In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law, Scott Brown speaks to Jules O'Riordan, aka Judge Jules. Jules is Partner at Music and Entertainment specialists, Sound Advice LLP.
Alongside the likes of Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyk and Paul Oakenfold, Judge Jules was one of the early superstar DJs in the 1990s. His music career has included top 40 records, music promotion, a show for 15 years on BBC Radio 1 which was a staple for kickstarting a Saturday nights for a generation, and being flown all over the world to play music at huge dance festivals.
He is also one of our own! In his 40s, he decided to upskill and qualified as a lawyer. He is currently Partner at Sound Advice where he specializes in Music and Entertainment and still manages to balance this with being at the top of his game as an International DJ at the weekend! Jules shares his passions for both music and law and how he transitions between the two seemingly polar opposite worlds!
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Scott Brown (0:01)
Hi and welcome to lessons I learned in law with me Scott Brown. I'm managing director of Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment and the recovering lawyer. Each week on the podcast, you get to hear my conversations with a top legal mind as they break down their key lessons that they've learned from working in the legal profession. Now I'm kicking this episode off with a bit of a bang, or, or should I say a dirty dance beat. And today, I'm joined by a very special guest in Jules Verdun, which I'm really excited about. Hi, Jules. Good day to you. For those of you that aren't in the know, and I hope you won't mind me saying this, but Joseph is perhaps better known by his stage name judge Jules, alongside the likes of Carl Cox Paul Van Dyck, Paul Oakenfold. Judge Jules was one of the early superstar DJs of the 90s. His music career has included top 40 records, music promotion, Sean radio on BBC Radio One, which was certainly a staple for kickstarting Saturday nights for four generations. And he's been flown all over the world playing huge dance festivals. But he's also is one of our own. In his 40s, he decided to upskill and qualified as a lawyer, and he's currently partner at sound advice, where He specialises in music and entertainment law. So Jules, it's a pleasure to have you,
Judge Jules (1:24)
thank you very much, I should probably point out that I still DJ a lot as well. So it's a very parallel universe that I exist in are two parallel lane, some people would think, weirdly dissimilar, whereas those that have more in the know might consider it to have an element of bit of congruency about it.
Scott Brown (1:42)
I'm interested to know how you how you balance and how you manage to fit all in.
Judge Jules (1:47)
Well, I, my sort of game plan was I hit my I spent 20 years as a touring artist. I started going all around the world, and I and I did that constantly. missed one of my two kitties growing up, there were huge upsides to it, a life that most people dream of doing. But at the same time, there are certain downsides in that you, you never very grounded and living out the sort of metaphorical suitcases is fun, but it's not. It's probably not very healthy actually, to keep doing it. I don't mean from a sort of drinking too much, or any of that perspective, just constant travelling, not sleeping in your own bed being in different time zones. So I always thought, you know, when I hit 40, I need to do something more grounding, both from a psychological and from a sort of physical perspective. And it seemed pretty obvious that law was was the answer because I got a law degree. When I was 21. Didn't use it for I went to LSE got an LLB never never used, it didn't necessarily think I would never use it, but it but it transpired that I didn't use it for the best part of 20 years. So the plan was to sort of gradually if you like to use a DJ metaphor crossfade between my career as a DJ into a career as a lawyer specialising clearly in music, because that's what I know about. Fast forward 10 years into my legal career, and I actually DJing as much as I ever was, albeit only at weekends and much more centred around the UK. I've got a buoyant sort of partnership in in a very strong boutique music practice in London's Kings Cross.
Scott Brown (3:23)
Amazing in terms of the legal the draw to the legal profession at that stage. You've obviously from from reading you've you've held other roles within the music industry, not not not purely as a as a DJ, what was it about law that appealed you towards it at that point?
