Lots of lawyers spend their time attacking or defending the law, but Parliamentary Counsel create it. So, if you want a job that is primarily creative, drafting legislation may be for you. It’s hard work. The intellectual challenges are formidable. But it’s also immensely rewarding.
I came to this role via a relatively unusual route. I joined the Home Office as a policy official when I left university. My first major job was working on a very controversial piece of legislation. I saw how exciting the legislative process can be. I also saw the unparalleled professionalism of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Inspired by this experience of legislation, I studied law part-time, qualified as a barrister and spent about a year in private practice. Although litigation can be fun, I missed legislation. So I returned to the civil service and to the Home Office as an advisory lawyer, before deciding to specialise in drafting primary legislation.
This job is without doubt the hardest I’ve done. The concentration, levels of analysis and attention to detail which the role requires are at times frightening. You have to get to grips with how the law currently works and understand what the government wants to achieve by changing it. You play a key role in challenging and improving policy. Only then can you begin thinking about drafting. And don’t expect to get the drafting right first time. Creating legislation is an iterative process: lots of little steps, some of them backwards, before you eventually find something that – you hope – will work. But when you find a solution to a problem, or see an elegant way of avoiding it altogether, you feel as if you’ve really achieved something.
In the same way that producing a draft takes time, it also takes time to produce a drafter. This office supports new recruits through their initial training and then through years of development. There is no end product. Members of the office become highly skilled, but they continue to refine their skills throughout their careers. And that, perhaps, is what really makes the job attractive: you’ll never feel that you’ve cracked it, you’ll never stop learning.