My career story: "I set up a consultancy and launched my own start-up company"
Albert Marshall trained at the bar and was an in-house lawyer at PlayStation. In 2012 he set up his own business affairs consultancy and he is also commercial director of QuizTix, which creates games for mobile phones.
What’s your career background?
I was interested in employment law and trained as a barrister at a common law chambers, but early in my career I had the opportunity to practice in-house at the Retail Motor Industry Federation, a kind of trade association for car dealers, garages, petrol retailers and other moter retail services. It was good fun – there was a lot of employment law but as part of that job I also did a lot of IP.
Then completely out of the blue I saw an advert for a role at PlayStation. I applied, they liked me and I got the job. It was a really interesting role – there was a lot of enforcement work, anti-piracy across international territories. I was teaching Indian customs officials how to distinguish between genuine and pirate games, talking to government ministers, police officers, anti-piracy organisations…
I did a lot of work for games studios, an amazingly wide range to do with technology and content: licensing music tracks for games, motion capture agreements with actors, voiceover agreements with Hollywood stars alongside the more standard commercial agreements. At one point I had my face scanned to be a referee in a football game.
I was at PlayStation for nine years, but then I had an opportunity to work for Take 2, which is the studio behind BioShock, NBA and Grand Theft Auto.
Why did you make the move at that point in your career?
I was enjoying PlayStation but I felt I had to widen my experience. One of the things I feel as an in-house lawyer is that it’s up to you to make your career. You are in charge of getting your training and you have to actively go out there and get it. Most of the time your bosses and colleagues are brilliant at letting you go to training events. But you should also go to events that are more commercial than legal – don’t turn your eye away from other opportunities.
You started your own consultancy, Marshall Media Business Affairs. What was the motivation behind that?
I went into law because I was interested in politics, but then I got more interested in the business side. And on the technology side I was interested in the growing move to digital. Apple’s App store opened in 2007 and it means that anyone can develop and publish games from their bedroom, which wasn’t possible before. A lot of my friends started setting up their own games studios. Loads of people were asking me for advice on setting up their own companies and I thought, ‘Maybe there’s an opportunity here.’
So I started my own business affairs consultancy, mainly focusing on digital publishing, licensing and contractual stuff. I’m a bit of a gamekeeper turned poacher. I worked for big publishers and now I’m working for the smaller guys who have never seen a big contract before, and who need advice on what the important issues are and which are the things worth fighting. That’s what all companies want really, but not everyone can get it. I was able to offer that service at a reasonable price.
What advice would you have for someone thinking of doing something similar?
Obviously you have to know what you are talking about. It is important to have a focus. I am very specific: I work with games companies.
Talk to your profession’s regulatory body, and use your network – that’s really important. I had people who had already make the move and could advise me. We all have these networks we don’t use. My accountant gave me some really good advice. I asked senior executives for help and was really surprised at how generous they were with their time.
One of the things I really want to add: I volunteered to be a trustee for a charity. I suddenly got board-level experience, I got free training, and people who work for charities tend to be really well connected. It’s really good to give something back, but actually doing some charitable trustee work is so good for your career.
You’ve also set up your own mobile games company, Quiztix. How did that come about?
After a year of doing Marshall Media and working with all these companies, one of my clients and friends had an idea for a game and asked if I wanted to help with the licensing.
I ended up getting involved in a whole bunch of stuff I’d never done before – raising money to fund a company, negotiating agreements, talking to investors, chairing board meetings, hiring staff, doing marketing plans and press releases – even shooting a video on Carnaby Street.
Your career now encompasses a lot more than just legal work – what have you found most challenging?
It was a challenge to realise that as a lawyer, you have good commercial experience and that also applies when you are doing BD or creative stuff. That’s not to be arrogant: no-one knows everything and we can all learn. But having worked on a lot of deals lawyers should have the confidence to say, ‘I have a valid opinion about the commercial angles in this deal’ and to feel secure in their opinion.
Secondly, some people will always see lawyers as basically negative deal-stoppers – getting over that prejudice can be a challenge. There are lot of people who have that attitude, especially in the tech sector.
What’s the best way to combat that prejudice?
When you actually present yourself as a businessperson, people will open up to you much earlier on. People approach me very differently: as the ‘founder of a company’ I have access to CEOs who would never talk to me as a lawyer.
You have to understand more about business – try to get a 360-degree understanding of the practicalities. As a lawyer, don’t look at something and just say, ‘Oh, this is a marketing or a finance issue’ – sit in on the meetings with those people, even though they might not want you to!
QuizTix’s latest two releases are ‘BBC Comedy Genius’ and ’International Rugby’. Check them out here.