Solicitor specialising in media law, especially libel, VP Legal Affairs, sports and media rights company, London
|Arts and Media|
Career Change Story
I now live in the far west of Cornwall and write for a living. However, I continue to work as a 'night lawyer' from time to time for The Times. Since the age of 13, I'd always wanted to be a writer. I read American and English Literature at university and subsequently drifted into law somewhat unthinkingly. It was no accident that I gravitated to libel law - I loved, and still enjoy, its linguistic exactitude.
However, it was also, to those who knew me well, no surprise that I would eventually exit full-time law. This happened in two stages - the first, involuntarily, when I was dismissed for gross misconduct having rearranged a restaurant at a work function while working for a Cheltenham law firm. I was in the midst of some domestic mayhem, all of which was my own fault, and snapped one night, thanks to excessive booze, which was a frequent problem in those days. So 'stage one' of leaving the law saw me scuttle back to London, live in a bedsit and appear to have thrown away both my career and marriage. However, I got my act together, largely through taking up boxing. I was fortunate to retrieve my marriage and then my legal career, first with a leading City firm and then in-house in a sports and media company.
However, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that law wasn't for me. At least, not its nine to five, full-time practice. So 'stage two' came when I resolved, on a trip to climb Mt Blanc, that if I made it to the top I'd quit once back in Chamonix. I did, vowing never to return to a law office (even as a client) and to do my best to achieve my dream of writing for a living. By then I'd written a novel, which led to me being represented by a literary agent, and I'd also got one or two freelance pieces away. But I was also boxing five or six times a week, and my agent saw mileage in a book chronicling how I'd gone from a gross misconduct dismissal to back in the law to writing, all thanks to the controlled violence of boxing. The result was my first book,"Wrecking Machine: A Tale of Real Fights and White Collars".
Career Change Reflections
I love being a professional writer. The freedom, compared with my formerly office-bound existence, is incredible. I began by writing absolutely anything that came my way - total ephemera, in other words - but have built up a freelance portfolio which has seen me write as a columnist for the Times, the Independent on Sunday, Timesonline, Independent Lawyer and Flush magazine, among others. I've also done a fair bit of travel writing, with trips to the Caribbean, California, Central Asia and numerous European countries through working as a freelance journalist. But the best thing to have happened to me via writing was getting fully back into surfing. I surfed as a teenager and whenever I could as a lawyer, but for the last few years have lived in Cornwall and surfed every swell that's come my way. My second book, "Surf Nation: In Search of the Fast Lefts and Hollow Rights of Britain and Ireland", was a literary odyssey/celebration of the vibrant and embedded surf scene we've got here, and I've been fortunate to carve out a niche of writing often about coastal topics. I'm proud to serve on the board of environmental action group Surfers Against Sewage and have acted as a judge for Coast magazine's annual awards. Somewhat miraculously, I was short-listed as sports feature writer of the year in the 2009 Sports Journalists' Association annual awards, and am currently at work on a novel and another non-fiction book. To anyone who wants to make the transition from law to writing, I'd say two things: 1., the law will help you - its inherent logic and intellectual rigour are assets to any writer, but 2., don't be arrogant. Every writer worth his or her salt has to write tomorrow's fish and chips paper, often for a few years, before getting anywhere. Be prepared to work hard and take the rejections on the chin - and keep believing in yourself.