Journalist, Legal Writer & Editor
People with a law background may not necessarily become lawyers. Often they use their edge in language and research skills to become writers. With their knowledge of the law, they can also specialise as legal writers or editors. Such a writer works on legal journals and other related publications for the industry.
Legal writers function like any other writers. They source for good stories, write articles and interview people. A writer’s hours can be long. Most importantly, it is the passion for the written word that keeps the writer in his or her occupation.
A love for writing, spreading awareness and news are all essential to becoming a good writer. Writers have to be constantly updated about what is happening around them and be familiar with current cases and new rulings so they can conceptualise new story ideas and fresh angles on old issues.
They must be self-starters, be proactive in searching for stories or interviewing people to get opinions for their articles. Their job is to provide an interesting and timely read for lawyers and fellow law graduates. Essentially, they are the glue that keeps the legal community together.
An editor’s job differs slightly from that of a writer. While a writer is more concerned with writing a story, an editor has to look at the overall publication and make sure that the content reflects what the readers want. The editor determines the content of the publication and gives the story outline to the writer. The editor can ask the writer to come up with his or her own content but ultimately the responsibility still belongs to the editor. The editor is also the last line of defence in a publication, catching the writer’s grammatical mistakes and factual errors before the work goes to print.
The editor also has final say in the look of the publication. He or she liaises with the graphic designers to produce a layout and determines the stories that make the front page. The editor must make sure the publication comes out on time which requires an ability to keep to deadlines and a tight schedule. Most editors also maintain the publication budget, i.e. a budget that covers the cost of hiring freelance writers or paying for pictures.
But legal writing is not the only writing you can do. Law graduates develop such effective research skills that they can go into other areas of writing. Working in newspapers is also a fulfilling job for a law graduate. A reporter who covers the national news, spanning political, economical and criminal matters will find an understanding of the law helpful in analysing the motives of politicians and larger implications for every little bill passed or crime committed.
The law graduate is able to ask more precise questions during interviews, nailing the issue on the head to extract important information that many without knowledge of the law would not be able to identify. This information must then be put to paper in a manner that is easily understood so that the common man who reads the newspaper will be able to comprehend the news. So the reporter’s job is to take the complicated and make it simple.
The law graduate can apply his discipline and eye for detail, honed after years in law school, to produce meticulous work in other areas of writing. It is common to find law graduates writing about finance, business, lifestyle, interior design, the arts or whatever pet interest the writer has. Among some notable writers with law degrees are local filmmaker and publisher Amir Muhammad and lyricist M. Zulkifli.
DID YOU KNOW?
The words ‘insane’ and ‘insanity’ are not recognised medical terms but rather legal terms.
The word ‘sheriff’ is derived from the words ‘shire reeve’. In medieval England, each shire (a division of land) had a reeve (a senior official) who administered the law for that shire. When settlers brought the term to the United States, it was shorted to sheriff.