December 16, 2022 @ 11:50 AM 1 month ago

DISTINGUISHED author William Bernhardt once wrote, “If everyone hates lawyers so much, why are they buying our books.” (Legal Briefs, 1999)

The incontrovertible proof is the present flood of “novels about courtrooms and cases and legal issues/themes” (most of them written by attorneys) on bookstore shelves and airport paperback racks.

People gobble up courtroom novels or “legal thrillers” like confectionery items. Perhaps, they love reading intense and mesmerizing courtroom scenes/confrontations where lawyers battle like gladiators-and judges rule like kings. Or, they immensely enjoy gripping and nail-bitingly tense action scenes (with surprise witnesses, dramatic confessions and fistfights between lawyers) and riveting/edge-of-your-seat legal dramas (depicting, among others, a trial lawyer/death-row advocate, in a desperate race against time, trying to save his innocent client from the gallows, a lawyer-whose job and professional future are on the line-finding himself fighting a monolithic corporation and penetrating the cutthroat world of a billion-dollar toy industry to find justice for the victims’ families, or an inexperienced attorney torn between warring personal and professional interests trying both to help his client, a young surrogate mother, and save the child she carries without sealing the fate of others).
People seem to be allured by suspense and human drama and the “perennial conflict between the law or strict justice on the one hand and mercy (compassion) on the other.”

In his book “Great Courtroom Battles” (1973), Richard E. Rubinstein noted that “People are fascinated by trials.” A great courtroom battle, he further observed, is “a fusion of art and reality, combining all elements of theatrical drama with the seriousness of real life in society. The performances of the brilliant trial lawyers are ‘performances’ in the theatrical sense… It is a life saved, a law reinterpreted… a wrong righted.”

Scott Turow, the author of the New York Times Bestsellers “Presumed Innocent” and “The Burden of Proof,” wrote in “Guilty As Charged: A Mystery Writers of America Anthology” (1996) that “[T]here can be no question that law-related novels and stories have gained much attention simply because they respond to public curiosity about an institution that has interfered in all our lives with increasing frequency, to the occasional, if not perpetual, exasperation of us all.”

It cannot be gainsaid that lawyers, trials, and the stories of people who encounter the justice system provide such fertile soil for intriguing plotlines. And while legal thrillers may be originally intended by their authors primarily as pure entertainment, they definitely cause the readers to think a little more about the legal system and the society they live in. “The novel is the highest example of subtle interrelatedness that man has discovered,” wrote D.H. Lawrence.

Legal thrillers written by lawyer-novelists include: John Grisham, “A Time To Kill” (1989), Scott Turow, “Pleading Guilty” (1993), Phillip Margolin, “The Burning Man” (1996), Robert K. Tanenbaum, “True Justice” (2000), Steve Martini, “The Simeon Chamber” (1988), E.G. Schrader, “For the Defendant” (2004), Randy Singer, “False Witness” (2007), Terry Devane, “Uncommon Justice” (2001), James Sheehan, “The Law of Second Chances” (2008), Robert Dugoni, “Bodily Harm” (2010), William Lashner, “Hostile Witness” (1995), Philip Friedman, “Grand Jury” (1996), James Scott Bell, “No Legal Grounds” (2007), John Hart, “The Last Child” (2009), Richard North Patterson, “The Final Judgment” (1995), to name but a few.