Since giving up a City law firm job for unpaid work as an intern, Halina Wielogorska has followed her passion for music throughout her career – all the way to joining Level last year.
What gets you up in the morning?
Quite often it’s my daughter! But if not, I’ve usually got an exciting day ahead of me so I don’t mind getting up. I love what I do and I work well in the mornings anyway.
How did you get started in your career?
Unusually for me, the start to my career was quite traditional. I trained with Lovells, now Hogan Lovells, in their corporate banking team in London. I stayed there for two years but I quite quickly realised that, for me to really deliver my best, I had to do something I was passionate about and which inspired me.
And for me, that was music. At first, I didn’t even know you could be a music lawyer but as I built myself a network – great experience for a future career – I learned that I could combine my love of the law with my passion for music.
So I got friends to introduce me to people in the industry and basically with sheer determination and the force of passion, began building contacts and reading everything I could about the industry, learning all the time.
Eventually, I met by chance (at a rave) the founder of a label and a promoter that I adored, and he gave me an internship. An unpaid one. Yes, really. I left my job with a City law firm to take unpaid work!! That’s how committed I was. The funniest thing is, I actually had to grind him down over a number of months for him to actually agree to it! Shout out to Del Dias for giving me my first break in the music business!
And in time, at the AEI Group, that became a paid internship, then a full-time job, then a more senior role then I was a Director. But if I hadn’t followed my dream of working in music and taken that chance, I might not be doing the job I love now.
So what have been your career highlights?
I’ve been lucky in being able to travel the world and work with artists, doing something I’m passionate about. After the AEI Group, I moved to creative, events and live performance platform Boiler Room. At the time, they were just beginning to ramp up the complexity and size of their branded events, so I ended up running a number of their flagship shows across the world (Europe, MENA and South America), on top of handling their global legal work, at a time when the company was growing exponentially. It was incredible experience.
But more than anything, the best thing about my job is always the moment when a client says ‘I trust you’. It’s still really special.
It happened just the other day and to get that mutual respect with an artist, for all you’ve helped them with – it’s just so magical.
Why did you choose Level?
From Boiler Room, I moved to Clintons and I was there when I had another major moment in my life – the birth of my daughter, Marli. Again, I was working in an industry I loved but I was also working 12-16 hours a day. I didn’t mind that because the work was fantastic but it was time for a change.
I wanted to continue to work in private practice because I love looking after my clients but I also wanted to do it my own way – to choose where, when and how I worked.
I couldn’t have worked the same way as I had been with Marli. I’d basically have missed her daylight hours and that wasn’t the kind of relationship I wanted with her. My time with her is precious, as it is with my partner, my siblings and my mother.
My family is special to me and I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice my relationships with them for my career, and frankly didn’t see that it was necessary to do so if I could find a more “me-shaped” solution. It all comes down to what your version of success looks like. Yes, it means juggling things but that’s my choice and, with proper flexible working, it means you don’t have to choose between family and career – you can have both successfully.
So Level was the perfect solution. It also gave me the chance to work as part of a great team, with people who are genuinely respected in their own areas. And I haven’t looked back.
Did you worry at all, moving from a traditional model?
Yes, a little. I suppose it was a bit scary. I didn’t know if my clients would come with me or whether they’d be able to. Returning from maternity leave also made me wonder if I was making the move at the worst possible time, having been away from work, but it was the right move.
As it turned out, my clients had missed me, which was a great feeling, and were happy to keep working with me.
I’ve never been a person who defaults to the easiest option, but I am proud now looking back that I chose to set up my own business during a global pandemic, with a daughter under one!
I’ve also never had a female superior since working in entertainment (over 10 years now!), which is kind of crazy when you think about it. There’s something completely awesome about my first female boss being me. I’m in control of my life and my career and that’s a hugely liberating feeling and one I’m really proud of.
What do you enjoy the most?
I may have changed my working life but some things stay the same. The entertainment business is so vast and dynamic, I never stop learning. I love what I do and I love working with artists – and the relationship I can build with them.
Friends and other lawyers can’t believe it sometimes but I even get asked by some clients which track they should release next or which film producer I’d recommend them working with next. That’s just a huge buzz. I’ll never tire of that.
What’s surprised you the most?
I think how well it’s gone. My first year in business has been better than I could have dreamed of. It’s been amazing.
And also the work I’m now doing. In the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of work around crypto currencies, blockchain and digitalisation of artworks as “NFTs” (music, art, animation, memes etc.) and working through how creative works will be used, displayed and traded in the future. Artists, digital galleries and investors are collaborating and creating digital spaces for presenting these works; it’s a fascinating area and all tied to what futurists believe will be the next iteration of the internet.
That’s one area I didn’t expect to be doing so much work in but it’s really taking off – developing much faster than I think anyone expected.
We’ve got to ask you this. You love music – so what do you listen to?
That’s a tough one!! I spend a lot of time listening to new material from artists I work with, which I really enjoy, and staying on top of the key editorial playlists on streaming platforms, so I am aware of trends and new music coming through across the board.
But the rest of them time, it all depends on what I’m doing. If I’m working, I tend to listen to electronic music as it doesn’t distract me from writing or reading documents and I find it really keeps my monkey brain energised whilst I’m rattling through the work!
If I’m not working or I’m having a creative moment, driving or chilling, I’ll tend to listen to something lyrical – rock, blues, hip hop, R&B or alternative.
I’m constantly collecting and organising music into categories and references. It’s something I’ve done my whole life – first in cassettes, then CDs, then MP3s, then vinyl and mostly now via DSPs. What I love about music is you can possess it by simply knowing it. As soon as you fall in love with a piece of music, it’s somehow yours and you can call upon it anytime. Not only that, it will trigger emotions, possibly memories for you. It’s incredible.
What about life away from work?
Since Marli came along, I’ve become really rigid about protecting time for me and for my family. That’s incredibly important to me.
I was brought up doing things outdoors so I really enjoy digging in the garden with Marli, finding worms and identifying birds. I hope to inspire her to have the same love of the natural world that my father passed down to me.
In recent years I’ve become better at carving out ‘me time’. I use this time to play at being the creative. I may work with creative people but when I’m working, my role is to support them. Yes, sometimes I can be doing that by offering creative solutions, but really I am holding space for them to be creative, and for me to be responsible and solve their problems. So when I’m off the clock, there’s a real zeal to flipping over to being the creative and drawing, painting, sculpting etc., with music on of course!
Away from lockdown, I’d also spend a lot of time at shows and festivals but that’s for the future.
And finally, what was your lightbulb moment?
An easy one to end with! I go back to the start of my career. Corporate banking wasn’t for me. Music and entertainment is. Once I realised that I had to do something I was passionate about and which inspired me, the next steps were simple. And I don’t regret it.
I think it shows that choosing to challenge is something we can all do. If you want to love what you do, do what you love. It works for me!