Day in the life: Australian lawyer’s Dubai work is stairway to heaven

If you hear Led Zeppelin playing in Fiona Robertson’s office, you know she’s having a busy day.

It’s not quite the image you’d expect from a lawyer hard at work. But the 48-year-old, who works at Al Tamimi & Company at the Dubai International Financial Centre, finds rock ‘n’ roll the perfect accompaniment when delving into the finer points of intellectual property law.

“Even when I was at school, I had to have music on when I was studying for exams,” said Ms Robertson. “I’m going to sound like a retro rock dinosaur – but I do have a very great fondness for drafting to Led Zeppelin. You’ll know it’s a really big contract if I’ve got Led Zeppelin on.”


In her native Australia, Ms Robertson worked for Grundy as the in-house lawyer for long-running TV series Neighbours, among other shows, where part of her job was to clear the scripts.

She moved to Dubai in 2008 and, for different employers, has given legal advice for some of the biggest movies to have been made in the UAE, along with work for clients in the TV, digital media and music businesses. Here Ms Robertson, who is separated and lives with daughter Jamie, 10, and son Kane, 7, describes her working day – and the soundtrack that goes with it.

6.15am

My first job of the day is “mummy”. I drop the children off at school, and then head straight to the office. I’ve never been a breakfast person, so I just have a coffee.

8am

It’s straight to the emails, answering all the things that need to be answered and deleting all the things that need to be deleted. The nice thing about what I do is that I’m not a creative person but I get to work with creative people, which I quite enjoy because they are fun to work with.

9am

I will generally do three tasks a day – so three contracts or reviews. It’s very important to choose the right music for the day. For big drafting I do lots of rock music. If it’s a little bit lighter I might do some jazz or funk. I’m literally sitting in front of my screen, with my notes around me. It’s a process of going through the document and cross-checking. It’s a very methodical thing to do. You get into a zone with drafting – it’s almost like a non-creative painting process. You’re putting the binds of the contract together and then you start filling it out and putting everything in the right place.

11.30am

I will go into a client meeting to get instructions on a new matter. If, for example, a British production company wants to come to the UAE, I would give them advice on how content differs in the UAE – what you can and can’t say, what you can and can’t show. I also give advice about the regulatory and advertising market: can they show the girl draped across the front of the car? Can I say this about my competitor?

1pm

We’ve got a lot of really good coffee shops and restaurants underneath our building. Noodle House does a really nice laksa. Once every couple of weeks I might lunch with a client – it’s not very often. Clients are very busy. And, I have to say most people aren’t hugely excited about having lunch with their lawyer. We rate slightly above accountants but below pretty much everyone else.

3.30pm

I do like to have meetings at people’s offices – I think it’s only right and fair that I go to them. But also it’s also nice to see where they work, and meet their people and their team. I don’t get to go on film sets very often, I used to do it a lot more. I just have less time than I used to have.

7pm

I’m usually walking out the door at around 6.30pm or 7pm. An 11-hour day is not bad for a lawyer, to be honest. I come home and bond with my children – it’s time to be a mummy again. There will be homework to be done. The nanny will have fed them thankfully, but there’s usually more snacks required after I get home.

8.30pm

I will watch some sort of incredibly bad television, which I have a great appetite for, particularly a lot of those American comedies. And then a bit of Jon Stewart maybe – I love it, it’s great. And then I will head to bed at around 11pm. There are occasional nights out, particularly when the kids are staying with their dad. When you are working and you are a parent, it is really difficult to not be with the children when they’re around. So the Dubai brunch is just not something you want to do.

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