Best Lawyer-Novelists in the Business

A cursory glance through literary history will turn up a host of great writers who started out as something else. Charles Dickens—newspaper reporter; Franz Kafka—insurance executive; Zane Grey—dentist; Harper Lee—airline reservation attendant; Stephen King—janitor… and the list goes on. It seems that the “writing sickness” can and does claim people from every other occupation. No wonder that book publishing is often referred to as “the accidental profession.”

Not surprisingly, the list of practicing lawyers who have gone on to literary fame is also pretty long. It includes some names that will come as no surprise to anyone, but there are a few highly respected and best-selling authors that you may not have known were previously attorneys. Not too long ago, the online ABA Journal published a list, “The Top Ten Law Novels of the Last Ten Years.” Not surprisingly, many of the books—all nominated by top authors who are either former lawyers or otherwise from a legal background—were written by lawyers. I’ve chosen a few of my favorite attorneys-turned-novelists, some from the list, and some not.

John Grisham, of course, is bound to be near the top of any such list. The author of A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and a host of other blockbusters, he got his law degree from Ole Miss in 1981 and practiced for about ten years in DeSoto County, Mississippi, on the outskirts of Memphis.

Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent, Burden of Proof, Personal Injuries, and other critically acclaimed bestsellers, graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1978 and went to work for the US Attorney’s office in Chicago. He participated in the prosecution of a number of high-profile cases, including serving as lead counsel for Operation Greylord, the famous FBI sting operation focused on corrupt judicial practices in Illinois.

William Landay, the author of the bestselling Defending Jacob, was an assistant district attorney for seven years in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, after graduating from Boston College Law School. His debut novel, Mission Flats, was chosen as the best debut crime novel of 2003 by the British Crime Writers Association. Since then, he has released two other books, including Defending Jacob in 2012, which hit the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List soon after its publication.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Allison Leotta was a federal prosecutor in Washington, DC, for twelve years, where she specialized in prosecuting sex crimes, family violence, and crimes against children. Once the writing bug bit, she turned her analytical and rhetorical skills to producing legal thrillers, including her debut novel, Law of Attraction, published in 2010. Since then, she has released four more titles including her latest, The Last Good Girl, which came out in 2016. In addition, she runs a blog, The Prime Time Crime Review, which was named one of the best legal blogs in the US by the American Bar Association.

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