Herbert Smith , Trainee solicitor, London
Career Change Story
I am now an author, freelance journalist and copywriter. I never wanted to be a lawyer - rather it was the product of university debt, not knowing exactly what I wanted to write, and the fact that law school furnished me with two more years to work it out and a lot of spare time. Once I'd done that, there was no choice to make - I'd always loved playing with words, so that was it really.
As far as advice goes, perhaps the most important is to show some of your work to people you trust to, first of all, let you know whether it's any good, and secondly to tell you if they think it isn't (and in that vein, please feel free to contact me for this - details below).
Anyway, I left law ostensibly to finish a novel, and then happened upon some newspaper work writing legal obituaries; dead lawyers, what could possibly be better? After that, I started pitching ideas for pieces to other broadsheets, at the same time as widening my expertise to encompass other victims of death, and also got some work copywriting, which meant I was making just about enough money to continue existing.
Whilst still a lawyer, I'd started writing for Redissue, a Man Utd fanzine, and as a consequence, ended up blogging for ESPN Soccernet once a week, and those I wrote during the last football season have since been turned into a book, "On the Road: A Journey Through a Season". I've also finished the novel, which will hopefully be out fairly soon.
Career Change Reflections
Though I have to frequently remind myself in mid-bitch how much I love what I do, I nevertheless know that I love it, and conversely, could never forget how much I hated being a lawyer. It's worth mentioning that, at least for now, the work I do that makes me happy isn't generally the work that pays for things - get ready to spend lots of time writing stuff you're not especially into, and even more time chasing people to either read your work or commission you to write things that could happily remain unwritten. And on top of that, writing is self-employment to the Nth degree - not only is work never finished, but your brain will never refrain from looking for stories to tell, people to describe, opinions to voice, jokes to write, wherever you are and whatever you're meant to be doing. But at the same time, this is also the joy, so you may as well embrace it.
In terms of making the move, it helps if you save plenty, and work on as many ideas as you can as often as you can before you quit. It's also worth looking around you - there are plenty of things going on in a law firm that can be written about, and as many composite baddies as there are baddies to be written. Then, once you've left, though there are pieces of advice that may help in terms of approaching people, how to get better and the like, these are pretty person-specific - again, feel free to get in touch if you think I could possibly help. But really the only one that really counts is that you work and write your arse off, and hope that things work out.