Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

Borat lawyer Russell Smith plans to open key Derry office

by david elliott

Published 20/12/2013

Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat's lawyer is considering setting up an office in Londonderry – while also teaching a new media law course at the University of Ulster.

New York-based Russell Smith represents Sacha Baron Cohen, the actor who played the fictitious Kazakh journalist in the film of the same name.

Mr Smith said his media and entertainment law firm is very keen to invest in the city and if given the green light, will employ 75 lawyers.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year, he said Smith Dehn has submitted a draft plan for the investment and if "all the pieces come together" it could be months away.

The company said it has been working with University of Ulster, Queen's University, the Department for Employment and Learning and Invest NI and pledged to use a Derry office as a key part of its business rather than for back office functions.

"We're talking not about a back office but a front office," he said. "We want to hire people better than ourselves and younger than ourselves. We want to hire entrepreneurial people who would get on the plane to the Cannes Film Festival to promote the company."

Mr Smith said he was keen on Northern Ireland after witnessing a sea change in both culture and politics since a visit 17 years ago.

"Then I came back for a weekend last year and I was stunned by the change in the attitude."

And he was impressed by the fact Northern Ireland's leaders have learned to work together.

Mr Smith said he wanted to provide jobs for talented graduates in Northern Ireland who may be currently struggling to get jobs.

"Something that's very attractive to me is the intellectual capacity in the people here coming out of law schools. It's heartbreaking that some of these people are going into call centres... we would like to help and, it would help us as well, to get that talent."

Mr Smith will be involved in teaching the new Masters-level media law course the University of Ulster, Magee.

He will be joined by two of the top in-house lawyers at producers HBO. Demand for the course is expected to be high. Applications must be received by January 10, 2014, for the course, which begins in February. For more information, visit ww.socsci.ulster.

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