How my legal career helped me.

In my memoir, I examine my unhappiness with my earlier training in Scots law; but, in a more hopeful spirit of finding value in all things, I begin to notice how my legal career helped me, not only with my writing, but also with bureaucracy and the form-filling that are a part of any business.

Appreciating the importance of attention to detail, the value of each full-stop and comma, for example, taught me the value of internal consistency with plotting and the importance of punctuation, syntax, grammar, and writing clearly: if a thing is poetically expressed but obscure, I will scrap it and start again, because there is little point in indulging fanciful expression, if no-one else understands what it means.  In the same vein, I know that there are legalistic conventions in writing, which I have had to work hard to overcome, though I have never lost a core message, that clarity is vital.

Similarly, working long hours for little recognition or reward – not all solicitors are well paid – taught me that no-one actually owes me a living, and showed me that I can work hard and consistently to a given goal. There is no-one standing beside me to remind me about a deadline or to offer advice about this week’s priorities. So knowing that I can start a challenging project and see it through to the end owes much to my earlier training in the often mind-numbing complexities of legal documentation.

There are more obvious benefits, of course. Compiling accounts and reconciliations for clients often very quickly and at short notice has overcome my fear of columns of figures, my deep-seated conviction that no amount of tallying and totalling would get it right. So I can deal with the IRS and the Inland Revenue without worrying unduly, and confidently complete and submit forms to all and sundry (aka “Do it now, and worry if there is anything to worry about”). Forms get more and more complex, but I get better at navigating them, and also at working out anything I don’t understand.

Perhaps it’s nothing to do with the law: perhaps it is only an outcome of ageing, that I am less fearful and more willing to take on challenges that, twenty years ago, would have sent me into a spinning, downward spiral. On the other hand, any thought that reconciles me to my earlier experiences is a good thing.


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