Kate Hanley, 26
Kate graduated with a 2:1 in law from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. She previously worked as a solicitor and is now a freelance legal journalist.
Why did you decide to leave your career in law?
I worked in a large City firm, where you had to be 100 per cent dedicated and put your personal life second. Although I expected to work long hours, it was 10 times worse than I anticipated, working evenings and weekends with zero notice. One of the partners had a little black book with everyone’s home and mobile phone numbers, and would call you at any time to come back to work – invariably at 11pm on a Friday night. I didn’t want to live like that. I don’t think anyone looks back and wishes they had spent more time in the office.
What do you do in your current job?
I write for the legal trade press, writing magazine articles for lawyers as well as contributing to books on the legal profession. Since having a baby a couple of years ago, I’ve gone freelance and work from home. It’s fantastic, because I’m my own boss and can work as much or as little as I like, cherry-picking the interesting commissions and rejecting anything that sounds too dull. Going freelance can be risky because you never know where your next job will come from. But because I previously spent five years working full-time in legal publishing, I made lots of useful contacts.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The diversity and freedom. One week I’ll be writing about miscarriages of justice and the Court of Appeal, and the next I’ll be focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the City. I also get to interview some interesting people, such as politicians or lawyers who are at the top of their game or represent well-known individuals. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and originally wanted to be a journalist when I was at school. So I’ve kind of gone full circle and achieved my original ambition. It’s immensely satisfying working hard on an article and seeing it published alongside your byline. Oh yes, and working from home is great – I can sit at the computer in my jim-jams all day if I want.
What is the most challenging part?
Sometimes an editor may give you a short deadline and you just can’t get hold of people you need to interview. It’s really tricky because you don’t want to compromise a potentially good article with poor research. So you’ve got to be really pushy and phone someone four times in a morning if need be, to get them to speak to you. As a freelancer, you need a lot of discipline – it’s too easy to take the morning, afternoon or day off. I try to really get down to it in the morning and then maybe slack off a bit in the afternoon – no different from being in the office for me, then.
What advice do you have for readers considering a career in legal publishing?
It helps to have some sort of background in the law, even if it’s just to degree level. The legal world has its own terminology, which is probably a bit baffling to a legal novice. Also, be prepared to write about some very dry subject matter at times. Just recently, I wrote 26,000 words on legal work in Finland and the Baltics: not my proudest moment, but I was well-paid for it.