5 reasons why a lawyer makes a very good journalist (Offbeat Career series)

lawyer journalist

I have decided to start a new series on my website – Offbeat Careers – to bring to you information about what alternate, exciting and fulfilling career you can choose post your law degree.

This past year 2020 has seen many of us, especially those graduating from law school in 2020 and 2021, grappling with uncertainty on recruitment front. The pandemic and the resultant lockdown has seriously affected global economy, leading to employers freezing new hires and trimming their existing workforce. More and more of us are in the already competitive job market.

I would like all the law students or laid-off young lawyers to consider that there are more options available to them, other than a law firm or an in-house job.

Now is the time to think smart and pivot to alternate career options. It’s rightly said that “many things can be done with a law degree”. You do not have to be a lawyer in the traditional sense; you can have a law degree and achieve great heights in an alternate career option.

As first in the series, let’s consider journalism.

In this article, I discuss 5 reasons why lawyers can make very good journalists along with real-life examples.

Research skills

All of us, as law students, learn to do research right from day one of our law school. Presented with a topic or a problem, we are taught to analyze, identify, look for answers and find out the solution.

We are taught different types of research methodologies and are encouraged to conduct independent research of our own. I remember, for one of our projects in criminal law, our professor arranged for a prison visit for us to understand how the criminal justice system actually works.

With so many lessons on conducting research, it is natural for a lawyer to have qualities to be a good journalist – a profession whose bedrock is finding out answers through research.

An inquisitive mind

As law students, we are trained to develop an inquisitive mind. We learn to ask questions and not be satisfied with any answer. We are encouraged to question our system, our environment and everything in between.

The inquisitive mind developed in a law school can be helpful in a career like journalism, where one asks questions routinely as part of his job.

Writing skills

The one skills that every law student learns in law school is how to write. Through our 50+ research projects, academic articles, moot court memorials, essay type answers to questions, short articles etc, we practice and hone our writing skills through thousands and thousands of words.

Lawyers are often accused of verbose writing, while journalists are known for their clear writing, I can confidently say that the verbose writing style seeps in our subconscious mind when we enter the profession. Faced with archaically written legal pleading formats or extremely verbose contract templates at our workplace, we feel that is the only way to write as a lawyer. No one tells us that otherwise is also possible.

Therefore, a law student can easily train in journalistic writing, if he is untarnished by such notions.

Awareness of our society

We are more aware of our country’s law, politics and governance than any of our non-law peers. Through our lessons in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Human Rights Law and Jurisprudence, we are exposed to a study of the society, the pillars on which it rests and the rights of its citizens.

I would imagine that this is the primary reason why a law student would feel completely at home as a journalist. As the fourth pillar of democracy, journalists observe, question and inform the common man on the social and political commentaries of their times.

Successful Role Models

We have examples of lawyers turning into successful journalists whose career can be excellent guiding paths.

In India, we have Rajdeep Sardesai who has a law degree from Oxford University.

Here is a fantastic interview of Erin Geiger Smith, a lawyer turned freelance journalist which will give you a deep insight on this career path.

This article gives you an overview on how to break into journalism post a legal education.

My thoughts are also echoed in this article by Guardian.

I personally know two lawyers who have ventured into journalism.

How to venture into journalism

There are great journalism institutes in India which offer PG Diploma or MA degrees. Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication in Pune, Xavier’s Institute of Communications in Mumbai are some of them.

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism is a great option abroad.

One point to note – a Masters is an expensive affair, almost as expensive as an LLB. However, there are scholarships available.

You may also choose to go for legal journalism, in which case, you might not need a journalism degree.

If you are keen on this path, your best bet would be to find the relevant people and take their advice on the best way to move forward. Internships in the news department of the media houses can be another way to discover your interest in this field.

Hope this article will give you some food for thought regarding this offbeat career option. Please cross-check facts related to colleges before relying on them solely. Let me know in the comments if you want to explore this option.

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