Student Nannies’ Career College: How to make it as a Sports Lawyer

Written by Student Nannies


In our on-going series, we ask an expert in their field to share their ten tips on rising to the top…

Bettina Phillis, 41, Senior Commercial Lawyer, Head of Sports Group

Tell us a bit about your job, what the average day looks like and what’s involved…

I am in the office most days and there is no average day really.  It depends what work I have on the go at any time – it can be very varied and I look after a wide range of sports – from rowing to football, golf to tennis!  I get involved with reviewing sponsorship agreements, negotiating player contracts, helping clubs develop their facilities, raise capital and generally commercialise their brand and profile.  


How did you get your first job in this industry and what tips would you give to students for routes in?

I started working as a trainee solicitor in the City for a giant global law firm.  I applied for the training contract when I was a student at Exeter University, having done a few summer placements in the previous summers to get some experience and see which firms I liked.  This definitely put my name on their radar and helped with my application.  They then paid for my law school and I got a great starting salary.


What one piece of advice would you give to someone/a student wishing to forge a career in law?

Do a summer placement, speak to lawyers/contacts, get a degree from a decent university.


Who was the one person who had the most influence on your career to date?

No one person in particular.  I have been fortunate to have a few good bosses and mentors along the way.


Considering all the people you’ve met in your field, what personal attributes are essential for success?

* A good work ethic
* Be proud of what you do and the work you produce
* Strong self-belief
* Excellent communication skills
* Be commercial


What do you wish you’d known (but didn’t) when you first contemplated this career as a student?

That the law degree itself is very different from the practice of law as a career.  A degree tends to be much drier and for me, it was far less interesting than the practice.  Also at degree level you get exposed to lots of different legal disciplines – from criminal to trusts – and you only end up specialising after your training contract.


What is the best bit of career advice you ever received?

Lawyers don’t have to be boring!!


What is your career highlight to date?

I loved working in-house for an FMCG for nearly 7 years, where I travelled the world and met some incredible people, learnt so much and was surrounded by some very talented people.


What are the best and worst things about your job?

Best things – probably using my brain and my clients – and trying to find solutions, build brands and build businesses.
Worst things – there are always a few boring bits here and there.  But the best bits outweigh the worst by a country mile!


What do you think the industry will look like in the next ten years and what skills do you think graduates will need to stay ahead of the game?

Not dissimilar to now.


Bettina’s CV

Exeter University 1993-1997

College of Law 1998-1999

Clifford Chance 1999-2001 (trainee)

Linklaters 2001-2003 (Intellectual Property lawyer) – secondment to Vodafone

Diageo (in-house) 2003-2010 – general commercial lawyer looking after GB in-market, then Global Procurement, then Investor Relations (3 different roles in the Legal team)

Reliance High-Tech 2015-2016 – senior commercial counsel for IT security and software house

Field Seymour Parkes 2016-present – senior commercial associate, head of sports