I joined the Office in September 2006. Prior to this I worked for 6 years as a private client solicitor at Withers, where I also did my training contract.
Since joining the Office I have worked on the Bills which became the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and the Serious Crime Act 2007. I am currently working on the Health and Social Care Bill. The exposure to so many different areas of law is one of the things that most attracted me to the job of Assistant Parliamentary Counsel.
Working on a Bill involves not only drafting the actual text but also analysing instructions from the relevant Government department, liaising with that department and dealing with Parliamentary procedure. In addition to Bill work, I have been involved in vetting a number of statutory instruments drafted by departmental lawyers.
When you first join the Office, you are obviously on a steep learning curve. Unless you have worked as a departmental lawyer, you will have had no experience of drafting legislation and you may have only a vague idea of how a Bill actually becomes law. But the Office organises a very good set of introductory talks and you work in a team, which offers the support that you need when you are starting off, and as you progress through the Office.
In addition to developing your drafting skills and acquiring knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, a member of the Office also needs to master “Framemaker” (drafting software which is unlike anything you will have used before, but good when you get used to it) and the knack of opening a safe! Something else which can take some getting used to is the fact that for large parts of the day you are likely to be working in your office, by yourself, uninterrupted by the telephone.
I feel very privileged to work for the Office. It is immensely satisfying to have a role to play in the law making process.
After reading law at university, I went on to qualify as a barrister through the slightly unconventional route of completing a pupillage with the Government Legal Service. I practised from DEFRA for two years, first as a prosecutor in the criminal litigation division and then as an advisory lawyer in the animal health and welfare division. It was there that I had my first taste of drafting legislation; much of my work involved drafting statutory instruments that transposed EC agricultural Directives into domestic law.
I joined the OPC in September 2006 and have had a fast-paced but fascinating start. In my first year, I worked on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, as well as the Bills which became the Charities Act 2006 and the Pensions Act 2007. I also vetted a number of statutory instruments which amend primary legislation on topics ranging from small charitable companies to dangerous wild animals. I am currently working in a team of five on a high-profile and politically sensitive Bill concerned with streamlining the planning process for major infrastructure projects.
For me, one of the main attractions of the Office was what you might call the craftsmanship of draftsmanship. Being a creative soul with a particular passion for the written word, the artisanal aspect of the work is certainly satisfying, as is the sheer variety. There is little scope for boredom when grappling with extreme pornography one day and pensions up-rating the next (though it makes for a perilously steep learning curve). But perhaps the most rewarding part of the job is the feeling that what I do sometimes makes a difference. Some of the Bills I have worked on have raised difficult constitutional questions, such as issues of ECHR compatibility. Having the opportunity to get involved in the process of resolving such problems is extremely interesting and (when we succeed) gratifying.
After completing a degree in law and European law, I spent a year working as a research assistant at the Law Commission. I then completed a Masters in Law, and qualified as a barrister in 2004. I practised in a criminal law chambers before joining the OPC as an Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in September 2006.
Since then I have worked on a range of Bills, including the Crossrail Bill and the Bills which became the Legal Services Act 2007 and the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007. It is true that a significant proportion of the work of Parliamentary Counsel involves the drafting of legislation, which in itself presents a great variety of issues and challenges ranging over every conceivable area of law, but there are many other facets to the job.
My work involves helping to shepherd Bills through the Parliamentary process, and in practice Counsel often remain closely involved with a Bill until it receives Royal Assent. In my time at the office I have had to undertake wide ranging legal research, to vet secondary legislation, and generally work closely with Government Departments, analysing and clarifying their instructions. Counsel also occasionally advises the Government on certain legal and constitutional questions.
From the moment I joined the OPC, I found myself involved in every aspect of the work the Office carries out. As an Assistant Parliamentary Counsel I work closely with Senior Counsel, and one of the great strengths of the job is that one learns by doing. I am given the opportunity to comment on all of the drafts produced by Senior Counsel, and in turn they comment on all of the work I do. Whilst there is a great deal to learn, one gains hands-on experience from the first day.
I qualified as a solicitor in 2000. After six years working for a City firm I joined the office in September 2006.
I have worked on Bills that became the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, Statistics and Registration Act 2007 and the Serious Crime Act 2007. I have also worked on a Bill that was published in draft and have vetted subordinate legislation drafted by lawyers in various government departments. The substance of the work is very varied. Each day I find myself looking at a different area of law.
I applied for the job as I was attracted by the intellectual challenge of turning government policy into clear legislative language. In private practice I enjoyed drafting legal documents and was keen to focus on developing drafting skills. There are also other aspects to the job and I have enjoyed these more than I anticipated. For instance, parliamentary counsel advise government departments about parliamentary procedure and draft the procedural motions and documents needed to take a Bill through its parliamentary stages. This advisory and procedural role involves developing different skills to those required for legislative drafting. Further, witnessing the political dynamics surrounding the parliamentary process is fascinating and provides a colourful context in which to carry out the core drafting work. You certainly feel like you are working at the centre of government.
The work is mentally demanding. However, as an assistant parliamentary counsel, I am closely supervised by the senior counsel in my team and the office as a whole provides an excellent support network.
The vast majority of Bills we work on reach the statute book. Seeing the results of your efforts in such a tangible form is extremely rewarding and gives a real sense of achievement.
I studied law at university before qualifying as a barrister. After pupillage, in a common law set of chambers, I spent three years working as a lawyer for the Department of Trade and Industry. Whilst at the DTI I was involved in providing instructions to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in connection with the Civil Partnership Bill and it was during this time that I became interested in the work of the Office.
I joined the Office as an Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in September 2006. Since that time I have worked on the Bills which became the Armed Forces Act 2006 and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and on the Children and Young Persons Bill.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the job is analysing and clarifying the department's policy and coming up with draft provisions that achieve the intended outcome in a clear way. It is particularly interesting to try to draft provisions that cater for a range of different situations, rather than simply applying existing legislation to a given set of facts.