On the job as Managing Director of Chris Chow Creative Lawyers

Chris Chow studied Juris Doctor at Bond University and is now Managing Director of Chris Chow Creative Lawyers.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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What’s your role?

I’m the Managing Director of Chris Chow Creative Lawyers.

What did you study?

I completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Music and Performance) in 2002, followed by a Juris Doctor (with a focus on intellectual property) in 2005.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Sydney, and went to Barker College.  Barker College encouraged all-round development, not just a focus on one area of development such as academic, sporting or musical achievement.  I believe all-roundedness is one of the most important attributes of success in business… and this is becoming more and more important.

Where did you study law?

I completed my JD at Bond University. The university encouraged active involvement in committees (I was a member of the Law Student Association), event organisation (I was awarded the 2004 ‘Sporting Silk’ for contribution to sport on and off the field/court) and social life (let’s just say I was very active out of the classroom).  Being involved in a wide array of activities and events leads to a confidence that can be beneficial in one’s professional life.

What do you like to do outside of law?

I’ve travelled a lot, including riding my bicycle from London to Greece, backpacking around Eastern Europe and South America, being an exchange student in Japan, chasing alpine terrain in North America and riding a moped around Vietnam – I am convinced that travelling encourages massive growth as a person (and, again, development as an all-rounder).

How long have you been running your practice?

I started my firm over 5 years ago.  I was lucky enough to have great bosses and mentors, and it became time to take on the next challenge.

Can you tell us about a life experience that had a strong impact on you?

When I was 16, I travelled to Denmark by myself to visit a pen pal (yep, I’m old enough to have had a pen pal – and, yep, my parents let me travel by myself when I was 16).  In transit I visited Copenhagen for about 7 hours.  When I sat down for a coffee, an old, stinky, dirty homeless person with very few teeth asked (in 4 languages) if he could join me.  While I wasn’t comfortable with it, I thought to myself “what is the worst that can happen”, and concluded that the worst was not bad enough to justify telling him to leave me alone. 

For the next 1.5 hours, in more or less perfect English, he told me about the history of Denmark, the Vikings and the European wars…it was a life changing moment that I think about regularly and am grateful for, as it opened my eyes to the importance of being open-minded about everyone you meet and every opportunity you come across…don’t let those moments slip you by (carefully consider the pros and cons of every moment in your life)!

What does your firm do?

Chris Chow Creative Lawyers specialises in advising clients in the entertainment and creative industries on contractual and intellectual property related legal matters – we help clients understand agreements and their rights.

What does a typical day involve for you?

Most of my day consists of reviewing contracts or legal scenarios in the entertainment and creative industries and advising clients on the implications of such contracts and improvements that could be made to the contracts.  For example, in the morning I may review a recording agreement for a performing artist and advise the artist what needs to be delivered by the artist under the agreement and what the record label needs to provide in return – and advising what further consideration or promises the artist should be asking for.  Then, in the afternoon, a client may call and say their photo is being used in connection with an advertisement that was not approved, and I will advise on the best approach to seek money and/or to stop the use of the photo – and may soon after be instructed to draft a Cease and Desist Letter to the infringer, seeking such compensation and requiring the photo to stop being used.

Could somebody with a different academic or professional background do your job?

Yes, but understanding the entertainment and creative industries (and how creatives think) is a critical component of the job!  One would need to attend many industry events and study intellectual property law (and/or do a lot of extra reading!), before attempting to become a lawyer in the space.

What personal attributes are required for success in your role?

Understanding your client’s perspective is critical.  Being passionate about the entertainment and creative industries is important (not just liking the idea of working in such industries).  Being able to balance a casual, understandable approach with the natural formalities and required accuracy of a lawyer is also very important.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

I generally get to work with awesome people, doing great things and who are super passionate about their craft.  Helping them solve their issues and secure solid contracts is rewarding, plus it’s fun when you see an artist or talent you work with have huge success on the charts or on the screen.

What are the limitations of your job?

As Managing Director and principal lawyer, everything rests on me, both from a firm perspective and from a client perspective …that is a lot of responsibility!  I have to be available to work all the time, but as my own boss, I have a significant amount of flexibility (and you are doing everything for your own benefit), so it makes working hard a lot more bearable!

My biggest limitation is my desire to balance my work life with my social life…I actually have the choice, so disciplining myself to achieve the balance is important.  If you are not motivated to work hard, then don’t bother opening your own firm!

Which three pieces of advice would you give to your university-age self?

I must premise this answer by saying these were things that I did actually live by…not things I wish people had have told me:

  • Be yourself;
  • Commit to a specialisation (even if the road to get there is windy); and
  • Maintain the energy to be involved in everything (be a ‘Yes’ person).

 Learn more about working in this field, jump to private legal practice or the Intellectual property law overview.