Assisting on Frankie Boyle’s libel case against the Daily Mirror was not a bad start to the job for England footballer and Lee & Thompson trainee Eniola Aluko.
Especially if that job is with entertainment lawyers Lee & Thompson, the go-to firm for Stephen Fry, Queen, and David Beckham.
Eniola Aluko had a busy summer, competing in the Olympics as a forward in the GB women’s football squad and finishing her LPC. She describes the situation as “very tough” and says it “took a lot of discipline”, something Aluko clearly has in spades.
She says: “I started at the College of Law in January and finished in July. I didn’t really want to push back the LPC anymore, didn’t want to delay it until next year so I felt I should just get it out of the way and do it even if it meant me missing lots of classes because of training.
“I had to defer some of my exams but ultimately it’s worked out well. I’ve finished all my exams and I’ve now started my job. I’m really pleased I took this decision. But it wasn’t nice at the time, put it that way.”
Aluko graduated in 2008 from Brunel University with a first class LLB. She had wanted to study law since her A-levels and knew that she would have to juggle a burgeoning legal career with her footballing commitments.
She relates: “I’ve always had a natural advocacy streak in me, I’m very disturbed by injustice and I like solving problems for people and for myself.
“I didn’t want to just leave it there and say, ‘Right, I’ve got my degree now’, I wanted to actually build on that and bring out my natural instincts a lot more.”
Knowing that she was in a very competitive world, Aluko managed to use her sporting career to her advantage, rather than seeing it as a hindrance. She says: “I knew that I wanted to work at a firm which had a presence in sport, and also in legal areas that I enjoy.
“Lee & Thompson was certainly a firm that I was attracted to straight away and I wrote to the managing partner Andrew Thompson and he was kind enough to set up a meeting with me. The rest is history really. I was offered a job.”
Currently a paralegal, who will become a trainee on receipt of her LPC certificate, Aluko will be more able than the average lawyer to empathise with over-exposed clients who have been subject to alleged harassment or libel or who are battling over rights to their work.
“I think it would help for them to be able to see that I’ve been in their shoes. For example, let’s say we do some work for David Beckham, it’s just something else to be able to add value to the service”, she notes.
She faced abuse herself, during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, when she missed three shots in the second half of England’s match against Mexico. At the time, she branded the negative Tweets she received as a result “poisonous” but has a more reasoned take on the situation now.
She remembers: “That was really my first experience of Twitter, I hadn’t been on it for that long, and I was really shocked to see the levels people will go to to insult you. It’s the whole keyboard worrier thing.
“I’m now far more versed on Twitter and if I see things like that again I probably won’t respond but it was certainly an education for me at the time. One, we’re in the spotlight and we’re going to be exposed to such things and two, you just take it with a pinch of salt.”
Her current seat is litigation. It is in this seat that she undertook work on the Boyle case. She says: “I came in pretty late, I came in two weeks before trial so I was quite lucky that I was able to see what the trial was all about and the lead up to the trial, help with prep of documents… It’s really a trainee’s dream.”
Following litigation, her next seat will be in music, then film and then the corporate seat, under which the sports law practice operates. For the first half of this year, these seats will be juggled with team practices for Women’s Euro 2013.
Does Aluko find it odd that as a national footballer she still is able to – and has to – have a second career?
She gives a pragmatic reply: “I think it’s just the nature of where women’s football is, not just here but all around the world. It’s a very young sport in terms of its commercial personality – it’s still a sport which people are trying to figure out how to make money from.”
Aluko will be balancing these two careers more than many of her team mates. Her eventual aim is to develop a sports law practice.
She says: “Whether that’s part of what I do or is the main focus, I’m not quite sure yet. But I think it would be a shame for me to have had a career in football and met so many influential people in the game and not bring that into law in some way.”
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