Case study

Working for the Parliamentary Counsel: Justin Leslie

Justin Leslie shares his experiences working for the Parliamentary Counsel.

Justin Leslie
Justin Leslie from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

I joined the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) at the end of 2014. After being called to the Bar in 2011, I spent a few years in chambers doing a range of civil and public law work. I had previously come across Parliamentary Counsel whilst working at the Law Commission, so when I saw the job advert I investigated it further and it greatly appealed to me. I have now been at OPC for almost 2 years, and whilst there is a steep learning curve the experience of creating law is great fun.

Here are some qualities you need to enjoy working here:

First, you need to enjoy doing puzzles. Drafting legislation is rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle where you are having to fit various policy pieces into the overall structure of a bill – and each policy piece will usually represent a little puzzle in its own right. Solving these puzzles is challenging and requires equal amounts of legal analysis and creativity.

Second, clarity must inform everything you do. The provisions we draft must be as clear as possible. This involves cutting through legal issues to find the central issues that require legislation to deliver the policy. The ability to clearly explain how your provisions operate is important so that clients are helped to understand what we have produced.

Third, a capacity to work hard and maintain high standards is needed for tough deadlines. We are often asked to draft bills quickly and it is a point of pride that OPC never miss deadlines. This makes the job not for the faint hearted but it can be very exciting to be working flat-out on a bill just prior to introducing it to Parliament.

Fourth, we work on all areas of law so it is important to be interested in law in general. Fortunately, we are assisted by our client departments on this and over time it become easier to pick up subjects quickly.

Fifth, it is important to be humble about the work you produce. Ours is to produce provisions of the highest quality. So, it is highly likely that your work will be re-drafted before it is included in a bill. This only occurs after a conversation with a more senior counsel, during which drafts will be compared and tested. You must be willing to embrace this process and use each experience as an opportunity to learn.

It is a real privilege to be responsible for creating law but the job is always challenging. However, new entrants to OPC are given a great deal of advice and support as part of their training. It can feel like a long process but this is a job that requires you to commit to becoming the best drafter you can be.

Published 13 June 2016