Writing for a lifetime

My 14 year old, midlife career change

I knew long before we moved to Israel that it would mean many changes to both our lives, as a family, as well as to my life in particular. One of the more significant changes has been to my career and, interestingly, it has probably been one of the easiest adjustments I have had to make.

You probably know that I am a lawyer by education and training. I took the Bachelor of Arts route with majors in Philosophy and Law and then went straight into a Bachelor of Laws degree. From there my career path was relatively typical. I started articles at a law firm (I was fortunate to have articles at a large South African law firm), was admitted as an attorney in 2001 and worked as an lawyer in one form or another for almost 14 years.

The type of work I did changed over the years. When I started out I was a commercial litigator and slowly took over and expanded a long term insurance litigation practice. When I left my first firm my work became more commercial or contract driven. Eventually I focused more on digital media and digital marketing.

Law is part of and is embedded into our cultural code

One of the aspects of my work that appealed most to me in the last few years of my career as a lawyer was working with the language in the contracts I worked on. I love the idea of law as code and that idea shaped my approach to how I wrote contracts and policy documents. It also inspired me to change how I structured contracts (much to the confusion of a few lawyers who were baffled by my willingness to change how contracts are structured).

I thought about my approach to legal writing as something which developed in the last few years but as I think back, that approach probably has its origins in high school English classes. No, I didn’t write contracts back then but I did experiment with paragraph structure in my creative writing classes. Those classes were my favourite and my teacher was enormously supportive. I’m tempted to think that my love for writing and reading started then but it probably goes back even further before high school. The point is, writing and experimenting with my writing started early and I just found a way to bring that into legal practice.

As our departure for Israel drew closer, I thought more about what I would do to earn money in Israel. I was pretty happy to return to employment and a salary (being an entrepreneur wasn’t particularly easy for me — at least not the business side) and the question was what I would do?

A friend of ours gave us some great advice about our imminent job hunt. She told us we should be open to “a job” and not go after “the job”. Our first priority should be to find work, earn a salary and settle in. The perfect job could wait a little while. For me that meant being open to returning to a more formal law firm environment as well as changing my career and moving into digital marketing (which I had been thinking about for a year or two).

As it turned out, there is a lot of work available for job seekers in the advertising and marketing industry. I started looking out for options in law as well as in digital advertising and marketing and when I received offers to start a new career in advertising and marketing, it wasn’t difficult to accept one and begin my new career. Well, in a sense.

Switching from being a lawyer to being a “Content Marketing Specialist” is certainly a career change. I basically started in a fairly junior role with what I picked up about digital marketing from my work as a specialist lawyer advising digital marketers and advertisers and started learning. A big part of my new role is writing and, although my role is new, it feels like I’ve been a writer for quite some time.

My professional life in South Africa probably helped me become a better writer with a fairly strong focus on language in my professional writing. That said, the more I think about it, I wonder when I made the bigger career change? Was it my switch to content marketing here in Israel in 2015 or was it really my decision to become a lawyer back in 1999? What was I first? A writer or a lawyer?

Perhaps my real career shift was moving away from my nascent writing career and becoming a lawyer. My inner writer has been fighting for more attention in the decade and a half that followed. This year, he finally stepped out and got to work, full-time.