By Julia Romero Peter, Esq.
So you work in the legal industry and think you can write the next great American novel? You’re not alone! There are dozens of successful authors who have their law degree, so we thought we’d take a moment and highlight 10 of our favorite lawyers-turned-authors. And yes, we deliberately left out the obvious (i.e. John Grisham). And who knows – maybe you’ll make our list in the future!
Charles Perrault. Possibly the original lawyer turned author, Charles Perrault, has a fond place in most of our hearts for his writing of Mother Goose’s Fairy Tales. It was published after he lost his position as King Louis XIV’s finance minister in 1685.
Henry Fielding. Sharp government criticism of his satirical plays pushed Henry Fielding into writing novels. He published his comic novel Tom Jones back in 1749. In addition to being a lawyer, he helped found the Bow Street Runners, one of London’s first official police forces.
Erle Stanley Gardner. Counselor Gardner found the legal world rather boring, so he created an alter-ego, Perry Mason, to entertain himself. The character first appeared in pulp magazines and went on to enjoy a starring role in 80+ novels penned by Gardner and also became a long-running TV series.
Scott Turow. This author still enjoys a highly successful career as a lawyer so we want to know how he finds the time? Scott Turow has written nine best-selling works of fiction, the most popular was his first, Presumed Innocent.
John Mortimer. If you like the British perspective (read: dry wit and sarcasm), you’ll enjoy the Horace Rumpole series, penned by Barrister, John Mortimer. One of Mortimer’s most famous, real-life cases involved defending Virgin Records for using the words, “Bollocks” on the title of a Sex Pistols album.
Meg Gardiner. Here is a lawyer turned author with a story of her own. After graduating from Stanford Law School, Meg Gardiner worked as a lawyer in LA, taught writing at UC Santa Barbara, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion. In her “free time” (do lawyers ever sleep?) she has authored several crime fiction novels including, the Evan Delaney series, the Jo Beckett Series, and a couple of stand alone works.
Wallace Stevens. Tired of the thrillers and courtroom dramas? Perhaps some of Wallace Stevens’s poetry will be a satisfying change of pace. After graduating from New York Law School in 1903, he practiced law for more than a decade before switching to the insurance industry. Throughout his life, he published poetry in magazines, as well as in book form, including Harmonium, Ideas of Order, and The Man With a Blue Guitar.
Richard North Patterson. After retiring from a successful career as a lawyer in 1993, Richard North Patterson decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first novel, The Lasko Tangent, won an Edgar Allen Poe Award, and two of his novels, Degree of Guilt and Eyes of a Child became an NBC Mini Series. It’s a given that at least one of his impressive 19 titles will strike your fancy.
Louis Auchincloss. The late Louis Auchincloss was a celebrated lawyer, novelist, historian, and essayist. Although he published more than sixty pieces of fiction, biography, and literary fiction, he was most well known for his novels depicting the elite lifestyle of upper Manhattanites. Auchincloss was fascinated by the tension created by class, morality, and how money affects them both. Some of his most popular works were The House of Five Talents, Portrait in Brownstone, and East Side Story.
John Buchan. Born in Scotland, John Buchan worked as a lawyer for a short time before getting into the publishing industry. He published more than 100 works, 40 of which were fiction. His most famous fictional works are The Thirtynine Steps and Greenmantle. However, he’s most respected for his scholarly historical and biographical contributions.
What do you think about our list? Did we leave out any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below!