Social media expert: shared joy is doubled: Emma Sadleir is a media law consultant with expertise in print and electronic media law, and who has a strong focus on social media law.
What drew you to the media? I like journalists, especially the investigative ones who get into trouble! And Dario Milo, the doyen of media law in South Africa, took me under his wing and taught me a soupçon of what he knows. He could make anyone excited about law.
Do you have any hidden talents? I throw a mean dinner party (well, actually any party) at very little notice.
What superpower would you like to possess? To be in two places at once.
What is your best characteristic and biggest flaw? Best characteristic: I’m fairly fearless professionally and I’m the ultimate optimist. I see the best in everyone and everything. Biggest flaw: I’m messy and late. Despite my best intentions, I’m very rarely on time.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now? I’d be a nursery school teacher. I love children.
What moment do you regard as career defining? Meeting a friend in the queue at registration at Wits University who told me to choose law as a subject in the BA for which I was registering. My career advice had been to study actuarial science. The rest is history.
What have you learnt the hard way? That books don’t write themselves.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve been given? Best advice: To decide what the absolute non-negotiables in my life are, and then to make all other decisions around those principles. Worst advice: Beer after wine is fine. Beer after whisky is risky.
Whom do you admire the most? Women who have successful careers and families. I really enjoyed Katy Katopodis’ book on the subject. I remember sitting next to her, having our make-up done for the Oscar Pistorius channel while she discussed EWN’s coverage of the elections and the complex legal developments in court that day, and also organised her son’s birthday party – venue, invitations and Avengers birthday cake. Amazing!
What quote best describes how you see the world? I can think of two: “Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.” – Swedish proverb. “Some people swallow the universe like a pill; they travel on through the world, like smiling images pushed from behind.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
What is your favourite holiday spot and why? A houseboat on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. Elephants, backgammon, fishing, gin and tonic, no computers, no cellphone signal, nowhere to go, nowhere to be!
What book do you wish you had written? Harry Potter. I’d be a ‘gazillionaire’.
If you had a tattoo, what would it be of? My father would disown me if I got a tattoo, but it’s an important concept in my teaching. I try to get children to understand that they should treat everything they put on the internet like a tattoo: it is very difficult (if not impossible) to get it removed. I then show them a picture of a massive tattoo that says ‘REGRET NOHING’. If I ever do get a tattoo, I would make sure I went to a tattoo artist who could spell.
What are you addicted to? People.
What are you afraid of? Snakes.
What do you regret most? I’m not much of a regretter.
What cheers you up the most? Riding my horses.
What are some of the pros and cons of being one of the few lawyers in South Africa to specialise in social media? The pro is being ahead of the curve. The space is fast-changing and there are new legal developments somewhere in the world every single day. Staying on top of it all is exciting. The downside is that I sometimes I feel like I’m responsible for scaring people away from amazing technology by highlighting the risks.
Can you tell us a bit more about the book you are writing? I’m writing a book with my partner, Tamsyn de Beer, called ‘Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex (And other legal advice to see you through the digital age)’, to be published by Penguin in September.
The book is a culmination of everything we have learnt in our legal consultancy, put into a simple and fun guide. It details the legal, disciplinary and reputational risks faced by South Africans as they try to navigate the sometimes murky and unchartered waters of the digital age. But it’s not a textbook. It is light-hearted, conversational and humorous in tone and is aimed at educating young and old of the risks involved in the digital era in an easily accessible way.
What are your goals? To be kind. To not get so busy making a living that I forget to make a life.
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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