Ex-Lovells lawyer embarks on a career in journalism and writing
See here for an update on Andy - UPDATE: Andy Sloan
This week we spoke to Andy Sloan, who has just left Lovells at about two years’ pqe to move into sports journalism and writing. We asked him why he wanted to change career and how he plans to go about doing it. We will speak to him again further down the line to see how it’s going, how reality compares to his expectations and to ask him for his advice with the benefit of hindsight.
mtl: Hi Andy, you have a big smile on your face! Tell us about your legal background first...
Andy: I did a law degree and when the big firms came to my university, I followed the herd and applied for training contracts in the City. The security of having one meant that I could get a loan to travel for a year on graduation. I ended up writing a book about my trip, which basically involved hauling a table-football table overland from London to Japan in time for the 2002 World Cup - with various weird and wonderful meetings along the way. This experience, and my many brushes with the media as a result of it, made it very hard to come back to London and start work as a lawyer.
My training contract included seats in corporate, IP, competition (in Brussels) and property. I was never a fan of the long hours, particularly as I have lots of outside interests, and at times, mostly during my corporate seat, I thought that I probably wouldn’t stay on qualification. However, I found that I enjoyed the culture, responsibility and client contact in the property department, so I decided to join the team.
Law, University of Bristol
Travelled overland from London to Japan, with a football table.
Writing book – “23 Sweet FA’s” (one year) and touting / re-writing it (two years)
Assistant, property, Lovells
23 Sweet FAs published
Left Lovells to pursue career in sports journalism and writing
During unpaid leave on qualification, I went on a big climbing trip to Cho Oyu in Nepal and again was tempted not to come back. This was because I met the organiser of a unique Everest expedition and he offered me a place on the trip that he was planning. Obviously I did return to London though and actually started qualified life in high spirits. I worked in an excellent team with a great boss (mtl: click here for a link to his great boss!) and have had a good couple of years doing interesting work there. Working at Lovells has enabled me to pay off my student debts, get a professional qualification, have a leading law firm on my CV, save for my career change and the experience has also opened doors for me to get into journalism.
mtl: It sounds like you had a good experience doing law. What happened to make you want to leave?
Andy: It was a very good set-up but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew that I would move away from law at some point. Writing and sport have always both been big loves for me. Of course I could have left them as hobbies that I did in my spare time outside of work. However it was too tempting to try to do what I enjoy doing all of the time, rather than waiting until retirement and spending years regretting missed opportunities in the meantime.
My aim on qualification was to stay as long as it took to get my first book published and then to think about making the switch to writing. ’23 Sweet FAs’ was published in May 2006 but I wasn’t ready for the change and was on to too much of a good thing with Lovells to make an early departure. So I sought to slowly build up my experience in sports journalism, while remaining employed.
I have therefore spent the last year doing football reporting and minute-by-minute match updates for Eurosport’s online operations as well as writing freelance pieces and building up contacts. Conscious of reaching the two years PQE watershed, and in a much better position having got some relevant work experience on my CV, I finally handed in my notice in February 2007 and left Lovells in June 2007.
mtl: So what’s next for you?
Andy: I start a diploma in newspaper journalism in September 2007 at Cardiff University. Along with City University, it is one of the most respected and recommended places to study it. The course is full-time for one academic year until June 2008. In June 2008 my second book gets under way. I am heading for the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. From there I am driving overland for six months in a truck with a group of friends. We are heading down the west coast of Africa to South Africa, the home of the 2010 World Cup.
There is a charity angle to the trip which involves donating footballs to schools and aid projects en-route. We will have largely lined them up in advance through each country’s Football Association and we will also call in on each of the FAs along the way. Our plan is to get off the beaten track in each country, interviewing important, unimportant and random people as we go, with the ideal end goal being to meet Nelson Mandela (to get his thoughts on the odds of England yet again failing to impress in a major tournament, among other more serious issues…). This will all be the subject of my next book (working title: “Balls to Africa”).
When I get back from South Africa at the end of 2008, I will use my journalism course to try to get a job with a newspaper as a sports journalist and will write up my book, for publication by Christmas 2009. I am spending the summer of 2007 researching the trip, trying to get sponsorship and building up a network of contacts in the African football world. The same theory applies to this book as to my last i.e. that it is inherently a travel book and I will be giving an insight into each country through the medium of football. A rounded view as it were…
I am not expecting much (if any) financial reward from the second book. But if it goes well then it’ll prompt some more sales of the first one, hopefully open doors for a third one and, who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to afford to just watch football and write books. In the meantime the plan is for the journalism to pay the bills.
mtl: You sound like you have it all planned. Do you have any concerns about what’s in store?
