To be or not to be?
18 August 2010
We’re all heartily sick of hearing about the intense competition for training contracts aren’t we? The latest figures I have seen show that in 2007-2008 there were 6,303 training contracts registered and 7,606 LPC passes.
I confess here and now that my first reaction was that I liked those odds. Before you write me off as a hopeless crank let me explain. I used to be a professional actor, and no, before you ask, you won’t have “seen me in anything”. That’s why I’m no longer an actor. I did work almost continually, only not on any Hollywood blockbusters.
At any one time over 90 per cent of equity (the actor’s union) members are out of work. For every acting role on offer there are probably over a thousandaspiring luvvies desperate to fill it. So for me the odds of about 7/6 look pretty attractive. Of course there has been a downturn and there are now more of us after fewer places but even so I’m still very optimistic.
It’s true that the competition is stiffer than it used to be and in times like these we’re all looking for an edge, an angle, something that sets us apart from the rest of the herd. I have been dredging through my past experiences for anything that could be useful and naturally I’ve been considering my thespian past. When I started the CPE (law conversion course), I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but what flavour? I considered the bar. I’d been an actor, after all. I loved the sense of theatre that attends a barrister’s life; the wig, the gown, the speeches, the drama. But I love variety and it seemed to me that a solicitor has a far more varied range of work. Talking to counsel after a case one day I asked his advice. He gave it (and for free) and it was “become a solicitor. You can still do advocacy, apply for higher rights of audience, you can even wear a wig.”
So solicitor it is, but what skills can I transport from my actor’s life? I was surprised by just how many I though of. Here are just a few:
NETWORKING: As an actor you will be self-employed and even if you have an agent (as I did) you will still need to do an incredible amount of networking. This was something that I hated doing initially, but as time went on I discovered that I had a real skill for it. Law firms are looking for people who can generate and develop useful contacts in order to bring work into the firm.
IMPROVISATION: Thinking on your feet is a skill that all actors need especially when performing on stage. The unexpected can, and will happen. Dealing with a fellow actor missing a whole page of script, keeping your concentration and picking up the threads is something you will have to do. As a solicitor you will often have to rise to unexpected challenges. If you can do it with panache, then so much the better.
COMMUNICATION SKILLS: Acting is all about communication. Getting ideas across effectively, being persuasive, and being clear and unambiguous. This skill is an absolute mustfor a solicitor.
NEGOTIATION: If you can improvise, keep calm, and communicate well, then negotiation will be that much easier. What solicitor will not have to negotiate effectively?
COMMERCIAL AWARENESS: As an actor you are effectively running your own business. That involves marketing, negotiating contracts, accounts, forward planning, identifying alternative work, diversifying and constant appraisal of the market among so many other things.
I could go on but I’m sure you get the idea. It doesn’t matter what your past experience is. There are skills that you will have acquired that will put you in good stead in getting that training contract. So make yourself a cup of tea, put your thinking cap on and see what you can come up with.