Moira McKenzie is a performing musician and music lover who combined her passion for music with law at university, where she completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Music and Bachelor of Laws. She was admitted to practice in 2010 and joined her current employer Sanicki Lawyers in 2011.
At Sanicki Lawyers, Moira acts as a Senior Associate and practices primarily in intellectual property and entertainment law. She represents some of Australia’s best-known artists as well as artist managers, indie record labels, producers, music festivals, and other music businesses.
Moira has sat on the Board of Music Victoria and regularly volunteers her time as a pro-bono lawyer for Arts Law Centre of Australia, The Push, BIGSOUND and Face the Music. In 2014, 2016 and 2017, she was awarded a Pro-Bono Lawyer Award from the Arts Law Centre (kudos!).
This is a week in the life of the remarkable Moira McKenzie!
As an entertainment lawyer working in a boutique law firm my role is really varied. While the majority of my work on a day to day basis is music focused, I also work across intellectual property generally which sees me dealing with creative people across a range of industries including fashion, web, design, app and game development, film and TV, photography, modelling etc. I also specialise in trademark work, which applies across all industries.
In terms of music based work, I act for artists, bands, managers, indie labels, publishers, agents, festivals and promoters and other music businesses. Generally, people come to see me when they have been offered a contract or need a contract drafted for them or if they are in some kind dispute or some other type of legal advice.
Today I started catching up on emails and work that came in on Friday and over the weekend. It was Grand Final long weekend here in Melbourne so there was a bit to catch up on.
I start every day with my TO DO list which lists all the work I want to do that day, as well as all the ongoing work that I am waiting to come back to me. I often have between 10-20 matters plus ongoing work at any one time and need to keep track of where they are all up to. I find that in my role, I am constantly juggling different matters and managing my client’s expectations on when they will receive their work, so it’s really important I keep this list up to date.
I started work reviewing a set of contracts for a large fashion retailer who my client is submitting a tender to supply their music services. This is a long-term client who I work with regularly so I feel like I know his business well and can keep an eye out for anything in these tender documents which don’t fit with his business model. Reviewing and advising on these types of agreements is an interesting process because I get to see how these big companies operate from a contracting perspective. I sent across my advice via email along with my suggested changes and then had a call with my client to go through my advice.
Next up was a review and advice on a Management Agreement for a Sydney based band. Generally Management Agreements are fairly standard, however, there are always a few things to look out for from an artist’s perspective and every artist/manager operates slightly differently, so it’s important firstly to make sure the artist understands how the Agreement works, and make the necessary changes to ensure it is reasonable and accurately reflects how both parties wish for it to operate. I reviewed the Agreement and sent across to the artist along with my proposed changes and invited the client to give me a call to discuss.
I also reviewed and advised a client on a Sync Representation Agreement which is when the artist appoints a company to seek and secure synchronisation licences on their behalf. The devil is in the detail in these types of Agreements as you really want to be careful about how broad the rights are that you are granting and what types of income are being split. I had a phone call with the Artist’s manager to go through my advice together and then she asked me to prepare an email to the Sync Rep company to see if they are agreeable to making any changes.
I also spent time today going through my bills for the previous month. As with all lawyers, we bill for our time at an hourly rate and we usually quote for our services before we do any work. At the end of the month, we prepare and send out our bills. It’s not a very exciting part of the job but it’s necessary.
I started today going through my emails from the previous night and making sure I responded to all my emails from Monday and writing out my TO DO list.
I then moved on to preparing the email to the Sync Rep Company from the previous day. With this type of email I am trying to be as clear as possible about the changes we are requesting for our client while providing a succinct explanation of why we believe these changes are reasonable. I sent off to the client’s manager and after a couple of clarifications she was happy to pass on to the Sync Rep Company, so I will wait to hear how that goes.
Next up I moved on to some non-music based work. We have a fashion client who wants to register some new designs, apply for some new trademarks and also have us respond to a letter from the trademarks office. In order to get started on this type of work, I need to properly consider what the client wants, advise them on what we need to undertake the work and also provide them with a quote. I do this and wait to receive further info so I can go ahead with the work.
