In the Spotlight: Jeremy McGeown, Weta Workshop

In the Spotlight: Jeremy McGeown, Weta Workshop

Jeremy McGeown has the enviable role of in-house legal counsel for Weta Workshop.

What do you love about your role?

The people, first and foremost. Weta Workshop is a creatively-focussed company, not a commercial one. The small corporate team really bands together to manage this balance and there's a strong sense of collegiality and great support from my manager. The vibe around the office isn't a traditional corporate environment; it's very much a place that prides itself on coming up with pragmatic solutions to interesting problems.

From a legal point of view, this requires a lot of creativity and hands-on problem solving. I'm also a fantasy geek, which definitely helps with a place like Weta.

What is the biggest challenge in your role?

The thing I love is also the biggest challenge. When the priority of the company is to make world-class props, it can be very difficult to impose legal restrictions. Risk-management is very much an impediment, sometimes. I came into a business which had never had an in-house counsel, and so building those systems and relationships on my own has been challenging process. We also deal with most of the major US film studios (and their army of lawyers), so contract negotiation can be quite difficult.

How would you describe your relationships with your key internal clients (eg collaborative, arms length advisory etc?)

At the far end of the collaborative scale. I provide advice to everyone in the business, from front-line customers service reps to the General Manager. In most situations, my role mixes the legal with the commercial. I need to understand the context behind every issue, and I understand far more about how to make creature prosthetics or a replica statue now than I did 24 months ago.

How do you balance working in the business with working on the legal function as a sole counsel?

For me, the key was to develop really positive interpersonal relationships. I wanted to build trust at a personal level, and show that I understood the creative desire behind the project. This helps when I then need to risk manage the legal aspects. I try to treat my role as sole counsel as a helpful touch point, and a way to make risk management a tool which enables the rest of the business to act with confidence and freedom.

It's challenging when there isn't a team to share some of the technical work with, but my manager and the corporate services team understand the issue and provide a lot of support.

What is the one piece of technology (either current or yet to be created) that would make your day job easier?

A thick, protective bubble to sit inside when you have to tell someone that their amazing creative idea is not such a great decision. But seriously, and in the context of Weta, advanced AR tech for working spaces. I love to move around when I work, and AR tech that could interface interactive screens and keyboard input in any room would be brilliant on a day-to-day basis.