Fiona Hinds

United Kingdom

Membership profile

Position: Lawyer

Type of Occupation: Private Practice Lawyer, Sports Arbitrator

Area of expertise: Anti-Doping, Contractual / Commercial matters, Disciplinary Matters, Dispute Resolution, eSports, Governance / Regulatory work, Human Rights, Players’ Unions / Clubs’ Unions

Member of the month: March, 2022

We are delighted to announce our Member of the Month, Fiona Hinds.

Fiona is a Partner and Co-Head of Sport at Howard Kennedy LLP in London, England.

Howard Kennedy is a full-service London law firm with global reach through worldwide legal networks.

How did you get involved in sports law?

I have always been steeped in sport, playing field hockey internationally as a junior, and I love horse-riding, skiing and tennis. But my legal training was rooted in financial services. I litigated structured financial products for institutional clients at one of the largest law firms in the world.  After a few years, I found I wanted a closer relationship with clients and a more agile way of working, so I moved to a small team focusing on fraud work.  Gradually I found that more of my cases were arising in a sports context – such as, dealing with alleged secret commissions on sales of performance horses and regaining control of athletes’ image rights from rogue agents. My practice now covers much more than commercial disputes in sport, as I also advise on safeguarding issues, regulatory and disciplinary matters, and on investigations – both internal investigations and external inquiries.

What is your most memorable achievement in the sector?

I have recently been acting for a national governing body facing a major inquiry into athlete health, safety and wellbeing. It started at the height of the pandemic, when the organisation was trying to focus on the impact of the lockdowns and how to run things safely while working from home. We had a toddler and a baby on the way. The matter developed extremely quickly and touched on many different aspects of the organisation’s work, including safeguarding and the way in which safety concerns had been handled. We moved rapidly at deeply unsociable hours to mobilise teams within the firm and outside, providing intensive support to the client. It was extremely tough, but I was very proud of the way that I and our team responded. We can’t change what had happened, which had been very distressing for a lot of those involved, but we were able to help the client navigate their way through and look forward.

Any advice for someone trying to break into the sector?

Know your subject matter – whatever that may be – and be genuine. If you then find you are in an unfamiliar area of sport, don’t be afraid to say so. In my experience, our clients really love what they do and know their sport inside out. While it is helpful to have a working or in-depth knowledge of the sport, our clients come for advice on legal rights and obligations and often an outside perspective. What our clients often value is our way of thinking – together we can apply that to the niche aspects of the sport in question. And talk to everyone – everyone has an interesting perspective to share.

Greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

My greatest challenge has been striking the balance.  We have two very small children (1 and 3) and the path to a family was not entirely straightforward. At the same time, I have been running some vast, complicated, very sensitive and high-profile matters, which has been incredibly demanding. One of the very few silver linings of the global pandemic has been the move to remote working and a more flexible approach by clients and colleagues. That was incredibly liberating, building a groundswell of support for doing the job in a different way. Really strong relationships with clients have also been key, so they know I will try my utmost to be available and we all flex around one another’s commitments. And developing the ability to live in the moment, so when I am with our kids they have my whole attention.

Why did you decide to focus on complex disputes in sport?

I found that I really loved the crossover between finding the solutions to often business-critical or life-changing disputes for clients, working with people who are deeply passionate about what they do, technically demanding cases and my own interest in sport. The nature of my skill-set means that each instruction is different, and they often move very quickly. So there is a lot of variety within the work and I am always learning. It is all in the context of sorting out a major challenge for a person or organisation in real difficulty, which I find very motivating and rewarding. I think I have been designing my dream job!

What do you do in your spare time?

We have horses and compete locally in dressage and eventing competitions. However, we keep them beside an ancient royal forest near London, which has been actively managed for hundreds of years. You can see clearly where stands of trees were cut back for timber throughout the 1800s. Riding there, away from all the noise of modern life, I get a real sense of history. It is a huge privilege

How has WISLaw helped you in your career?

WISLaw has provided a network of like-minded professionals, which is both reassuring and really exciting. It has opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunity in the sector around the globe, and boosted my confidence to be ambitious about my own career in the industry.