Judge Jules (3:40)
Well, I suppose having the name judge might have might have been a bit of a magnet. Although clearly, I can't use the expression judge within the context of my legal practice, I might get my knuckles severely wrapped. But no, I had a degree already. I'm one of the sort of common denominators if you like of successful artists, they do tend to be quite commercially savvy is increasingly it's not really good enough to just have this great throbbing creative mind, you've got to have very strong idea of how to market yourself. And some positive and negative experiences about deal making it across the spectrum of the music business. And most of the successful artists out there, whilst they might have the conduit of management would actually probably be very good at doing it themselves and certainly call the shots decision, decision wise. So to then take that impart take the knowledge that I've gleaned over a lot of different jobs actually within the music industry that most of which occurs simultaneously being a senior a&r Is the guy that chooses the records for Universal Music being a promoter at a very high level being a radio presenter on Radio One. Obviously, the DJ music making had some had hit records and stuff. So that gives you gives them quite a broad cross section of kind of commercial experience. put it mildly really experience in the music business. So the nicest thing and it sounds like I'm trying to sort of be fake altruistic, but this is genuinely The reason was to actually go out and try and help others imparts information to others. And, you know, those, those aspiring lawyers out there, I don't want to shatter any illusions. But you are music law is not where you make the biggest bucks. I wouldn't say you don't make good bucks because you do but but if you want to make big bucks be in m&a or other areas of kind of commercial law. So there's, for me, there's a genuine desire to take this kind of these bits of knowledge that I've kind of gleaned from all over the place really, and commercial experience and actually stop looking, if you like in the metaphorical mirror, because to be a successful artist, you've got to kind of look quite inwards, really. And you've got to be, dare I say, a bit selfish, and actually completely throw my ego in the bin and start looking at looking at the careers of others. And that's what I did. And that's why I managed to build a legal practice really, quite quickly. Because of course, it doesn't matter what your practice area is, as a lawyer, it's got to be at least 51% commercial awareness and 49% law, I'd say, actually, the ratios, even more stilted in favour of the commercial awareness in most practice areas. So clearly, that put me at a bit of a head start once I did decide to be a lawyer, but I think the psychology of being an artist and being able to speak the language of of artists is, is very helpful as well.
Scott Brown (6:32)
Yeah. I think it's a basic reasons to get into the profession and to be giving something back. Was there any point in your, in your music career, your career as a DJ, where you had your fingers burn, and you felt a lawyer could have could have helped at that stage?
Judge Jules (6:48)
I think partly, for one reason, which was, as I mentioned earlier, I graduated in law, age 21. And there's nothing more dangerous than somebody with a law degree who thinks they're capable of being a lawyer. So there were occasions where I was doing some really quite big record deals, didn't engage a lawyer because I thought I knew what I was doing. I was so far from knowing what I was doing at the time that I did certain deals that I regretted. I mean, thankfully, I learned after a while did engage a third party lawyer and those deals, surprise, surprise rule considerably more favourable
Scott Brown (7:22)
advice you give at the moment, how much of how much of that is legal, I can imagine. There's a lot of rounded advice that you can give that isn't purely purely legal to your your clients as well.
Judge Jules (7:33)
Yeah, I mean, I guess it kind of depends what the where the question comes from, but I but I haven't come from abroad, I so I spent five and a half years at Sheridans, which is a general, a very prestigious, general entertainment firm, and remain very friendly with some of the lawyers there, whereas the place I'm at now is more music focused. But I know that I know from my conversations with other lawyers within different spheres, the entertainment world, that there is still an awful lot of commercial experience that one needs to impart. I mean, it really depends on the set of circumstances. Clearly, if there are disputes going on, then a knowledge of the law and the knowledge of the processes comes to the fore as as compared arguably, to kind of deal making where you are taking your experience and, and providing sort of very practical advice based on my experience were tied into an understanding of contract law, understanding a lot of different areas of law that come into play when there is a transfer of intellectual property rights, certain kinds of restraint of trade type things, I mean, various various other things that all all come into play so clearly, when one when one does the LPC or when one does a law degree, you don't realise how you will be applying it you know that it's going to be very much a sort of a woven tapestry, if you like of legal underpin with legal principles, but delivered ideally in a palatable, understandable way to your clients. That that makes a bit more sense. And it's funny I have, I've overheard other lawyers are not necessarily I won't name any firms and I'm not just talking about the firms I've worked at, on occasion, really quite unable to explain things in in layman's terms, either dumbing it down so much as to sound patronising, or, or forgetting, if you like some of the some of the lawyers language that isn't actually palatable or understandable to normal people. And I think my my previous life has really helped me in that respect to make things very clear to people. Partly because I'd sort of there's there's a lot of Emperor's New Clothes about an encounter with a lawyer, especially for in the arts, where nobody dares admit they don't understand what the hell the law is going on about. Not let alone what the contracts got to say. And I'm very disturbed. I mean that that those thoughts won't even go through the minds of my clients.
