Emma German (Fr 2006) currently works as Senior Legal Counsel at Network 10. Since leaving St Andrew’s she has worked with a range of organisations including ninemsn, King & Wood Mallesons, Fuji Xerox and Stan. In her spare time she also volunteers as a Committee Member of the St Andrew’s College Alumni Society and has been a participant in the College’s Professional Development Program for the past two years. Emma shared with us insights on a legal career as well as her memories from College.
Please tell us a bit more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
I was born in North Queensland, and was fortunate to spend much of my early childhood in and around the Whitsunday islands. I also spent several years in Brisbane, and for my high school years, the Gold Coast. The one constant I always had was a love for the beach and the outdoors (which is probably why I’ve found myself living near the beach in Sydney!).
What were your favourite memories and what parts of College life were you involved in?
The older I get, the more I realise it’s not necessarily the big things or the formal events that my mind wanders to the most (although VDs and Walkabout are pretty hard to forget!). Rather, it’s the smaller, seemingly insignificant memories that hold tight – hanging out in the “dungeon” during my first year, conversations in the dining hall, Wednesday nights at the pub, Highlander nights (although I hear it’s now called the “Lander”).
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
When I arrived in Sydney I didn’t know one other person, so living on campus seemed like a natural way to find my bearings and meet people. Drew’s was the only choice for me, based both on its standout reputation and the fact it was co-educational.
How did you see the College change for women whilst you were there? And have you noticed any changes since?
Being a woman at the College in 2006 was a great experience and certainly, since that time, the College has gone from strength to strength in this regard. Since being involved with the Alumni Committee and the development program, I’ve met some stellar women, many of whom are in leadership positions at the College and are actively shaping the culture and life of the College. It’s also really heartening to see the men throwing their support behind celebrating 20 years of undergraduate women – there’s a lot to celebrate.
You have recently been elected to the St Andrew’s Alumni Society Committee and been an alumni guest as part of the Professional Development Program. What’s motivated you to get involved with the College again?
I’m thrilled to join the Alumni Society Committee, and loved being part of the professional development program. I am continually impressed with the calibre of the students. My time at College was really so formative for me, both personally and professionally. It feels great to be at a point in my life where I can give back and help alumni stay connected to the College and continue to reap the benefits of being part of what is a very unique community. I’m particularly excited for what the society can achieve in the next 12 months as we emerge from Covid-19.
Since leaving College you have worked in law firms as well as a legal counsel in different companies. Could you tell us about your career path to date?
There’s been no ‘neat’ career blueprint to date – my career has been a combination of hard work and serendipity.
Prior to my current role at Ten, I spent time in private practice (King & Wood Mallesons) and in-house (Fuji Xerox and Stan). I was also fortunate to spend some time at Stan in a commercial content acquisition role … with some Channel 9 reporting and personal training on the side, just to keep things extra interesting!
I wholeheartedly believe that starting out at, and being trained in, a law firm laid my career foundation and is something I’d recommend to any budding lawyers, regardless of the path they ultimately want to take. I’ve always held a passion for the media and entertainment industries so I actively sought work experience in the sector at any opportunity I could. It’s a dynamic and unpredictable industry, so it’s important to stay abreast of industry news and developments – media never sleeps!
You are currently working as the Senior Legal Counsel at Network 10. Could you tell us about what is involved in your role and the most interesting and challenging aspects of your position?
As I’m sure many in-house lawyers would agree, a typical day is nothing less than unpredictable.
My role is focussed on programming (in short – anything you see ‘on screen’). The world of content production is a particularly collaborative and vibrant one. My typical ‘9 to 5’ day is spent in meetings with internal clients discussing the financing, production, distribution and licensing of content across all platforms (including free and pay television (Channel 10, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central etc.), streaming (Paramount+), catch-up TV and podcasts) and the engagement of on-screen talent. A typical day is almost always punctuated by unimagined issues – just last week I found myself scrutinising the chemistry of “slime” for the Nickelodeon slime fest!
One of the most challenging parts of the role is time management – I’m constantly triaging priorities and legal risk as business priorities shift. Without doubt, the most rewarding aspect is the people. I work with people from all walks of life, including a lot of incredibly creative people and on-screen talent. This keeps work interesting and fun… and it’s nice to see the fruits of your labour on the TV screen at night.
Could you tell us how it is different working as a legal counsel within a company is different from working in a law firm? Why did you decide to move your career in this direction?
There are definitely pros and cons to both working in a law firm and working as legal counsel in a company. I think the key difference is that when you’re in-house, you’re working within a business, providing advice on-the-ground. I always knew I wanted to move my career in this direction – being an in-house counsel enables me to undertake an enormous variety of legal work while also immersing myself in an industry and companies I’m passionate about. There are also no time sheets to fill in every day, which is a big bonus!
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?
Since we’re celebrating 20 years of undergraduate women, two particular accomplishments come to mind.
Career-wise, I’m very proud of my achievements in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry, particularly having been involved in the launch of both Stan (as one of only two lawyers at Australia’s first streaming company) and Paramount+.
Personally, my greatest accomplishment has been building a life surrounded by phenomenal, supportive and successful women – we lift each other up and have a lot of laughs along the way.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, you’ll find me at the beach, gardening (my new favourite hobby), walking our two (very spoilt) French Bulldogs and trying, in vain, to plan a wedding during COVID-19.
What are you reading / watching or listening to at the moment that you’d recommend?
I’m currently watching the new season of Dexter on Paramount+.
I’m (re)reading my all-time favourite book All The Light We Cannot See.
I’m absolutely addicted to podcasts, and am currently listening to The Sure Thing by the AFR.
Do you have any advice for young Androvians looking to start a career as a lawyer?
Keep learning! The older I get, the more I realise just how much about the law I don’t know. I would encourage all young lawyers to appreciate that a career in the law is a lifelong pursuit – keep honing your craft and find out what aspects you love the most, as there are an infinite number of paths the law can take you down.
I also can’t overstate the importance of building strong relationships. I recently read that the average person will spend about 90,000 hours at work during their life. If you surround yourself with great people, those 90,000+ hours are going to be a whole lot more rewarding.