An ex-lawyer-turned-crime-writer on her many peers in the thriller world

I’m far from being the first ex-lawyer to turn fiction writing. While my book Prima Facie is a book of fiction that definitely focuses on the law, other lawyers don’t always deal with the law specifically. Lawyers do, however, tend to interrogate ideas and systems in their work.

What is it that an ex-lawyer brings to their writing that feels so exciting? All writers are unique in their preoccupations and stories, but to my mind they seem to incorporate into their work the way lawyers are trained to think about story and information. All lawyers (and specifically criminal lawyers) are trained to go beneath the story on the surface and to reflect on how and when social systems have played roles in a story or a person’s life. Something has been either exposed or repressed—and lawyers often consider whether that is based on a cultural or social structure, or rooted in an economic or political system. It seems that ex-lawyer writers consider that ideas are for interrogation and characters should be multifaceted and real. I think one shared aspect, whether conscious or not, is the dispassionate manner in which ex-lawyers unravel strands of story and aspects of character in order to explore an overall theme or question something.

As trained and practicing lawyers we were all expected to view words as powerful, persuasive and capable of changing the narrative of a person, history or even a country. I think when lawyers approach writing for fiction or non-fiction, they are completely aware of how significant their choices of worlds, words and characters are.

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Why Do Former Lawyers So Often Turn to Writing?