As a non-law conversion student with an English degree, I am often asked questions like: why law? Why the change? Why not study law in the first place?
The answer is: I’m a creative! I love to read and write (isn’t it obvious?) and I have developed many transferable skills from my English degree that are not only useful in a legal career, but sometimes even fundamental to practise.
Let’s talk about the skills
So you want to be a creative lawyer? Most of the day-to-day tasks of any trainee, paralegal or junior will usually involve the following three things:
Research is required in many different aspects of a legal career. For example, you might be tasked with finding and writing about updates in the law. This helps lawyers keep up to speed with the constantly evolving legislation and judgments in their field. Your skills in efficient research and distilling large volumes of information into an executive summary, therefore, become invaluable to them. Conducting research is creative because you are exploring new things, discovering new information and growing your knowledge on the subject. You can then combine these ideas with your imagination to produce an original and innovative piece of work.
These skills are not mutually exclusive, they often interact and support each other. For example, your research might lead to drafting an article for the firm’s website to provide readers with an insight into a particularly complex or interesting area of practice. During a vacation scheme, I was asked to research the Flexible Working Bill of 2019 and write an article on the key points to note for employers. I drew on skills from my English degree to navigate reliable resources, cite my references and write coherently. But I also had to make the piece interesting and accessible for readers. Lawyers constantly use their creativity to translate legal jargon into comprehensible language. After several drafts and careful editing, I submitted it to the head of the department and was fortunate to become the firm’s first vacation scheme candidate to have an article published on their website!
Although most of the time you will be provided with a template or precedent to cover the foundations of drafting a contract, you will then need to use your ‘out of the box’ thinking to apply the terms to the client’s commercial objectives accurately. This is especially important following any negotiations between your client and their partner or opponent in an agreement or settlement scenario.
Finally, whether giving a presentation to your colleagues, taking a client meeting or writing an email, your role will involve communicating in some way, shape or form. In most non-law undergraduate degrees, giving a presentation is one of the many variants of assessment that students undertake in order to demonstrate their understanding of a subject. I certainly gave my fair share on Medieval Witchcraft and Shakespeare…
When talking to clients and other colleagues, how you present yourself and your argument is partly dictated by the words you use. However, there are other ways to communicate and be creative while doing it. In my experience, my English degree allowed me to enhance and hone a high command of both verbal and written language. Writing essays and blogs, and participating in seminar debates developed my ability to communicate a persuasive message. Bringing it back to law, the ability to deliver persuasive messages and arguments is paramount to being successful in this field. And, if writing isn’t your strong suit, there are plenty of other ways you can communicate these messages, such as through illustrations or graphic design.
So how can I be more creative?
Creativity isn’t exclusive to reading and writing (or English grads). There are many ways you can tap into your inner creative, for example by listening to music, watching a documentary or film, listening to a podcast or simply going for a walk and taking in your surroundings and the environment. Allow your mind to be open to the possibility of finding different ways to solve a problem. Sometimes the simplest, quickest or most obvious way to do something could be vastly improved with a little more thought and a dash of creativity.
Finally, be brave. Open a window into who the firm would be hiring, rather than just what skills they want. The real person behind the grades and qualifications. Allow your creativity to take over a little bit to lift the CV off the paper.