NEC trainee first to qualify in live events sector

A trainee solicitor has become the first in the UK to qualify as a fully-fledged lawyer through the live events industry.

Sonica Dahri (pictured above) juggled a full-time role at the NEC Group and one day of study at the College of Law over the last three years. She also completed a four-month secondment to SNR Denton to ensure her training was equated to that in a commercial law firm before gaining her practising certificate.

Dahri said: “It was very hard work when I was studying for my LPC at the same time as the training contract. I had to give a lot of time and dedication to both and be able to deliver on my work and on my course.”

“I definitely enjoy being an in-house lawyer. I prefer being part of a business and being able to give advice and shape the way the business is. My time in private practice seemed much more slow-paced compared to my work at NEC, probably because of the multitude of numbers [of trainees]. I had a lot less responsibility and autonomy, with the advice often sitting on the fence,” she added.

The legal issues that Dahri covers within NEC, include home venues in Birmingham, such as The National Indoor Arena, as well as contracts for their catering business Amadeus and new business opportunities in Europe. One of her biggest projects as a trainee was the LG Arena, a £25m refurbishment and sponsorship deal with LG electronics, which opened in October 2009.

Dahri began her work at NEC as a paralegal before general counsel Keith Marriott joined and moved to establish a formal legal team.

“I got to work closely with Keith, having the chance to show I was hungry to learn and develop my skills. He saw an opportunity to develop me in-house and I took it,” she said.

“The interaction I had with someone of that level of expertise, getting quality one-on-one time is something I feel I would never have got in private practice.”

Hosting exhibitions and gigs since 1976, the NEC is still the largest exhibition centre in the UK but it is now only part of a growing enterprise that encompasses casinos, ticket websites and international exhibition halls.

There are now four in the legal team at NEC, which includes Marriott and Dahri, a further solicitor and a paralegal.