What do law, UX writing, and Harry Potter all have in common? More than you’d think. I’ll be digging deep to tell you how I moved from the legal profession to UX writing with Albus Dumbledore’s help.
Let’s start at the beginning. At the tender age of 18, I worked in a customer service role wondering what to do with my life. I didn’t enjoy my job and was ready for a change. At the time, my friend was training to become a lawyer and said I should look into it. So, I did. I realized my knowledge about the law was limited to TV police dramas I’d watched coupled with bits I’d read on the news.
So, I looked into the legal world and decided I wanted to give it a go. I got accepted on a part-time law degree course and landed my first job as a legal assistant. I helped prepare documents and get cases in a good position to go to court. I loved it.
I got promoted and went on to interview witnesses and write statements, analyze evidence and prepare cases for court hearings. This is where I learned to write well, empathize, and actively listen on a level that, unbeknown to me at the time, set me up for my future career as a UX writer.
Law can be magical
Law exists to remedy problems people have in life. Lawyers help people navigate the knotty mangrove of statutes, cases, and legal precedent to help get them the best possible outcome. The most fascinating part of the law for me was how it was created in the UK.
Without giving you a full-blown law lesson, in the UK, politicians create legislation, and then judges use this in the court system. To me, judges are like magicians, because they can bend and interpret the words written in the law in ways that exist outside of their literal meaning. In doing this, they create a new type of law called case law. To me, this was magic. Cue, Harry Potter.
Some of my absolute favorite books and films are part of the Harry Potter series. As a child, they captured my imagination and brought a sense of wonder I’d never experienced. Let’s be honest…magic is cool. And this was embodied best by Albus Dumbledore, the warm yet steely-faced headmaster of Hogwarts. A quote he said that stuck with me throughout my life is worth writing out in full:
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.
It made perfect sense to me. My career in law was all about using words and evidence to help remedy everything from inconvenience to deep suffering and injustice. I also saw words ruin people’s careers, reputations, and lives. Being able to help others had always been something I cared about. To do this with words was where I felt capable of making magic happen. Enter: UX writing.
I’d hit a point in my legal career where I realized I hadn’t found that thing I really, really wanted to do. So, I decided to look around and see what I’d enjoy with the skills I’d acquired. After a lot of thinking, it dawned on me that, as a legal professional, I had the skills of a mini UX team. Research, writing, project management, problem-solving, stakeholder management, and a people-first approach.
When I found UX writing, it was a lightbulb moment. Aha! I learned everything I could about the field, and the more I did, the more I knew I wanted to be a UX writer. I completed UXCC’s UX Writing Fundamentals course and read every book, article, and post I could. With the guidance of experienced content design leaders (Mario Ferrer, Sergio Valero, and Helena Feliu), I landed my first gig as a freelance UX writer.
Enter the Chamber of Secrets
I’ll let you into a secret. I didn’t disown my career in law because I wasn’t trained in UX or communications. Everything I did in my legal career helped me become a UX writer and gave me the skills to succeed in it. One of the best bits of advice I can give you is to leverage your skills in your current role. You’re likely already doing so much that you can apply to UX writing.
The most important skills I gained from my legal career are empathy and problem-solving. Not writing. Don’t get me wrong, having strong writing abilities is important but it’s not what makes UX writing valuable. It’s our ability to break down complex problems and provide solutions to them while empathizing with our users.
If you can do this, you’ll set yourself up for success as a UX writer. I can’t wait to see what you conjure up.
Connor Malone is a freelance UX writer at Duit Studio. Connect on LinkedIn!