Shakespeare wrote "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers", in Henry VI. A tad harsh, but many people have shared that sentiment since the Bard's day. They might be as popular as rattlesnakes in a lucky dip but lawyers have enjoyed a strong connection to literature over the years. Many lawyers have found inspiration in the strong, noble lawyer character of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Not only are lawyers indebted to books for their inspiration and knowledge of law and order, but many have turned to writing over the centuries as a hobby or an alternative career. Today's lawyers are prone to producing thrillers with heavy sprinklings of courtroom twists and turns. Former legal eagle John Grisham is one of literature's modern superstars, but there are plenty more like him. Enjoy our list of lawyers who became authors.
Famed for creating Perry Mason, Gardner turned to writing for pulp magazines because he found being a lawyer so dull. He penned more than 80 novels about Mason, the lawyer-turned-sleuth, from 1933 until his death in 1970. Gardner wrote under various pseudonyms, including A. A. Fair who was listed as the author of a series of mystery novels about the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam private detective firm.
Now retired in order to count his millions, Grisham is famous for his legal thrillers including The Firm (1991) and The Pelican Brief (1992). After graduating from law school, he practiced general law in Southaven, Mississippi. In 1996, the superstar novelist came out of retirement to successfully represent the family of a railroad brakeman crushed to death between two cars. Grisham has penned 21 novels – The Associate being his latest.
Acclaimed by Stephen King, Meg Gardiner is now on her third career – she has practiced law in Los Angeles, taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and now writes thrillers while living in the UK. She has penned five Evan Delaney novels - China Lake, Mission Canyon, Jericho Point, Crosscut and Kill Chain. Delaney is a journalist-sleuth who gave up a legal career.
That’s Sir John Clifford Mortimer, CBE, QC, to you. This English barrister created Rumpole of the Bailey but his legal career was not dull. He contested a number of high profile obscenity cases including defending Virgin Records over use of the word ‘bollocks’ on the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks album. Rumpole is the wine-swilling, cigar-wielding, Wordsworth-quoting lawyer addicted to the push and shove of the courtroom.
A former assistant attorney general for Ohio and high-ranking lawyer, North Patterson won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best debut mystery in 1980 with The Lasko Tangent – a corporate crime thriller. He quit law in 1993 to write full time and the bestsellers kept coming, including No Safe Place, Eyes of a Child, and Dark Lady. His latest release is Eclipse.
This American modernist poet paid the bills by working as a lawyer for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, but he’ll be remembered for his poetry. His debut book of poems was called Harmonium and included memorable poems such as Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird. Did the legal to-ing and fro-ing of the insurance world inspire his poetry? Probably not.
Buchan, also known as Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield when sitting in the House of Lords, began his working life in law but quickly switched to politics. In his autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door, he reveals law failed to inspire him in the least. Buchan, who also served as Governor General of Canada, is best known for the classic adventure tale, The Thirty-Nine Steps, but he was a prolific writer over the years.
Famous for family sagas like The House of Five Talents, Portrait in Brownstone, and East Side Story, Auchincloss worked as a lawyer for many years. He has also written short story collections and much non-fiction, including Pioneers and Caretakers: A Study of Nine American Women Novelists (1965), Edith Wharton: A Woman in Her Time (1972) and Reading Henry James (1975).
The author of Tom Jones, one of literature’s great comic novels published in 1749, was also an influential magistrate in 18th century London and one of the founders of the Bow Street Runners – the city’s first professional police force. He also campaigned for judicial reform and for the improvement of conditions in Britain’s woeful prisons.