Career as a Legal journalist
Anne Cooper is a senior reporter working in legal journalism. Already qualified as a solicitor, she now uses her legal knowledge and experience to write stories for The Lawyer, a weekly newspaper for business lawyers both in the UK and overseas.
What do you write about?
I write news and features about commercial law firms and legal developments. My job also involves a considerable amount of research and interviewing.
Do you have a typical day?
No – that is what makes journalism so appealing. During a week, I could be writing a feature on the merger between two law firms, having lunch with contacts and attending a press party. When I go out of the office, I usually take a taxi rather than drive. I have rheumatoid arthritis and parking in central London is bad enough without having to walk long distances from car parks!
Do you use any special equipment?
I spend a lot of time on the telephone and on my computer – like almost all journalists, I do my own typing.
What was your route into your career as a legal journalist?
I worked as a qualified solicitor in a law firm before I switched to journalism. I completed a 'crash course' in journalism to help develop my writing and to gain an insight into the profession. I was very lucky to get my job at The Lawyer because I didn't have any work experience in the sector.
How do you get hold of stories?
In all sorts of ways – through research, keeping in touch with contacts in the legal world, keeping an eye on the news and asking lots of questions. The problem with news is that you never know when it will happen. Recently we had to change the main front-page story because our source for the story backed out. This resulted in one of the most frantic press days I've ever experienced, as we had to find a new front-page story in just a couple of hours!
Why did you choose this type of work?
Journalism is a great profession because it's varied, challenging and unpredictable. I also have the opportunity to meet lots of new people.
What training have you had?
Apart from shorthand, most of the skills I've learnt have been gained through hands-on experience.
What hours do you work?
Most days, I start at 9.30am and finish around 6.30pm. However, we are expected to go out with contacts after work. Press days (Fridays) can be a lot longer, as the reporters can't leave until all the pages have been sent to the printers.
What do you like best about your career as a legal journalist?
I enjoy the thrill of finding out about stories before anyone else. On a weekly publication the work is driven by deadlines and I like the highly-charged environment. We work hard, but also have lots of opportunities to socialise. Last year we were taken to a Madonna concert by one of our contacts!
Do you have any dislikes?
I often have to call people I've never spoken to before for interviews or comments and these calls are not always well received. Also, journalism is not very well paid, but the job satisfaction makes up for it.
What kind of person succeeds in this job?
Someone with good interpersonal skills, knowledge of the area they are covering (in my case the legal profession), energy and a nose for a story. You have to know your readers!
What are your long-term career goals?
I would like to work on the business pages of a national newspaper.
Anne's route to her career as a legal journalist
- Degree in Law (LLB).
- Qualified as a solicitor.
- Completed summer course with London School of Journalism.
Anne's legal journalist tips
- Try to get relevant work experience.
- A journalism course is useful but not essential.
- Persevere – journalism is a very competitive profession.
Legal journalist related jobs
- Barrister/Advocate Broadcast journalist
- Court reporter
- Legal executive
- Newspaper editor
Salary of a legal journalist
- A trainee journalist will earn around £15,000 a year.
- A senior reporter on a large publication may earn up to £40,000.
How to become a legal journalist
- Legal journalists are either qualified lawyers who have switched into journalism, or journalists who have an interest in law and specialise in that area.
- Legal journalists write stories for newspapers and magazines, as well as for book publishers who specialise in law subjects.
- Journalism can be studied at colleges around the UK or by distance learning.
- Good shorthand is essential. The ability to touch-type is also helpful.
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