Andy: After my journalism course I will be disappearing off for six months to Africa, which isn’t ideal given that I should be trying to find a job rather than cavorting across continents. I am hoping to secure funding for the trip as soon as possible so that I know it is viable. I have been saving furiously and have enough money to pay for my journalism course and my living expenses in Cardiff, but after that I’m into the unknown.
I am bound to face periods of stress and worry and long hours too in journalism, but there’s a difference when it comes to doing something you would do for free - a passion. Once I got the contract with Virgin Books I spent many late nights and early mornings editing the final drafts but was perfectly happy. Had I been in a data room till 4am instead, well, that’s another story.
Obviously my income will be an issue in the future, particularly because I am heading down a very competitive road. You’d laugh if I told you how much I get for each book and journalists’ salaries don’t quite match those of a City lawyer. However, in the short term I will be living in Cardiff, which will be much cheaper than London and I will be able to do the things I love more easily, such as climbing and fell running.
In the long-term I may not have a very high standard of living in terms of material goods, but I’ve never been one for a fancy lifestyle anyhow and am used to and prepared for that. It’s a simple trade off: e.g. holidays in Europe rather than further afield, but the remaining 330 days a year spent doing what I enjoy. There is also the possibility (that you can’t get in the salaried world) of it all taking off, with the sky being the limit, and if it doesn’t I’ll still have had a great time.
My quality of life will be better than it is now because I will really enjoy what I’m doing and won’t be working City hours. I also want a family in the future and I want to see them. It’s a lifestyle choice and I am very excited about setting out to do what I have always wanted to do. I am also very excited about football becoming work-related. I can now tell my better half that Match of the Day is officially work. It raised a smile in any event.
mtl: Do you have any tips for someone thinking of a similar move?
Andy: Go for it. If you don’t do it you might regret it. If you do it and you don’t like it, or it doesn’t pan out, then you can always go back to law. Life is too short not to try other things. Give your ideas a whirl while you can. Think ahead to the end of your career and how you’d feel looking back. The idea of 30 years in law didn’t inspire me, despite the (large but effectively capped) financial rewards. It’s an excellent profession but I wanted to do something more creative. You will know you have made the right decision when you tell people your plans and they look genuinely excited for you. It’s a very satisfying feeling to utter the words “living the dream” outside the context of sarcasm following a late night looking at leases. I’m not there yet, but I’ve taken the first step.
Journalism is very experience driven, so if you are interested in doing it then start writing rather than just saying you want to - even if it is just a review of your holiday. My work at Eurosport has been great experience for me and it was paid too, which was a bonus. It was hard doing it on top of a legal job though, as sometimes I would be working two evenings a week for them and having to get to Lovells early to be able to leave promptly.
Email editors with ideas for pieces or send them articles that you have written or reviews of events that you have been to. Set up a blog as a showcase for your writing. Basically just try and build up your freelance work. Nine times out of ten you will be ignored but eventually you will get somewhere. Whatever it is you want to do, do your research, stop procrastinating, get the relevant experience and give it a crack. Too many people talk about their ideas without ever actually trying them.
mtl: How did Lovells react to your departure?
I am leaving Lovells on good terms, particularly because I am not going to a competitor. They have been very supportive of my last book and my boss has given numerous copies to his clients. The decision to resign is not as hard as the act of resignation itself though. I was very worried that I would be seen to be letting the team down and I felt bad as I got on very well with my boss.
Fortunately they recognised that my passions lay elsewhere and so I went with their blessing and an open door should I have a change of heart. I was lucky in that I worked in a good team but I know others who feel a bizarre loyalty to their firms which wouldn’t be reciprocated were the market to slump; something to bear in mind. I’m sad to leave behind a lot of good friends and colleagues but I know that each morning over the summer when I open my eyes there is going to be a wee smile of excitement at the priceless prospect of living the dream.
mtl: Good luck Andy! We wish you well and look forward to talking to you again to find out about your life after law.
For jobs in journalism and articles about getting into journalism, click here.
To see our review of Andy’s first book, please click here.
To buy a copy of Andy’s first book please click here.
Click here to see Andy’s website.
Please get in touch with Andy here if you are interested in donating footballs for his African trip or if you have any contacts in the football world in Africa.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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