I then had a call with the Management Agreement client from Monday to go through my advice and answer his queries. We went through the Agreement together clause by clause and I made a few additional changes. The client then confirmed he was happy with the Agreement and so I sent across to the Manager for his consideration and am waiting to hear back from him. Usually with a Management Agreement there might be a few rounds of emails for negotiation before the final version is agreed on.
Next up was a few emails between my client who is a record label, and the other side’s lawyer. This was in relation to a dispute between the label and an artist who used to be signed to them. This matter has pretty much been resolved now, we are just finalising some settlement paperwork which will allow each party to move forward with some clarity.
I had a few emails back and forth with the lawyers at a major label in relation to finalising a recording agreement for my client who is a young pop act. The major label agreements tend to be long and detailed so it can take quite a bit of negotiation back and forth to finalise. We got finally there today with this one, so my client and I are both relieved that this is can now be signed.
I also worked with our accounts department to finish off my bills.
Again, I started off today with emails and TO DO list and giving our interns some tasks to work on. We usually have a couple of interns in the office at any one time. They are generally law students who are approaching the end of their studies. I try to give them a range of different tasks so they can get a taste of the type of work I do. Here at Sanicki Lawyers, I started as a student in 2010 and I remember how valuable my experience was because I got to have that practical insight into what is actually involved in the role.
I manage the international trademark portfolios for a couple of fashion clients. This means I work with trademark lawyers all around the world to ensure my clients’ trademarks are up to date and deal with any issues as they arise. The client whose work I am handling today is just launching a new brand worldwide so there is a lot of work required with securing their trademarks internationally. I spent a few hours each week on this work.
Next up is drafting a small contractor’s agreement between our client who is producing a new stage production bringing together musicians and dancers, and the choreographer of that production.
Finally, I provided some further advice to a regular client on a distribution agreement for their backing track business. I reviewed and advised on this agreement a couple of weeks ago and the client just wanted my final thoughts on some of the changes which came back from the distribution company.
Today started a usual with emails, giving tasks to the interns and having a short catch up meeting with my boss Darren. Although we work in the office next door to each other and often talk through the wall, Darren and I generally work pretty independently of each other, so it’s good to have a regular meeting to keep each other up to date.
I spent most of today drafting a license agreement between our client, who is a well-known songwriter and a government authority who is seeking to use one of his songs for a campaign they are running early next year. It’s a fairly complicated license arrangement so it took most of the day to complete.
I also spent some time providing advice to a client of mine who is producing a web series, as she is getting to the point of looking to sign with a distributor and wants to make sure all her paperwork is in place.
Today started with a call with a client who is an author and has been offered an option for a producer to create a TV series of her recent book. This is an exciting opportunity for her, but it’s important to ensure that the Agreement she has been given properly reflects her understanding of the offer and also see if there is some room to negotiate some better terms for her. The phone call was very productive as it was obvious she has already spent some time doing her own research on these types of deals and considering what parts of the Agreement she wasn’t entirely happy with. I told her I would review the Agreement and come back to her early next week with my advice and proposed changes to reflect what we had discussed.
Then, I spent some time on my main fashion client’s trademark portfolio and received instructions to apply for some new trademarks overseas.
I had a number of new matters come in today which required me to review and provide quotes.
We have a new client who is seeking to run a trade promotion competition and requires assistance with securing permits and drafting Terms and Conditions, so I spent some time doing the initial work on this.
My day ended with a review of the current matters I have on and a plan for how best to tackle my work for next week.
Challenges or accomplishments in your week
As always, the challenge is to juggle all the work I have on and make sure everyone is getting their work within a reasonable time and keeping client’s updated on their matters. The key to this is communication and generally, clients will let me know if they require something urgently so I can prioritise.
Highlights of the week
Finishing off the negotiations for the major label Recording Agreement felt like a highlight as it had been going on for so long.
Lowlights of the week
Doing bills, they are never fun.
Words of Wisdom
If you are interested in entertainment law, get as much experience as you can both in a law firm but also in the music/entertainment industry generally. Before I was a lawyer I worked for a record label and also played in bands and promoted gigs. I think that helps me understand my client’s perspective a little better and I feel like my love of music means that I really care about my client’s careers.
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