Monday, November 2, 2009

My Introduction to '101 Ways to Leave the Law' by Alex Steuart Williams

I've already mentioned Alex Steuart Williams' excellent book 101 Ways to Leave the Law. The following is the introduction I wrote for the book.

The author John Grisham was once asked, “In your years as a lawyer, what was the most satisfying thing about the law?” to which he replied simply: “Getting out of it.” It’s a typical lawyer’s answer and it captures the dark humour with which many of us regard our own profession. Highly motivated intelligent people poring over sub-clauses and skeleton arguments wishing they were any place but there. A beach perhaps, or the top of a mountain, or tending their garden, or kicking back watching the cricket on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Anywhere but the hothouse which is the law. Where time is a commodity and justice seems like the preserve of fiction.

Or that’s how they’d have you believe it if you heard them in the bar after a few drinks. Yet they rarely leave - or even come close to leaving - blaming the mortgage or the school fees and the like. Perhaps the reality is that, despite it all, most lawyers like being lawyers. It might be the money, or the sense of belonging to a recognised profession or institution. It might be the thrill of the chase. Getting the bit between your teeth and fighting your corner on behalf of the client. Or it might even be trying to do some good in the world. I mean, hey, let’s not push the boat out and all, but just maybe.

All of which has been wonderfully captured in this book. The daydreams of telling the boss exactly what you think and throwing all the years of hard work down the drain in a moment of liberating honesty. The fantasy of truly chucking it all in and going out and doing something less boring instead. In this book, anything goes. There are no restrictions and the liberated lawyer is given free rein. The imagination can run wild and the result is an hilarious collection of cartoons which encapsulate the ultimate fantasy not only of many lawyers but of anyone who has ever worked in an office. This is the brilliant Alex Steuart Williams at his very best and it is a privilege to introduce this book.