not get a place. However, for those who could not attend and as a memo for those who could, here is a brief account of the talk, that leaves out the witty anecdotes (sorry, I know it’s those you are after, but I don’t think it’s fair to publish them on a blog).

Patrick spoke about his career development, his past role with TEAM Marketing in Switzerland until 2006 and his current role at Man Utd, touching briefly on his early steps in the legal sector in private practice. Being a trade mark attorney, I was interested to hear that these included some time in the commercial and non-contentious IP department of a Scottish law firm. During this time, he handled work for a number of football clubs and, as a keen football fan, perceived  the opportunity of making a career out of something he loved.

His role at TEAM Marketing was incredibly varied and not only legal. It involved hands-on tasks such as on site work at football matches, securing best positions for cameras and giving refs the go-ahead for kick-off. To our envy, he admitted that as a football fan, he was like a kid in a candy shop. When he moved to Man Utd in 2006, he was their first in-house lawyer (and one of the first few in-house lawyers at a football club in the UK) and faced the challenges of setting up a new department from scratch (no precedents, no templates, etc.). He now leads a legal team of 11, who handle all legal work, from players deals to sponsorship deals, as well as some managerial appointments. In 8 years he has seen the club go through a time of real commercial growth, being listed on the NY stock exchange and change sponsors (Nike to Adidas), a once in a decade event, and, not least, the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. He described it as an incredibly dynamic environment.

For those who wish to pursue a legal career in sports, Patrick admitted that his was not entirely calculated from the outset, but he had one good piece of advice to offer: be flexible (especially as to geographic location) as this increases the opportunities enormously.

The best bites we have taken away from the Q&A session are his advice on how to manage  heavy workloads in an environment that is subject to constant attention from the press (have a wife and two daughters who are not interested in football and put things into perspective) and what is one of the main challenges faced by football as a sector at present (the need to develop a system to protect rights, such as content, against non-physical (e.g. digital) infringement). As IP lawyers we know it too well.

Thank you Patrick for an extremely enjoyable talk and for being so generous in sharing your experiences and funny stories.

Manuela Macchi, Partner, Keltie LLP – 23 April 2015

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