Scott Brown (10:04)
Yeah, yeah, I can, I can appreciate that. Just going back to the career change and making making that switch what I find really interesting about it and fascinating about it, I guess you've managed to marry your artistic pursuits and your passions. With a more traditional career. Other people that I've perhaps spoken to have done it the opposite way around. So their corporate career first and left, the corporate career moved into there and pursued their passion. Is that the way you see it,
Judge Jules (10:36)
the theory was that I was going down civvy street and leaving hippie street. You silly metaphors. But the reality is that I do I do both simultaneously, I've actually got a really close friend that I met at my my previous firm, who was a kind of IP based lawyer, a fashion and brands lawyer, who's now a music manager, and it's kind of completely left his legal career behind and, and we laugh at each other because he thinks I'm utterly insane, because he'd always wanted to be in the music business. And I wouldn't, I'd always wanted to be a lawyer, but it's been an aspiration, and I've had had for a long time prior to actually doing it.
Scott Brown (11:12)
Right? Where did that Where did that come from? Who are your who are your biggest influences or mentors within law?
Judge Jules (11:21)
Well, I had a very close friend who, my previous firm who now is a sole practitioner, who has got some absolutely household name clients who really, we happen to support the same football team and go to go to football together. So there's a big social thing as well. And he really took me under his wing. And, you know, when I was being having been a trainee in a law firm work, but a much older trainee than than typical, you're in a strange situation, really, because you can't be beasted as but you know, you can't be made to do loads of stapling and photocopy or you can be but I wasn't made to, because people will get mad about it, because you're, you're this kind of weird character that they've heard of a little bit. But at the same time, I didn't want to act like I was high and mighty. And I was very lucky to have a mentor who just drew me into the sort of work that trainees wouldn't normally get given on their first day, let alone in the latter portion of their traineeship. What so I was able to take those kinds of commercial, those bits of commercial knowledge and actually apply them to legal practice very, very quickly and build up a client base, while still a trainee, a client base while still a trainee to the point at which I was completely sort of independent of having to work on other other Fiona's clients while still a trainee, which was nice.
Scott Brown (12:40)
Yeah, get to know they treated you treated you well, what I remember from my my days as a trainee, there was a lot of a lot of socialising, trying to chum up with senior associates and partners. But how are you? How are you treated in that, in that sense, or in socials?
Judge Jules (12:59)
So I was trying to come up with anybody I got on with people. I mean, I've come from really social backgrounds. I mean, obviously, to be a successful DJ, you obviously got to be able to mix some great tunes together, but you're constantly out every single weekend. I mean, since since the end of lockdown since July, the 19th. So called freedoms I've done 40 gigs, 40, DJ gigs between then and now we're talking. We're recording this in early November. So in a fairly short period of time, every one of those I'm having to go and meet new people probably never met before doing festivals. So So actually, just hanging out and socialising and talking is it comes a second nature, it's all I've ever known. So that element of being a lawyer was quite fun and, and actually, I realised that some of the laws I was working with, were bigger party animals, and some of the party people I've kind of worked with in my in my sort of prior life.
Scott Brown (13:52)
Yeah, I can. I can imagine. I know. I know a few of those. Actually, when I was when I was thinking about this. This chat. It's surreal to be sat interviewing you today about lessons learned in law because I was actually at I think it was New Year's Eve 2019 in Edinburgh after a gig in Princes Street Gardens. I seen your after. I don't know if it was an after gig, if that was how it was, how it was built, but you're set at the McCune Hall in Edinburgh. So it's Yes, a bit crazy to be sat here talking about about law. I think that was probably one of the original super spreader events of COVID when it was under the radar that you actually mentioned the big football your gunners fan. I understand.
Judge Jules (14:32)
I am I am. It's funny. Well, I Well, I don't want to I and I must say that that my love of football has come up in both of my job interviews for the two positions that I failed as a as a lawyer. To be fair, I think that's more because people kind of root out your interest to see if you're a face that fits because let's face it, we're in a we're in an industry where there's a fairly high degree of academic achievements. So you're almost, and in my, in my current firm now in partner, I've been involved in the recruitment process. So whereas in my previous firm I was to junior, and it was a much bigger firm, therefore, I wasn't ever involved in the recruiting process. And you certainly learn that. Yes, of course, a CV is going to be the first point of reference, pardon the pun in terms of whether or not to recruit somebody, but actually that social thing whether the face will fit and that that's not supposed to be a statement of everything that hate people hate about the legal profession, you know, pale male and stale, I don't kind of mean that I mean, that just just to know that you're a fun person, whatever your interests are, is really, really important. Because you are, you're at close quarters with that individual for potentially for years
Scott Brown (15:45)
is really important to get off the off the page, but mentioning the the wider legal profession just just to touch on that. Is it fair to say your your your legal career seems to exist around a bit of an ecosystem within the music industry?
