Describe your work and practice.
I am the Head of Incubation at Le Tremplin by Paris&Co, the first sports innovation platform in the world. We’re located in Paris and our mission is to bring in more innovation into the sports industry by making big organisations (clubs, leagues, federations, sponsors, broadcasters, etc) collaborate with startups that develop new technologies. We work on many different themes, whether it’s renewing the fan experience, making your daily jog more fun or optimizing the training for high level Olympic teams. My role is to manage the mentoring programs for our startups to ensure that they develop solutions that fit with the market’s needs.
Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?
That’s a good question. For sure I never dreamt of going to law school. Through high school, I knew I was more into social sciences than physics or chemistry. I was also very good in math. I think that’s what led me into law school as I could apply my logical reasoning to societal issues. That was something that seemed very appealing to me. And I also believed that a legal education could lead to pretty much any type of career after that.
At what moment did you realize you wanted to take your legal career and legal education in your own direction?
I don’t know if there was a specific moment. For sure, I wasn’t as attracted as other classmates to a career in big law firms. When I started my second year in law school at Université de Montréal, I decided I didn’t want to take part in the course aux stages. But I didn’t specifically know what I wanted to do. What I knew is I didn’t want to bind myself straight out of law school at a bigger firm and be obliged to do my internship there and being linked to them in the longer run. I wanted to be free and leave my options open.
What were the steps and the opportunities you seized in order to get where you are now?
I always knew I had a passion for sports, especially the business aspect of it. It wasn’t only about being a fan of the Habs, the Alouettes or Roger Federer; it was also about following the negotiations strategies during the NHL lockout, the claims against the NFL linked to the concussions scandal. However, I didn’t know if I wanted to make a career out of it. I found out that there was a masters program in Europe specialized in Management and Law of Sports that is sponsored by FIFA: the FIFA Master. It is organized in three partner universities: De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, Bocconi School of Management in Milan and the Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland. They required to have at least two years of professional experience to take part in the program; so, when I finished law school, I decided to go to l’Ecole du Barreau and start my career in law.
I did my Bar internship in a small firm in insurance litigation. I was then hired at the rail division of Bombardier as legal counsel. I worked there for almost three years and I enjoyed it but I knew I wanted to try to apply to the FIFA Master. That’s what I did in 2014 and I got in.
Taking part in this master was what took my career in the way I wanted it to go. It opened me so many doors. Since then I have been working in Europe in the sports industry and I’m really passionate about what I do.
What makes your current practice lawfully uncommon?
I don’t read any jurisprudence. I don’t open my Civil Code or any type of. What makes it lawfully common is that I use the rigor that you’re being taught in law school. I use the logical thinking and reasoning that you need to have as a lawyer to reflect on specific problems. I do work with startups so when the company is developing a new technology, there are many legal considerations to have in mind in terms of IP, personal data protection, creating a legal entity. I do not do the legal work but I do have the legal reflexes to make sure that when I meet with a startup, I look at the business plans and look at all the legal requirements they have to consider. Even though I don’t practice law “officially” anymore, it is still very much part of what I do!
Is there anyone influential in your life that helped you reach your goals? Any mentors or role models in the field that inspired you?
My father and his wife have given me great advice from the start. As law professors themselves, they told me from the start that a law degree opens many doors – and not only in law firms. I’m really grateful to have had that influence; it allowed me not to stress too much over the course aux stages during law school and also to keep my options open.
All of my colleagues at Bombardier Transportation, especially Julie Turgeon, Renée Léger and Eric Préfontaine, who were my bosses. They were all influential as they showed me that a good legal counsel is not someone who only looks at the legal side of things. It’s someone who is a business counsel first. This is something that lawyers should have keep in mind. It’s not only about ensuring compliance, it is also about looking at the concrete consequences of the legal decisions that you make. I still apply this method in my practice today. When I’m advising a startup on its business plan, I always make sure they think about their reality, the context and the market in which they operate. Legal advice is nothing if it doesn’t make sense in the context in which you apply it. You have to be a good business counsel if you want to be a good legal counsel.
What got your juices flowing while at law school?
The class I enjoyed the most was a more practical one I followed in entertainment law. The teacher was a lawyer working on copyright law and he was bringing in experts of the industry. We had a movie director and a journalist explaining how they work with lawyers in their daily life. Hearing their experience as lawyers or working with lawyers, I really felt that I didn’t only want to work with lawyers in my career!
What made your blood boil or what made you snooze at law school?
Reading jurisprudence, especially the Supreme Court cases. Reading hundreds of pages even though only about five are relevant – that was driving me crazy! I did part of my law degree in France. The judgments of Cour de Cassation usually fit in one page! I got jealous of the French students when I realized that!
Were there challenges you faced in the transition from law school to the profession?
I faced a lot of challenges! When I started my Bar internship, I felt that I hadn’t learned anything in law school! I felt like my studies were too theoretical. However, having studied and now working in France, I really feel like our education is much more practical than what is being taught in France. I was grateful for that in the long run.
One of the biggest challenges was also to gain “emotional” experience. You have to have great emotional intelligence to be a good lawyer, consultant, business advisor. Even if you’re not working in law, it’s extremely important. Whether it’s in terms of negotiations or just selling something, you need to understand the person in front of you and adapt your speech. This comes with experience and cannot be taught in law school. Whenyou leave law school, you feel like you’re gonna be indestructible. But then, you start working and you realize that you still have a lot to learn.
Do you still see the law all around you?
Yes, definitely. My role now is to work with startups to make sure they are being challenged and develop a sustainable business model. I make sure that the solutions that they develop answer the market needs. There are so many legal requirements that need to be considered. For example, in Europe, all digital companies need to be compliant with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations). Most of the startups that I work with are directly concerned by these regulations that aim to protect the privacy of people. This is so important nowadays, especially in a society where a lot of our lives is being exposed on social media. So, yes I do still see the law around me!
What advice would you give a first year law student?
Keep your options open! The big law firms downtown, they are very good at marketing to find talent. They bring the champagne at cocktails and take you to hockey games and fancy dinners and tell you that they really believe in a good balance between personal and professional life. Maybe it is the case, I don’t want to be too hard on them because I never experienced what it is. But what I know is that that they are really good at persuading you that the big firms are the only path to a great career. And this is not true!
Don’t tie yourself too quickly to an opportunity. You have to believe that there are so many opportunities that will open after law school. Law schools provide a very good education recognized by so many organizations in many different industries; leave you options open!
If you had the blessing or the curse of an extra hour in your day, what would you do?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but since I’ve been working in the sports industry, I have less time to practice sport! I would definitely enjoy to have the opportunity to do sport at least once a day – while testing the new technologies that our startups develop!
I don’t have any regrets. I really believe that everything happens for a reason. It’s funny because in the first summer after my first year at law school, I got an opportunity to work at the Labor Standards Commission in Montreal. I worked for four months there filing complaints for employees who felt their labor rights weren’t followed. They offered me to come back next summer. I took too long to reply so they had found someone else. At the time I was really disappointed. But this allowed me to go work for Tennis Canada for the Rogers Cup. I was working for the sales team. I loved this experience. It gave me the “piqure” to work in sports later on. At the time I had regretted not getting the position at the Labor Standards Commission for a second year but this experience at the Rogers Cup opened so many doors to me. Even though you may feel regret at a specific moment in time, it always makes sense in the long run.