‘I’ve Never Regretted Being Tricked Into The Law’

By Mark Stephens on

Ed note: This is the second in a series of posts where leading members of the legal profession share their wisdom with the next generation of wannabes. The first, by Joshua Rozenberg, is here. We’ll be featuring one-a-week in the run-up to the ‘Legal Cheek at the Google Campus‘ event in December.

It was a sunny spring day when I came down to breakfast to find my father and our lodger drinking coffee together in the sun, writes Mark Stephens. I was 16 and a budding thespian at stage school while playing and managing various bands in my spare time.

Peter, our lodger, published the music of a few increasingly well known bands: Pink Floyd, T Rex, Average White Band and a few other acts. He seemed to me to live a rather glamorous life style: (the offer of) hot and cold running groupies (of particular interest to me as a pubescent boy), international travel, celebrity and the other incidental benefits of the music industry.

My father was keen for me to get a ‘proper job’ – well at least a proper set of qualifications; in truth he didn’t seem to much mind what I did once I had them.

I was greeted, and Peter began a conversation about my future. I said – somewhat predictably – that I was interested in the music industry. He rolled with the punch and countered with, “but of course Mark, it’s the lawyers who make all the money”.

The conversation concluded with an agreement for me to leave stage school and return to more orthodox studies with a view to becoming a lawyer in the music industry. It was obvious – wasn’t it – that I’d have all the glamour of the music world wrapped up with a high paying job and even a ready supply of clients. This was the perfect solution.

Until I discovered that lawyers aren’t that highly paid. And by the time I’d finished law school and qualified all of Peter’s bands were very well represented by really good lawyers who weren’t me.

When Peter moved out I lost touch with him, although I’d occasionally bump into him. The last I heard he was living in a mansion in Holland Park. He certainly got the better end of the financial deal.

But I’ve never regretted being tricked into the law. It has enticed me, challenged me and allowed me to use some of those acting skills learnt at stage school. The situation facing the current crop of graduates can seem bleak, with the fall in training contract numbers and the increasing commoditisation of work in some areas of law, but a career as a media lawyer still offers plenty of opportunities for fun – and will likely continue to do so for those who are persistent and lucky enough to get a foot on the ladder.

Mark Stephens is a leading media lawyer, who has undertaken some of the highest profile cases in this country and abroad. He recently represented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in his extradition proceedings.