Judge Jules (16:01)
Yes, that's, that's fair to say, all within the the kind of broader entertainment sphere, because the more successful talent branched out into other other areas of the entertainment world, or indeed people from other areas, the entertainment talent spectrum, start making music.
Scott Brown (16:18)
Yeah. Do you think there's anything that the legal profession can learn from the entertainment industry? As an industry?
Judge Jules (16:26)
I have? The thing is, it's it's very, they're very connected, because all the all the the bigger record companies, all the bigger music publishing firms, and indeed, some of the larger management firms all got in House lawyers. So there is a bit of a kind of, there's a bit of a revolving door between the the in house guys and the private practice, guys, although my I'm a little bit occasionally I feel some of the in house guys can sort of down tools that sort of half six, when, when, whereas if I down tools at that time, and I've got a huge pile of work to get through my clients can take their business elsewhere. Yeah.
Scott Brown (17:03)
Yeah, this is one Yeah, it's definitely a different mindset, you have to have in practice versus versus in house. I guess when you're,
Judge Jules (17:11)
well, you're only as good as your last gig. And I think that's one of the sort of useful lessons from from being a DJ and doing there are. So I've done about 5000, DJ gigs, if not more so. And you literally are only as good as your last gig. It's no point thinking, Oh, I did a great job of work six months ago, on a particularly important gig work, particularly important, important matter that one worked on as a lawyer, you've just got to deal with it on a day by day basis and sort of be organised and be in my case, I have to be particularly organised. Because when you're running two jobs, pretty much full time. I mean, the legal practice, obviously, is full time. Being a being a DJ is nigh on full time. My Word, you have to kind of write things down and just have systems in place to keep things together.
Scott Brown (17:57)
Yeah, I bet. Super organised. And as a career again, correct me if I'm wrong, but the career of a DJ feels like it's, it's what you make of it is unstructured, to something that's structured quite hierarchical, traditionally within within law. How did you manage that?
Judge Jules (18:15)
But it's always what you mean by structure? I mean, there is there are no there aren't particular hierarchies unless you want to talk about the sort of more successful artists who are hierarchical hierarchically treated in the flyer billing or you know, where you are, where you appear in the billing for live events. But there's not a traditional structure of hierarchy, per se, because everybody is a self employed individual, metaphorical Island, if you like, surrounded by support staff, if there a sufficient level, you know, managers, agents, and then kind of professional people, probably a probably an accountant would appear more prominently than a lawyer. But there's no hierarchy per se. I mean, but I think it was, for me more of a cult, that aspect of the legal profession wasn't a particular culture shock, because there are hierarchies within all businesses that employ lots of people. Yeah, the the biggest culture shock really was getting on the tube, but Russia and kind of living that slightly more structured date, you're doing the same thing every day type existence. I mean, yeah, one of the greatest joys of the place I'm at now is that I drive to the office and I've got a parking space and because it's the only thing really that I didn't like about being a lawyer, and my previous firm, everything else, I really enjoyed it. It went on to be everything that I hoped it would be more really, especially on that deeper looking after other people rather than just focusing in on yourself, which I think he's very, there's a lot of karma in doing that. I don't want to sound too kind of hippie ish, but there really is a great deal of joy in that especially as one is a little bit older.
Scott Brown (19:57)
That sounds great and amazing that you find that And You sound very motivated by, by the profession clearly clearly are. What motivates you to keep going having had that crowd of 1000s? In the palm of your hand? What is it that? What is it that motivates you to be a good lawyer?
Judge Jules (20:16)
I just you want to build you want to, you want to ascend through the divisions really you want to be a Premier League. I mean, I will already a Premier League lawyer, but I want to be the best in my you can't be all things to all people and even within the music sphere, you're always going to have certain types of clients might my artistic client base and I don't only represent artists are predominantly people from the electronic and UK black music world. But that's, but I want to be the the best in that area. And I'm, dare I say I'm getting there really? So I suppose it's sort of its ambition, because you have to be very ambitious to to prosper as an artist as well.
Scott Brown (20:58)
Yeah. Were those were those the same drivers? Early on in your in your music? Yeah, absolutely.
And what about if you hadn't been a DJ first time around at uni? Where do you think your career would have would have taken you
Judge Jules (21:11)
is? Well, it's well over? Clearly. That's hypothetical. But I had started DJing by the time I was 16. So I think it was my God, if it wasn't my destiny, I don't know what was when you start so young.
