Studying law is a demanding pursuit, and every law student knows it’s easy to fall behind. For Chelsea Donaghue, being a backing singer and vocal coach meant she was often catching lectures between shows, flights, rehearsals and soundchecks. Since graduating, Chelsea has managed to marry her passions in a single career, working as a music and entertainment lawyer for Prahran firm, Sanicki Lawyers. We caught up with Chelsea to find out how she managed her study while on world tours, what she loves most about her work at Sanicki Lawyers, and what’s next.
How did you balance studying law alongside touring internationally?
I toured with an artist called Ruel as his backing singer and vocal coach, and my work on tour involved rehearsals, soundchecks, shows, performances for press engagements, vocal warm-ups and warm-downs, and lots of early morning flights!
Between tour and study, it was quite the juggling act, but it was the most incredible opportunity to travel and perform around the world, so I made it work. Studying whilst on tour meant my marks weren’t perfect, having to sacrifice ‘in-class participation’ marks, but I’m so glad I did it because it led to some really exciting career opportunities and I learnt a lot about how the music industry works on a global scale.
To balance tour and study, I would try to watch my lectures and do my reading in between shows and stick as close as possible to the day-to-day uni schedule so I wouldn’t fall behind. That being said, I would allow myself to put study aside and rest when I was tired. I didn’t let myself get too stressed and just did my best.
What did you study at university?
I studied a double degree of arts and law at Monash and majored in music for my arts degree. Some of the units that have proven to be particularly valuable in my area of practice are contracts, copyright, corporations law, negotiation & conflict resolution, and my research unit which focused on crown use of copyright works in Australia. I’m glad I didn’t sell my books for these units because I still refer to them regularly at work!
What did you find most helpful about your College of Law PLT experience?
Having a highly knowledgeable and approachable supervisor, the practice papers, and the overall design of course really helped. The work really is designed to equip you as a lawyer, in terms of the content and the pace. It feels like a lot of work at the time, but it is so worth it for the confidence and reassurance you feel at the end of the course when you know you’re ready to be a lawyer. I highly recommend the College of Law particularly because of the standard of supervisors. The supervisors are some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the field so you’re really learning from the best. The supervisors are also very accommodating to your needs which was a big help for me. For example, if I had a big week of work and gigs, or even if I was just utterly exhausted, my supervisor was happy to give me a few extra days for assignments if I needed it.
Some of the College subjects that have helped me the most would be ethics and professional responsibility – this unit (which is a theme throughout the entire course) encourages you to become very familiar with the professional uniform law. Knowing these rules well and always having them in mind is critical for the way you need to think as a lawyer and approach problems. Civil litigation & commercial and corporate practice were also great units for me, as they are relevant to my area of practice.
Where do you work now?
I work at Sanicki Lawyers, which is a boutique music/entertainment law firm in Prahran, and I absolutely LOVE it! A day in my life would be getting up early to get my morning walk or run in, having a coffee, getting to work and chatting with my boss, Darren, and the team about what we have on for the day. Throughout the day, my work involves reviewing, advising and marking up recording/publishing/management/license agreements, internal meetings and meetings with clients (typically artists, labels, managers, and companies in the creative field). After work, I might kick back and relax – and catch some of our clients on ‘The Voice’ – or attend rehearsals, gigs, or coaching sessions with other artists.
I am very lucky to work somewhere that encourages work/life balance and supports our creative endeavours outside of law!
Where do you hope to take your career as a lawyer and performer? What’s next for you?
I’ve worked and studied for what feels like an eternity to get to where I am, so now my focus is to work hard, continue learning and improving my skills, and grow my career as a music/entertainment lawyer at Sanicki Lawyers. I will of course continue my musical endeavours, whether that be on the stage or working with other artists. In the foreseeable future, I look forward to doing more shows with my band in and around Melbourne on weekends.
Checklist: How to merge two passions into a career
- Choose your electives wisely. For a performer like Chelsea, this could mean pursuing electives in intellectual property, copyright, contracts, conflict negotiation, and corporations law.
- Study at a pace that works for you. Law is a demanding course of study, so it’s important to be mindful about what’s manageable. While studying and working will always be a bit of a juggling act, going part-time or finding online or intensive options are advisable if you need to consider rehearsals, performances, and other commitments.
- Seek a specialist firm where your passion is a plus. Beginning a new career is a challenge for anyone, but by starting with entertainment law firm, Sanicki Lawyers, Chelsea could capitalise on her experiences as a performer to forge relationships with clients and understand industry nuances alongside legal issues.
If you would like legal advice in relation to a suspected copyright infringement or general film industry advice, visit our website sanickilawyers.com.au or call us on (03) 9510 9888.