Why contract work is so enticing
While many in-house lawyers will crave longer-term stability, there is something “absolutely exhilarating” about contract work on global events where you can jump from one project to another, said FIFA Women’s World Cup head of legal Emily Jackson.
Having started what could be described as a more traditional vocational pathway for in-house lawyers – that is, commencing in private practice before moving to a big corporate – Emily Jackson “never really expected” to work for sporting organisations.
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Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Ms Jackson (who is currently serving as the head of legal for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, being hosted in Australia and New Zealand) found, in the course of her earlier career, that she was passionate about entertainment and events, which took her into roles at Cricket Australia, Expo 2020 Dubai, and now in one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions.
This particular role is perfect for her, she noted, as a native New Zealander who lives in Sydney with her husband.
From a vocational standpoint, the beauty of working as a lawyer on events, Ms Jackson explained, is that it’s “always” a limited-term contract.
What her role with FIFA – which she came across in late 2021 when she was finishing up with Expo 2020 Dubai, and will conclude at the end of 2023 – may lack in terms of longevity more than makes up for it, she argued, by being a “big remit and an exciting challenge”.
What enthrals her about these events, she outlined, is the idea that, once they’re done, it’s a case of, “who knows where you’ll go next”.
“I think that’s a challenge for some people, the idea that it’s a very temporary contract. But I personally love it because I think you get this amazing experience and it’s a nice capsule of time for development and growth, and then you’re free to pursue whatever next opportunity is out there,” she submitted.
It’s certainly not for everyone, Ms Jackson mused, particularly those with a family.
“I think I am always looking for where my next growth and development, career-wise, is going to be,” she reflected.
“Events are kind of perfect for that because – especially when you’re in an in-house role – you can sometimes tap out on growth.”
“So, you really have to move out of an organisation to move up, and an event provides a perfect limited time period for growth, and then you can easily explain why it ended and then look for the next opportunity that you can move on to,” she submitted.
Ms Jackson is not sure that such legal work will entice her for the rest of her career, but for here and now, “it’s really been enjoyable”.
“If you talk to people who work in events, going from event to event, you get a cohort of people who move around the world, and it’s really exciting to hear them talk about going on to work on Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028. From that perspective, you can see it as an opportunity rather than something to be stressed about,” she said.
Working such short-term contracts in events is “like no other” for lawyers, Ms Jackson posited.
“It’s an incredibly intense, short runway to bring something massive together,” she said.
“What I love about it is that there’s a real sense of teamwork, collaboration, and just getting stuff done in the quickest time possible, but with as much caution as possible.”
Event delivery, she deduced, is “absolutely exhilarating”.
“It’s fantastic to see something you’ve worked on come to life, and it’s really cool to be part of a team that you’re doing that with. For me, it’s a real change from the day-to-day grind of legal work, and you’re working towards something,” she advised.
“There’s a huge build-up period, there’s a really exhausting, intense but amazing event period, and then there’s a come-down afterwards.”
“That appeals to me – but I imagine it wouldn’t be for everyone,” Ms Jackson noted.
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Emily Jackson, click below:
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