Scott Brown (21:23)
Yeah. Nice. What advice would you give to people that are perhaps making looking to make that looking to make a switch in career, whether it's in or out of law?
Judge Jules (21:33)
Well, I think if you're switching into law, having some degree of legal experience is quite important. And I, I say that as somebody now who has interviewed candidates for our firm, in a very intersect in small sectors with a huge degree of demand for positions like entertainment. You need experience, both on the entertainment front, but also having done a years paralegal and even just just to demonstrate that you've actually got legal skills, and that you're serious about it, and that you're not just treating it as a bit of a pipe dream. Because I, I've had many conversations with people who've looked at what I've done. I've been in the music industry for, I don't know, 1015 20 years, some of whom have done well. And have thought, well, it's easy to make that switch because of the experience I've got, but actually you really I was sort of lucky. I think, if you had any dare I say if you had anything less the degree of prominence, and which because in my case that I think that caused the firm that took me on to take a chance, then you really got to have a bit of bit more legal experience than I actually had. And then moving out of law and into something else. Well, that's just too general a question to, to answer. It depends what you want to do. I mean, if you want to go and build houses on an island in the Caribbean, good luck to you.
Scott Brown (22:56)
Yeah. Follow your passion, I guess. Can you tell me a bit more about sound advice and the plans for the firm and
Judge Jules (23:04)
all sound sound devices is located entirely art studios entirely. Our studios, if you like a business park is the biggest business park of music, business, music related businesses in the world. There are 200 different businesses there. There's at different recording studios. There's some very, very famous artists got studios in there. No Gallagher the Prodigy, Apple have got their radio station there. There's pioneers DJ there, there's there are. So it's actually within a community is the only law firm within a community of music. It's just in an environment that lives and breathes music, as compared to the firm I was at before which is in Soho, but Soho is a much more general sort of area. So sound advice is is very artist focused there are. There's only 11 people there, majority of whom are lawyers. We look after other entities. I mean, I've got other management companies, sync agents, some agencies, record companies, music publishers, so I don't just look after artists, but we are an artist, focused firm. If you like gladiatorial li fighting for the rights of the little guy,
Scott Brown (24:17)
good, good to hear must have
Judge Jules (24:19)
some quite big class we represent make it sound a bit more like a movie scene than it probably is.
Scott Brown (24:28)
Good Good to hear that there must be a good there must be a great buzz about the place with that. But that community that you spoke of, yeah, very much.
Judge Jules (24:35)
So sort of post COVID Especially with, with people predominantly, it's predominantly young persons kind of a state of two or 3000 people working in all those different businesses, most of whom are now back at work. So it's the buzz and the vibe that was slightly that had its carpet unceremoniously pulled away in March 2020 is now back
Scott Brown (25:00)
you're thriving. And finally, what's what do you make of Arsenal's chances this season? How do you think what do you think of Arteta?
Judge Jules (25:09)
I think a he needed to be given a season in front of a crowd. I don't think you can judge any manager based on on the the crazy Twilight Zone year that season. That was COVID. So pardon the pun. I'll be the judge at the end of the season.
Scott Brown (25:26)
We'll end we'll end on that note, I'll hold you to that one. But great to great to speak with you today. Jules, thank you so much for the time and for sharing those sharing those lessons.
Judge Jules (25:37)
Thank you very much. I know my story is probably not the most usual story when it comes to transition into law. But hopefully there are some certain things that can be applied to others.
Scott Brown (25:49)
Absolutely. And it's inspiring, if not the fact that you were drawn and attracted to a career in law having having seen and done all that you've done throughout your throughout your music career. So I think it's a it may not may not ring a chord for everyone, but it's really inspiring, so great to create chat. Thank you. Thank
Judge Jules (26:07)
you very much. Cheers.
Scott Brown (26:11)
Oh, that was I was a little bit nervous going into that one that but what a great guest What a nice guy and amazing story. I was a little bit less starstruck going into it. I was I was a big fan and big listener of the weekend warm up on BBC One back in the day. So it was a prelude to a lot of a lot of Saturday night. So at university so yeah, blast from the past. Thank you for listening to lessons I learned in law. For more info on all of my guests head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast. We've had some great guests on series one and series two, a lot to catch up on if you've not listened already. And if you've enjoyed listening, please rate and subscribe and share across your network. It's great to get engagement and to hear your thoughts and as many people listening to this as as possible. But I'm Scott Brown. See you next time.