Jamie Singer, founder of Onside Law, on establishing the firm, its future and Naomi Campbell

Jamie can you tell us a bit about your early career and how you started out in law?
My father and grandfather were both in the Law and I tried desperately to avoid it. However, in my third year of a Politics degree I did various career aptitude tests all of which pointed to a legal career. Before I knew it, I was at law school with a training contract at Clifford Chance

You worked as an in-house advisor to IMG's tennis, sponsorship consultancy, fashion & models divisions for a while. What prompted the move in-house & why did you switch back to private practice?
Whilst I enjoyed my time at Clifford Chance, I found the prospect of combining a passion for sport with my legal career very enticing. IMG did not disappoint and I spent some very enjoyable years there at the centre of the world’s pre-eminent sports marketing business. After five years, over a beer with Oli Hunt - IMG’s in house golf counsel, it dawned on us that we had much more experience of negotiating sporting contracts and the sports industry as a whole than the majority of the private practice lawyers who pitched for IMG’s business. We realised that nobody we knew of had our experience of working in the industry nor was anyone offering practical, commercial and cost effective legal advice. So, we put together a business plan and pitched it to a mutual friend Simon Thorp, then a senior associate at Clifford Chance.

How and why did Onside Law come about?
Principally because Simon had just worked two straight all nighters and the opportunity to help set up a sports and entertainment specialist law firm couldn’t have come at a more opportune time!

What’s different about the firm?
Very few firms these days are run by the people that founded them. We believe that the entrepreneurial spirit and passion to make it work comes through in the way that the firm operates. We build very strong client relationships, ensure we are very responsive and - unlike many of the lawyers advising us at IMG - we are not afraid to give opinions and actually advise.

What are your own core specialisms?
In the early days of Onside Law, my specialism was pretty broad; ranging from match fixing prosecutions through sponsorship contracts to IP disputes. As the firm has grown we have brought in specialists and now have dedicated corporate, litigation, employment and IP teams. This leaves me to my core specialism of commercial contracts.

What does your role entail day to day?
On a day to day basis I’m effectively wearing three hats: There’s an element of managing the firm together with the other partners, marketing and then the core business of servicing clients.

You’ve worked with some very high profile clients including the Rugby Football Union, British Athletics & Universal Music as well as many high profile individuals. What’s that like?
It definitely makes the work more interesting. However, regardless of who the client is, the work is still legal work so you never get too carried away.

What’s been the most exciting case you’ve worked on since establishing Onside Law?
A few years ago I was advising Carole White - the founder of Premier Models - on a dispute with Naomi Campbell. The twists and turns of that case were fascinating, particularly as at one stage Carole ended up in The Hague providing witness testimony at the International Criminal Court. She was providing evidence about a visit she made with Naomi Campbell to South Africa which was relevant to the prosecution of Charles Taylor.

Finally, what’s next for the firm?
We now have seven partners and a team of 12 lawyers (the vast majority of whom combine magic circle training with sports industry experience) and we have just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. What’s next is using this excellent team to grow the firm and to broaden our corporate, litigation and IP offering.