• Sardonic Solicitor


Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Photo by vadim kaipov on Unsplash

I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos over lockdown. Prior to lockdown, I would only enjoy the occasional video on YouTube. I would catch up on US late-night satirical political and comedy shows. The likes of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, A Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the late-night show with Seth Myers were firm favourites.

During lockdown, I spent a lot more time on the weekends and evenings watching YouTube. I became slightly addicted to tech review videos. Initially, it was looking for ideas for much-needed upgrades to my home office set-up. The tech inspirations improved my home-working experience. Then I got hooked on tech reviews more generally. I enjoyed YouTubers like MKBHD with Marques Brownlee, Unbox Therapy, and Jeremy Siers.

Jeremy is the antithesis of me in every imaginable way. But I enjoy watching his channel. He is a 40 something American who lives in Florida with his wife and kids. He has a Southern drawl that makes his videos easy listening. He completes his rustic DIY look with a long lumberjack’s beard and is heavily tattooed. He does funny segments on "man-shit" which include making custom wooden desktops, smoking cigars, and drinking bourbon. I’m useless at DIY and don't smoke but he had me at bourbon. Although I’m a square English lawyer on the other side of the world to Jeremy, there is something about that bearded tattooed dude that I find engaging. He's warm, genuine, and funny.

Lately, I have moved onto watching a few creators specialising in photography and filmmaking on YouTube. Guys like Peter McKinnon and his mate, Matti Haapoja in Canada. Plus, chaps like Casey Neistat and Matt D'Avella in the US. I have watched tons of Peter McKinnon in particular.

There is a theme that runs through the experiences of all these creators. They all started off in other walks of life. They had their passions for tech, photography, filmmaking, or just bourbon. Each of them took the decision to embrace their passions and follow that direction of travel. They made the bold decision to quit their day jobs and embark on potentially risky careers on YouTube. That wasn't a career option when I was growing up. However, for many millennials or generation Z (or "Gen Z") it is not an uncommon aspiration.

YouTube was only founded in 2005. It would not get any real traction globally until a couple of years later. During that time, I had finished my training contract and later qualified as a solicitor. I don't recall knowing much about YouTube. The concept of a "YouTuber" was completely alien to me.

These days, being a bit of an old stick in the mud myself, it was my son who first introduced me to YouTubers. From a young age, he watched YouTubers like Unspeakable who played Minecraft online. Unspeakable was the talk of all the kids at my son’s primary school. Unspeakable, was a teenager (now in his early 20s) from Texas. He is now a multi-millionaire having shot to fame playing and streaming his Minecraft games with friends online. He later branched out to vlogging and setting up an online "merch" store. I even bought my son some of his merch as a birthday present. My perception was that he only had a niche following with my son and some of his classmates. However, the broader appeal soon became apparent. We were enjoying a family trip to the Zoo when a kid nudged his brother upon seeing my son’s Unspeakable t-shirt and cap blurting out: "oh wow, that's from Unspeakable!".

That demonstrates the power and popularity of YouTube, YouTubers, and content creators in general. It also made me reflect on myself. I followed a very traditional, tried, and tested route in life: school, university, and professional career. On the journey, I never embraced any form of creativity. I am not particularly musical, artistic, or sporty. I followed a less creative path in the humanities, enjoying subjects like English, history, and philosophy before reading law at university.

Following the tried and tested path. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I think I would have enjoyed photography. But it is an expensive hobby to which I had very limited exposure as a kid. Although, in later years, I do remember buying my first digital camera with my bonus as a first-year trainee. It was a small and basic Canon digital camera with a whopping 2.5-megapixels. That is laughable by today's standards, most smartphones have better cameras. Even my five-year-old iPhone 7 has a 12-megapixel camera.

A key thought that keeps coming back to me. I reflect on how much of my days over the years, since qualifying as a lawyer, have been spent working. I work, work, work. Contracts, contracts, contracts. Whilst I am grateful for the opportunities that my career has provided for me and my family. I don't have the ability to express much creativity in my line of work. Although my day job can be varied, as no two days are alike; corporate law is not exactly the bastion of creativity. I do enjoy the problem-solving aspects of getting a deal done. I also relish the pure legal drafting part of the job. Ironically, as you progress in your career contract drafting (which is a real skill) becomes less and less a part of the job. It tends to get delegated to junior lawyers. I mainly check and amend their work. I spend a disproportionate amount of my day dealing with emails. Responding to clients, giving quick advice on a variety of project issues, liaising with fellow consultants on major projects.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

The other laborious parts of the day are taken up by admin. The types of admin are many and all equally dull whether billing, compliance, client opening, marketing, business development, HR, or office issues. I spent a couple of hours this week trying to secure a faster internet speed connection for the office. The dizzying heights of corporate law!

The job has become a grind. The daily grind can be numbing. The admin and compliance part of the job is not exactly the reason that I went to law school. My career helps me provide for my family, put food on the table, and prepare for my son’s future. Whilst I am grateful for all of that I cannot help but feel that it does not provide me, or many people, with any creative fulfillment. That is something that I can accept as I had a fair idea of what to expect in a career in corporate law. But I was young, naive, and completely underestimated the amount of my life that would be taken up by work. Work can sap all your energy. In my free time, I would love to find a creative outlet. Instead, I just end up sitting on my backside watching YouTube videos. That is something I am keen to redress.

Whilst I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, about to embark on a career as a YouTuber; watching some of my favourite creators on YouTube has given me the encouragement I needed to return to this blog. I hope that you too can embrace your creative side. It can be very rewarding, even if you don’t set up your own “merch” store.
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