MY BIGGEST mistake was to heed my father's career advice when I was young. I was tremendously keen on the theatre at the time, and was tied up with a little group called Shipley Young Theatre. We put on classic plays like Romeo and Juliet and A Doll's House, which we thought we were performing brilliantly (we were probably appalling).
I can still remember the scene when, at the age of 15, I told my father I wanted to make a career of the theatre.
'Ridiculous,' he said. 'You'd better go and be a solicitor.' In those days, one tended to listen to what one's father said, so that's what I decided to be.
Shortly after I qualified, I joined the Army and spent a year in charge of Army legal aid in Hong Kong. It wasn't terribly demanding, but it gave me some opportunities to do what I wanted, such as performing with the Hong Kong Stage Club.
I also did an enormous amount for Radio Hong Kong, which was just starting up and needed people badly. I had a weekly book review, a disc-jockey slot, wrote and acted in plays, and so on.
I realised I had made a mistake when I was still in my twenties. I felt it more so then than later on, when I had the chance to spread my wings and do more creative work.
For the first five years of my career back in the UK, when I was an advocate (which is a form of theatre), I used to be in one magistrates' court, more or less, from 10.30am on a Monday to 5pm on a Friday. During that time, I worked on every kind of case imaginable, until one morning when I can remember very distinctly waking up and thinking: 'I never want to go into that place again.' I loathed the atmosphere . . . the repetitive work.
I resolved that it had to stop. The first thing I did was to double my fees, which I thought would turn clients away splendidly. Of course, it didn't at all; it encouraged them. In fact, it proved very difficult to extricate myself.
Since I could not make a career of the theatre, I was determined to bring the theatre into my career. Even in a relatively staid profession such as mine, it is possible to find opportunities to be creative - clothing concepts in words as we do.
The most creative work I have have done as a solicitor is to draft complex legal documents: one set of shopping-centre agreements took three of us three years. I still draft legislation for beautiful places like St Lucia, Nevis and Mauritius.
But one of my colleagues from those early days in the Shipley Young Theatre - the late Tony Richardson - went on to have tremendous success both in the theatre and in Hollywood.
The fact that I never made a career of the theatre is my only regret and certainly my biggest mistake. I suspect my father knew that, though I don't think it really troubled him. It's not as if I have cried myself to sleep every night - I continue to have a fascinating career in law - but what I learnt from that mistake is that if you are passionate about something when you are young, there is a case for rebelling against doing what you are told.
By the time you have responsibilities, such as a wife and children, it is far more difficult to go into what is basically a maverick profession.
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