Paralegal Helen Newman has recently published an article about her research in our student research journal Fields. We caught up with her for a chat about her work and her experiences getting published.
I am not a writer, not really. I am a case loaded paralegal working for a specialist criminal practice. I may write the occasional blog post for work based upon cases I have managed but for the most part my writing is restricted to Briefs to counsel, Statements and Letters with the occasional Application to court. I returned to University as a mature student to do the Graduate Diploma in Law – urged to do so by my employer and family – so getting my head around writing from an academic perspective was a challenge in itself. The article on prenuptial agreements is based upon my dissertation on the same subject. I have to admit that my choice of dissertation subject was guided by my desire to structure my study – this felt like a topic I could remain focused on – unlike something like medical negligence where I feared I could end up going off on a tangent. Working in a criminal practice I had no involvement in family law to be aware of the increasing desire of parties to protect their assets ahead of marriage and very much thought of ‘pre-nups’ as something for the rich and famous, for celebrities, but as I researched the subject I was fascinated to discover the popularity of them across Europe and found I really got into the topic. It did seem nonsensical that business partners can sign a contract but life partners couldn’t, or rather that the court would consider them differently.
My research involved me becoming familiar with a new area of law, and a new style of writing. In Criminal practice I may read a few articles but the focus is more on court judgements, so I had to get used to reading family law journals and books on the subject – often with quite political undertones. It was interesting to have the opportunity to consider different viewpoints on the same case – though in many ways it appeared that the judgement itself was welcomed, more that the authors differed on the difference it would actually make going forward. I had also never had to read government white papers before – this in itself was an experience – as there seemed to be several all saying the same thing for much of the papers. Nor was I used to things being so open at the end of a matter – in the criminal law a higher court gives its ruling and that stands until challenged – this was about investigating the possibility of a required change to the law – with the final outcome seeming to be that there was no actual outcome and that further consultation may be needed in the future.
The opportunity to develop my dissertation into an article for publication was an exciting, if not daunting, one. Not only did it require a different style of writing, free of legal jargon, but it also needed me to expand upon some areas whilst removing others as I still had a word count limit! It was a brilliant experience, especially having the copywriter’s feedback to highlight where I needed to make things clearer. I would certainly urge anyone who is given this opportunity to go for it!
Read Helen’s article in Volume 3 of Fields