An Olympian effort

Finbarr Bermingham speaks to Sarah Naisby, a trainee at Freshfields, to hear what she's getting out of an exciting client secondment

The last time the Olympic Games came to these shores, Britain had a Labour Prime Minister (Clement Attlee). Italy had just held its first general election with universal suffrage, the Federal Republic of Germany had introduced the Deutsche Mark that summer and England's football team was under the steady, 16-year stewardship of Walter Winterbottom. Fast forward 64 years, and the world is a very different place.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games promises to be a historic event on a scale that would have been unfathomable in 1948 and for Freshfields trainee Sarah Naisby, a six month secondment at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has proved to be a memorable experience.

"There were a number of different organisations that I could have applied to work at," explains Sarah, rolling off a list of some of Freshfields' bluechip clients. "But, being a sports fan, I couldn't look past LOCOG. Not many people are going to be able to say they've been involved with organising London 2012. I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of it!"

Magic circle law firm Freshfields is LOCOG's official legal services provider, meaning its lawyers have worked extensively with LOCOG's in-house legal team during the lengthy preparations for London 2012, both from Freshfields' offices and on-site as secondees. They have provided LOCOG with expertise on many legal and commercial areas, including corporate and financial matters, employment issues, real estate, EU regulation and tax. The benefits for all parties involved are clear: LOCOG gets to utilise one of the world's best legal teams and Freshfields gets to offer its lawyers a unique learning experience.

Sarah's secondment has given her the chance to get closely involved with a complex and unusual project and to see things from a client's point of view: "I have direct contact with LOCOG's delivery partners as well as dealing with queries from within the organisation. It's great to be responsible for my own work stream and I'm sure that the level of autonomy I have here will be good preparation for my work as a qualified lawyer."

Culture show

As well as the world-class sporting action, London 2012 will bring with it a huge cultural festival, with thousands of projects and performances. Much of the work Sarah has done for LOCOG has been on the cultural side, in the field of brand protection. Each participant will use the London 2012 logo and brand and will require a licence to do so.

"There are a whole range of participants," explains Sarah, "- from individual artists putting on exhibitions, to the English National Ballet, Twentieth Century Fox and even Stephen Fry. My role is to liaise with our partner organisations to ensure the London 2012 brand is protected and used correctly. The process can take anything from one day to a few months, which is a bit of a change from Freshfields, where you generally work to much shorter timeframes."

How does the process work? Sarah explains: "First, I meet with the LOCOG producer who provides me with background information on the cultural project in question and details of how it is being funded. Once I have the necessary information, I draft a licence for the use of the festival brand and logo, tailoring the clauses to the project. If we're providing funding for the project, I also create a cooperation agreement containing the payment schedule and conditions. I then send the draft agreements to the delivery partners who will be producing the marketing materials for the project, along with venue and brand guidelines and our policies on sustainability and diversity. Once the agreements have been negotiated and agreed and the delivery partner has signed and returned the documentation, I arrange for them to have access to the online brand centre, where they can download the logo and other graphics to use in their marketing materials."

The countdown

Being part of the organising team for what promises to be the year's most spectacular national occasion has been an exhilarating experience for Sarah. "We've been doing test events in recent weeks," she says. "Everybody's getting into the spirit and there's a great buzz in the office. I get to attend some of the London 2012 Festival events and recently went to see the South Sudan Theatre Company perform Cymbeline as part of the World Shakespeare Festival - it was a fantastic event."

But the organisation process also presents a raft of unique challenges. While lawyers are well-accustomed to meeting strict deadlines, few are as inflexible as this one. "London 2012 has to start on 27 July," says Sarah. "There is no way around that. So there is definitely an element of pressure, but everyone is pulling together to make sure we're ready. There will be four billion people watching the Opening Ceremony - and from then on the eyes of the world will be on London. Being part of the team charged with getting it right is a huge responsibility but very exciting at the same time."

With a host of other trainees, associates and partners from her firm also on secondment at LOCOG, there's no chance of Sarah falling out of the Freshfields loop. But she still sees her old colleagues on social occasions, and pops back into the office every few weeks. And when the biggest British event in a generation comes to a close, Sarah will return to Freshfields with some valuable - and unforgettable - experience under her belt.

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