Ashurst PDL is the cat’s whiskers with prize-winning second career as children’s author

Some might say that being a ­professional development lawyer (PDL) at a top firm is the perfect training ground if you want to understand the mindset of a child.

Some might say that being a ­professional development lawyer (PDL) at a top firm is the perfect training ground if you want to understand the mindset of a child.

The job of handling the whims, tears and tantrums of pampered partners has been described as the City’s equivalent to a primary teaching post.

It might come as no surprise, then, that Ashurst technol­ogy and communication group PDL Inbali Iserles has forged a second career as a prize-winning children’s author.

Iserles’ first book, The Tygrine Cat, was published by Walker Books in 2007 and went on to win the Calderdale Children’s Book prize. Iserles has since written a ­second book, while a follow-up to The Tygrine Cat – The Tygrine Cat On The Run – is coming out in January 2011.

But Israeli-born Iserles never imagined her fertile imagination would one day lead her to divide her time between the literary and legal worlds.

The genesis of her alternative career came when she was left ­trying to entertain “a slightly ­garrulous child” at her parents’ home one Sunday. She read a book about different breeds of cat and the idea of a story about ­warring feline tribes began to take seed.

“I never had it in my mind that I’d ever get published,” she admits. “At the time I thought, ’Here’s an interesting thing that’s popped into my head’, but it stayed there.”
She spent three years working on the book before eventually ­finding a publisher and landing a deal. A second book was commissioned, at which point Iserles began working part-time at Ashurst.

She now works three days a week at the firm – “they’ve been amazingly supportive” – while spending the rest of her week ­writing and researching. But despite her success, her priorities are clear.

“I’m definitely a lawyer who enjoys writing books, not the other way round,” she insists. “I wouldn’t give up the law; apart from anything else, it keeps me sane.”

Marrying the fantasy worlds she creates with the rigour of the legal profession might seem like a dif­ficult trick to pull off. Not so, according to Iserles, who manages to see parallels between the two.

Inbali Iserles
Inbali Iserles

“There’s a somewhat pedantic love of words that you need in both,” she explains. “We want ­contracts to be elegant, precise and also beautiful in their way. We want to be understood, and that’s at the heart of writing.”

Iserles’ second book, The Bloodstone Bird, is about a boy who is sent to a new school, where he has trouble fitting in and ­discovers a magical world hidden among ­London’s backstreets. It draws on some of her own ­memories of a childhood spent moving between Israel, England and Arizona.

“There are so many different groups at school and it can be intimidating but also fascinating,” she says of her formative ­experiences. “It’s like a law firm – it’s interesting if you like to observe human behaviour.”

Iserles herself is clearly a keen student of humanity and enjoys challenging people’s preconceptions. “I’ve been to parties where people get excited when I say I’m a writer and then disappointed when I tell them I’m also a lawyer,” she jokes. “Then there are others who think I must be some strange bohemian and are reassured when I say I’m a lawyer.

“People like to categorise, but human beings are actually more complicated than that.”

Iserles says she has several new projects in the offing, and not all of them aimed at children. Given her ability to relate to them, another surprise is that she has no children, nieces or nephews of her own.

“Other [children’s] writers often have kids or families to entertain with stories, but I don’t,” she says. “I just come up with them to entertain myself.”