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Escape Routes From The Law: Doing a Hollywood

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For the legions of training contract hunters out there, being a lawyer is a dream. But it’s not a job that makes everyone happy. The British Hollywood actor Gerard Butler (pictured), who started out as a trainee solicitor with Edinburgh corporate law firm Morton Fraser, didn’t enjoy his time in the legal profession.

“If I’d continued in the law, I don’t think I’d be alive today,” Butler told The Times on Saturday. “I was 27, I’d passed my degree and was working as a trainee solicitor, but I was heading down the wrong path and drinking far too much. The week before I was due to qualify, I got really wrecked at the Edinburgh Festival and was sacked. I now know that this was covering up the truth and that I was very unhappy with where I was headed.”

Butler wanted to be acting, not assisting companies with contracts. In a previous interview, he told Scotland on Sunday of his heartbreak at watching a Fringe production of Trainspotting as a trainee lawyer “because I thought ‘this will never be me’.” He added: “those days were incredibly miserable for me because I was trapped. Not even trapped in a law firm…but I was trapped in my life, I was trapped in my head, I didn’t know how to make myself happy.”

After being fired, Butler moved to London to pursue an acting career. There, he was cast in the lead role of the production of Trainspotting he’d struggled to sit through in Edinburgh. The next summer he was back at the Fringe performing in the show. Here are some parting words of wisdom from Butler: “Having belief in your instinct and following it through can take a lot of courage. Finding what you’re good at and your reason to exist are the secrets of success.”

Plenty of other creative types have also made it out of law, including up-and-coming writers Jennie Rooney and Jonathan Lee, who recently quit Slaughter and May and Freshfields respectively to write full time.

There’s traffic the other way, too. Blur drummer Dave Rowntree left his full-time music career behind a few years ago to study law, and is now doing a training contract with Kingsley Napier. Meanwhile, former Radio 1 DJ Judge Jules will commence a training contract with media law firm Sheridans in September 2013.