THERE could be only one dedication at the front of Roxie Cooper’s novel, The Law of Attraction. It’s aimed at the people – and there were a few – who doubted she would ever amount to anything. It reads simply: “To those who thought I couldn’t.” Well, hasn’t she just shown them?

A novice writer, Cooper is in the enviable position of not only having had her debut novel published, but to rave reviews, with a five-star rating on Amazon. Critics have praised it for its northern grit and humour, along with its feelgood message that anyone – if they’re sufficiently determined – can achieve anything, regardless of their background or sex. It’s a mantra that Cooper is very familiar with, having lived her own life that way.

Born and bred in Middlesbrough, the 38-year-old always wanted to be a barrister, but was told at school that, coming from her background, it simply wouldn’t happen. She ignored this, studying Classics at Newcastle University and going on to law schools in York and London, then starting a pupillage at Leeds chambers in 2006. She practised criminal law for seven years, only giving up in 2013 after having her children, now four and seven. It was her experience at the Bar that inspired the novel.

“I couldn’t have written it if I hadn’t been a barrister,” says Cooper, who lives in Yarm. “The book tackles sexism in a humorous way, but there is a serious theme about how women at the Bar are treated and how they need to take hold of that and confront it.”

Like Reese Witherspoon’s character in the film Legally Blonde, Cooper is about as far removed from the archetypal barrister as it’s possible to be, with platinum blonde hair, high heels and a vivaciousness that seems at odds with the serious business of practising law. She felt like a fish out of water among her predominantly male, upper class colleagues, and constantly had to prove herself as worthy of her position. Though perhaps not ideal in real-life, this provided excellent fodder for the book.

“When I told people I was a barrister, the reaction was always, ‘You don’t look like one’,” says Cooper. “I quite liked that for a while, then after a few years, it kind of started to irritate me. I thought, I’m going to write a story about a girl like me from Teesside becoming a barrister.”

Though the protagonist Amanda is similar in background and looks, Cooper insists she isn’t modelled on herself. Ostensibly a comedy/romance, the book focuses on Amanda’s journey and her struggle to keep her integrity against the odds. Drawing on her own experience, Cooper portrays the manifold difficulties faced by women at the Bar.

“One of the reasons I wanted to write the book in the first place was because of how women are treated,” she says. “If you have a baby it’s really, really hard to get back into it. Because you’re self-employed, you either have to go back full-time or give it up. It’s something you don’t get told at Bar school and it hits you like a ton of bricks.”

That said – and despite her newfound writing success – Cooper wouldn’t rule out a return to the profession. “I would never say never,” she says. “I do miss it sometimes. I’ve still got my wig and my robes and sometimes I look at them longingly.”

For Cooper, the concept of embarking on a new – and entirely different – career is undaunting. Before training as a barrister, she worked as a dancer at Gateshead’s Baja Beach Club, almost sharing a stage with popstar Michelle Heaton, who left just before she started. Far from being embarrassed by the six-nights-a-week job, she’s extremely proud of it.

“I’ve never tried to hide it,” says Cooper. “I told them about it in my seven-panel (barrister’s) interview. They asked me what skills I learned. I said I had to work in a stressful environment and things went wrong on stage and you had to think on your feet.”

This diverse career path, along with her Middlesbrough upbringing and glamorous looks, has provided Cooper with the advantage of being an outsider. She exploits this in the novel, shedding light on the world of criminal law as a dispassionate observer, rather than as someone deeply entrenched in its culture and traditions. Readers have responded to this, relishing the fresh perspective Cooper provides. They also appreciate, she believes, the novel’s life-affirming message.

“It’s a story about going for your dreams and determination and integrity and I think it’s just kind of taking off with people,” she says. “It’s an inspirational story, really.”

n The Law of Attraction by Roxie Cooper (HarperCollins, e-book £1.99)

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