Alumni newsletter - Being Tom Vaughan MacAulay
Having left the firm in 2015, Tom Vaughan MacAulay has now added published author, reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement and one of the “Best Books of Summer” in The Times, Law section, to his list of accomplishments...
‘City lawyer writes about... well, being a city lawyer...’ It is one of Tom’s frustrations that this could come across as a little clichéd, but actually, Tom Vaughan MacAulay’s debut novel, Being Simon Haines, is anything but.
Instead, it roots itself firmly in some serious soul-searching of a modern man’s dilemma, with its eponymous protagonist asking: ‘How did I arrive at this point?’ and ‘Where am I going?’
Tom, who left Slaughter and May in 2015 for an in-house position with Legal & General, is quick to point out that Simon’s dilemma is not rooted in law and could apply to any profession.
“Using a legal backdrop was simply a case of writing what I know,” he says, “so I’m certainly not looking to make some big statement about being a lawyer. Initially, I did toy with the idea of placing Simon in another sector, but I quickly realised that, lazily, I could place him in a sector I knew.”
Regardless, Simon Haines’s situation is bound to resonate with anyone working in or around the Square Mile.
“I think, for me, the pressures and pace of life for anyone pursuing a career in London make for an interesting message,” Tom says. “The questions Simon asks in the book are much more psychological – examining what it really means to be a young professional in the 21st century.”
Tom may be keen to distance the novel from his own profession, but admits that the questions by some, of whether it contains some elements he’s experienced, do come up.
“I’m living in parallel worlds with this novel. The literary types know this, because it’s obvious, but to others I am always at pains to point out that the characters in my novel are fictitious,” he says with a laugh, “and certainly bear no resemblance to me or anyone I’ve met at Slaughter and May. But I’ve had some lovely comments from various friends and acquaintances and others I don’t know at all, who work in the City, and who have related to the humour of the novel, or the confusion that Simon experiences.”
The novel has had a lot of mainstream press coverage and high praise has come from various sources – in particular, Edward Fennell, writing in The Times, asked recently ‘Will Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay become the defining novel for his generation about what it means to be a driven corporate lawyer?’. “That was a massive thrill”, Tom says, and it came ahead of the book's review in the Times Literary Supplement (6 February 2018 edition), “which was also so flattering on a literary level – and a dream come true for me.”
So, does Tom admit to struggling with the pressures of a dual career, even in some small way? “My job at Legal & General is great,” he insists. “It’s a very exciting market with lots of cutting edge transactions and my days are gratifyingly busy. I think everyone has to find their own space and niche, however, and I enjoy the fact that I get to work on my creative side outside the office. At the end of the day, I think I have found a most satisfactory combination.”
Tom’s interest in writing has been a constant throughout his career, with one of his former tutors at Cambridge, the leading academic and author, Virginia Cox, encouraging him to pursue his vocation. Having been sponsored through law school by Slaughter and May, he joined the firm as a trainee in 2006 – becoming an associate in Corporate. He spent six months with BonelliErede in Milan as a trainee, before returning to London to work in corporate M&A and insurance.
Returning to Italy in 2012, he spent a year in the banking department at Linklaters, and was published for the first time in the Italian magazine, La LIbellula, before returning to Slaughter and May – and ultimately, taking up an in-house position with our client, Legal & General.
“I was very keen to develop my writing,” he explains, “so the slightly better hours that come with in-house work meant that it was the right time for me. It’s great though because I’m still very close to Slaughter and May and continue to have a lot of friends there. I do the same type of work that I was doing before in corporate insurance: pension risk transfer, longevity swaps, supporting any related transactions and so on. That means that I still get the stimulation from complex, new deals and working for – and with – a smart bunch of people.”
He points out there are some differences, however. “Lawyers are only one part of the team in a company, so you’re much more exposed to different areas of the business. It’s a very exciting market to be in, with lots of cutting edge transactions and working on structures. I find it very dynamic and enjoy the friendliness among the different groups working on these projects.”
As for life after Being Simon Haines, Tom is now busy finishing his second novel – which he says ideally he will submit by the end of June. “I’m finding it a lot easier to write this time around,” he says. “I think it’s fair to say that once you’ve been through the whole process of writing a novel and all the drafts that come with it, the next time it is much better. I have definitely experienced less of the angst that came with the first one. Looking back, I think the amount of work I did on it before even submitting it was a bit obsessive, but there’s no getting around it: if you’re into your literature, writing is extremely hard.”
Being Simon Haines
(Red Door Publishing; 2017)
On the verge of making partner at a family-based law firm, Simon Haines embarks on a two-week trip to Cuba, cutting off all contact while he awaits news of a decision that will change everything for him. During this time, however, he begins to reflect on his life so far – and the choices that he has made...
Being Simon Haines is available online and in all good bookshops.
We are giving away five copies of Tom’s novel Being Simon Haines, signed by Tom himself. To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy please email email@example.com with the subject line Being Simon Haines. Five alumni will be selected at random on Friday 13 April and notified shortly after.