Linguistics Jobs: Interview with a Legislative Drafter
This month’s interview is specifically about the field of law, and how Marian found a niche within this larger industry that lets her engage with language in a very real way. Even if you’re not interested in law specifically, this provides a really nice illustration of the fact that there are many fields of work that have a specific subset of jobs and careers that might be more in line with your interests!
What did you study at university?
My undergraduate degree was in Language and Linguistics from Queen's University (Canada). I took linguistics courses and also studied Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. After undergrad, I went to law school at the University of Victoria, then articled and was called to the bar in British Columbia. I am now a legislative drafter, although my official job title is "Legislative Counsel".
As legislative counsel, I write and provide legal advice about legislation. Ministries give instructions about their policy (eg. make a new program to provide X, change the appeal process for Y, expand the people eligible for this benefit), and I draft the bill, regulation or order that will give effect to that policy. My job is to find the most accurate, clearest, and most concise way of saying something. I also have to consider the legal effect of what I'm writing. It's challenging but fun. Basically, I get to play with words and logic puzzles all day.
How does your linguistics training help you in your job?
I think that my linguistics training probably helps me with clear writing: a foundation in syntax helps me understand the different parts of a legislative sentence and look out for potential ambiguity. But more than anything, I think it's the underlying love of language that drew me to linguistics that makes legislative drafting such a good fit.
Do you have any advice that you wish someone had given to you about linguistics/careers/university?
My advice would be to consider this career if you love linguistics and are also in law. Although I also enjoyed litigation and solicitor work, I wish I had known sooner that legislative drafting was a career option. For someone who loves language and linguistics but then goes on to study law, it's an ideal combination. I remember having that "these are my people!" feeling in my undergraduate linguistics program, and I have that feeling again now.
Any other thoughts or comments?
If you're not planning on going into law but are drawn to the idea of working with legislation, you could also go into legislative editing. Legislative editors edit the regulations, bills and orders that we draft - they can turn something mediocre into something great. If you love language and have an eye for detail, you would probably enjoy legislative editing.