Derry’s top legal talent at work in new Science Park

The North West Science Park, where Smith Dehn are based.
The North West Science Park, where Smith Dehn are based.

The man behind one of the world’s leading entertainment law firms says he believes there’s “a great supply of under utilised talent” in Derry and the North West.

Russell Smith is one of the founders of SmithDehn, a major US company which this week opened its Derry offices in the city’s North West Science Park.

Already, SmithDehn - as a result of strong links with the University of Ulster’s Magee campus - have hired several local graduates, all of whom are working on major international projects.

Derry man Tony Doherty said: “Getting the chance to study entertainment law at the University of Ulster with some of the top media executives in the world was exciting enough. But now I regularly have to pinch myself to believe that this is actually what I do for a living.”

Another Smith Dehn professional, local woman Patricia Sweeney MacBride, added: “I met the SmithDehn team when I took the media course this year, and I was immediately impressed by their ‘can do’ attitude. They trained us how to make things happen for film and TV clients. Now, in my first week on the job, I’m already reviewing and vetting two outstanding new documentary films for US release, and preparing for creative legal work on an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster comedy.”

Derry man and new Smith Dehn recruit Dermot Desmond shared that enthusiasm.

He said: “I’m thrilled that the first US law firm expanding into Northern Ireland has come to Derry. SmithDehn’s clients include most of the major Hollywood film studios and US/UK television broadcasters. To be given the chance to work with and learn from the biggest names in the industry is an amazing opportunity for us. And now I’m getting ready to go to Cannes to meet international clients. Things are moving along quickly.”

US law firm SmithDehn LLP, dubbed “legal heavies” by The Wall Street Journal, has attracted clients that have ranged from studios like Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate Films, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Media Rights Capital, to television companies like HBO, ITV, Channel 4, and BBC America, to talented players such as Sacha Baron Cohen and Courteney Cox.

Founding partner Russell Smith said: “Our University of Ulster course proved to us that in and around Northern Ireland, particularly in the Northwest, there is a great supply of under-utilized talent. This has allowed us to hire creative, intelligent, energetic, and dynamic people who are wowing our clients, and stepping onto the global stage as SmithDehn NI ambassadors. We’ve started with four new-hires, and we are confident we will be hiring dozens more in the coming years. The same goes for our film/TV production/sales company, Social Construct Media.”

Also commenting on the media law course, Dr Eugene McNamee, Head of the University of Ulster’s School of Law said: “The media and entertainment sector in Northern Ireland is growing, to include film and television

legal services. This offers significant potential for our talented law graduates and the wider legal services sector here. The University of Ulster is delighted to continue this exciting and dynamic course, which is equipping graduates with specialist, in-demand skills to enhance their employability and add further strengths to an experienced practitioner’s existing expertise.”

SmithDehn also has teamed up again with the University of Ulster to deliver another semester-long course in the business and law of film and television. Last Spring’s course, from which SmithDehn NI hired and trained this week’s first recruits, featured visiting professors such as the Chief Counsel of HBO and the Head of Legal for Channel 4, who both are coming back. Next year’s course is expected to include at least one top executive from a major Hollywood film studio and the former head of legal for the Discovery networks to the mix. Based at Ulster’s Magee campus, the Masters level short course is designed to meet the growing industry need for legal professionals with specific expertise in media, entertainment and sports law.

Next Spring’s course will run on the Magee (Derry/Londonderry) campus over one semester on six Saturdays, with class-times of 10am-5pm (two 3 hour sessions with 1 hour lunch break). Applications for places should come in the form of a CV with a one-page covering letter explaining interest and motivation. Applications are due by Friday December 5. They should be sent by email to FlexEd@ulster.ac.uk, with the message subject line “Media Law Course”. More information for prospective students on the course content or application process can be obtained from Ulster’s Centre for Flexible and Continuing Education by calling 028 9036 8122, 028 9036 6680 or e-mailing: FlexEd@ulster.ac.uk