Nick’s profile was published in The Law Society Gazette on 25 February 2022, and can be found on page 30 here.
What inspired/motivated you to become a lawyer (you were a musician first? If you can talk about your music career, and then why you decided to pursue a legal career)?
Music is my passion, law is my career and I have always pursued both, with equal enthusiasm. I have always loved words and found the stability of a professional qualification appealing, so it was a natural choice. I enjoyed studying literature and performing arts at school and, in my teens, I got heavily into hip-hop culture. It helped me connect with my Black identity, as a mixed-race kid in schools where almost everyone was white. After memorising all my favourite rappers’ lyrics, I began writing my own. I stepped up at open mic nights, met DJs at record shops and eventually connected with record labels, who helped me release my own music. By my twenties, I was touring internationally and getting regular airplay, whilst studying and training as a lawyer. I released my first album at law school, my second as a trainee and my third just before becoming a partner.
Discuss your legal training and route to qualification
Through connections I made as a rapper, I secured work experience at a small music litigation firm. I did vac schemes at several commercial firms then trained at Olswang and qualified into the firm’s flagship media, communications and technology department. A few years after qualifying, I moved to Simkins to specialise more in entertainment industry work and haven’t looked back since.
How did you come to specialise as a music lawyer?
With music as a passion, I always intended to specialise in that area. But I had good early advice from mentors, who recommended getting broad training and not overly narrowing my focus. That approach still works for me. My practice encompasses not just music but also advertising and tech, and I have clients in the film, TV and influencer sectors.
As a music lawyer, describe the kind of work/issues you deal with?
I specialise in commercial contracts and IP. I handle transactions where the deal value is driven by creative output. In music, that could be a record deal or a publishing catalogue acquisition. In advertising, it could be an agency’s ongoing partnership with a key client. In the tech space, I help manage relationships between entrepreneurs, investors, talent and customers.
In terms of memorable cases, are there any particular ones that stand out? Why do they stand out?
I work on large-scale transactions with industry-leading clients, which is always exciting. But one of the things I value most is being able to help friends from the underground music scene I grew up in. They say never meet your heroes, but I have, and even ended up becoming their lawyer!
Explain how you became involved with Power Up and why the charity is important to you
Jay-Z once described the music industry with the lyric “domino, domino / only spot a few blacks the higher I go”. This beautiful wordplay addresses the ugly truth that the upper echelons of the industry do not reflect the diversity of the talent base, nor the audience. I am passionate about the advancement of black talent in the music industry – not just the creatives but also the executives behind them. Power Up is a ten-year initiative that presents an opportunity for genuine, meaningful and enduring progress, which I am truly honoured to be able to play my part in.
I was selected from many applicants to be part of the first set of participants in the programme. Power Up is launching for its second year and applications are open until 17 February, via https://prsfoundation.com/powerup.
Discuss the legal work you do in your role at Power Up
I provide training to the Power Up community, to help participants navigate the legal and commercial landscape of the music industry. Also, many of my fellow Power Up participants have become clients and I help them to conduct their business in the most effective way.
Are you ever tempted to give up the law and return to music full time? What do you miss most about your music days? Do you still perform?
I still do both. I love my job as a lawyer and one of the things I value about my role is that I am immersed in creativity. My clients are exceptional and inspiring talents. I focus mostly on my legal work now but still get to make music. The juggle is a struggle – I once took a Friday off work, did two gigs in Japan and was back at the office in London on Monday! I make music for joy and catharsis, particularly to express my identity, which is a strong impulse for me as a person of mixed-heritage. For the same reasons, despite all the demands of balancing my creative work with a thriving legal practice, I’ve never felt tempted to quit music. I need it, really. I write new material most days and still occasionally record, release and perform live. I’ve got at least a few more albums in me!