A changing Millennium: Lawyer ditches big firm life to write

A New Zealand barrister who worked across Australasia for more than 20 years decided to leave the life of a big firm lawyer in order to pursue his other love – writing. His first book has just been published

A New Zealand Barrister who worked across Australasia in positions such as in-house counsel for Minter Ellison, found that he couldn’t juggle the demands of a big firm lawyer and have time to engage in creative pursuits, so he made a choice.

Peri Hoskins now works from his home office as a civil litigator. He told NZ Lawyer that the flexibility of working for himself allows him to spend a large chunk of his time on his other love: Writing.

And he’s recently released his first book, entitled Millennium, A Memoir. The novella, which has been praised for its use of simple sentences, depth of content and had its prose compared to the style of Ernest Hemmingway, is a work of creative non-fiction.

Set in Tonga at the cusp of the new millennium, the narrative has been woven together using a series of diary entries and observations Hoskins made during a three week holiday in Tonga 14 years ago.

The Pacific Kingdom was the first to see the new sun, and the narrative acts to capture the time and place, and the coming together of old and new.

At the time of his holiday and as referenced throughout the book, Hoskins was a practicing barrister in Australia, where he spent 10 years working.

As well as his work at Minter Ellison, he spent six years as a barrister in Brisbane specialising in civil and commercial litigation, and was the principal of his own law firm in Sydney CBD.

Now back in Northland, New Zealand, Hoskins has specialised in leaky building litigation for the past three years and has acted for claimants in some of the largest leaky building claims in the country.

He says he’s very content with his current lifestyle, which allows him to combine his two loves of law and writing.

“For many years I resented the legal profession because it was so all-consuming. There wasn’t really enough time, and I was conscious that in the background there was another side of me that wanted to be expressed,” he says.

Hoskins believes that his story is an example of why law firms must shed their traditional structure and become more flexible.

The business model is simply too restrictive, he says, and often wears people out.

It was through a happy coincidence that Hoskins realised that he wanted to leave the life of a big lawyer.

“I had some time off work which gave me a chance to remind myself and think about what I really wanted to do. Lifestyle is more important than money,” he says. “The best part of the profession of being a barrister is that you’re autonomous and can make your own rules. Just to be able to wake up in the morning and decide what I want to do – that’s a huge luxury that people undervalue. It was more accident than design but I’m very grateful I get to wake up and do what I do.”

Currently Hoskins divides up his time by doing about 75% legal practice and 25% writing. However, he says he’s received a lot of interest about his book from the United States in particular, and is open to any opportunities that may come his way.

Having a legal background - alongside holding an English degree he completed in addition to studying law - have proved valuable for Hoskins’ creative writing process.

“One of my favourite authors is Hemmingway who uses short sentences and doesn’t waste words, but being legally trained also made me succinct in the way that I write,” he says. If you look at the way a QC pleads, they’re economical and there aren’t wasted words. They say it in a way that hits the mark.”

Hoskins is currently working on his second book, a prequel to Millennium, A Memoir, and set during the time he was practicing in Australia.

He’s set himself a goal of writing at least one thing every day amidst his work as a litigator – even if it’s just a sentence.

“I’m happy about where things are at with the legal practice and the writing,” Hoskins says.

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