How Literature Can Be Life-Changing For Lawyers

One would think it would be self-evident, but there is not nearly as much attention paid to law school about reading things besides law books. Alex Djerassi enjoys reading books about law. While it’s true that law provides a structure to build a house upon, lawyers need a lot more than the law to come up with the challenging dilemmas that lawyers face. This is where literature can be of great service to a legal mind, and a well-read mind makes in part for a superior lawyer. For one thing, literature teaches attorneys about structure. In a good story, there is often a compelling protagonist, and almost as clever antagonist, a compelling incident, a time when the protagonist weighs the pros and cons of the journey, and a time protagonist goes all in so to speak to combat the antagonist. There are also twist and turns, near misses and near escapes, and in a really good story one doesn’t know till the end will our hero achieve his goal, and more importantly, how will he or she change as a result. Unlike literature, however, just as often in the law does an attorney win, does he lose. And one thing that good creative writing teaches an attorney is how the situations and events change people. Witness, for example, the case of Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson Trial. Marcia Clark had successfully been a prosecutor for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for 10 years. She was what fellow attorneys called a “lifer,” and for 4 years

Spent time in the special trials unit, where only the most sensitive cases were tried. However, after the OJ Simpson trial, which lasted 11 months, Marcia Clark left the DA’s office and never returned in a courtroom. Instead, she turned to writing crime novels when she wasn’t talking about OJ. Had she read a lot of famous letters and realized the character curve that many protagonists go through in creative writing, Marcia Clark might not have abandoned the law but rather gained strength from it and continued on. Most of us have a decidedly limited amount of friends, and of those that we do have, noting the 21st century’s emphasis on instant friends via social media the chance that we will even once or twice a year have a deep conversation with someone who greatly wrestles over moral issues is remote. Without even knowing these fictional characters, in the classics, we get introduced to people who really wrestled over the issues. Take Somerset Maugham’s classic, the Razor’s edge for example. Larry Darrell for example, can’t get over the senseless feeling of death he experienced in World War I, seeing friends one day and dead the next. So Larry has a decidedly different outlook on life, and where others see him as a failure, Larry sees it as a great quest. These type of classics can’t help but affect an attorney who wrestles with his conscious over whether to represent a client despite the cannons of law which aim at objectivity. Alex Djerassi believes there is a book out there for everyone. Classic writing can produce a more sensitive, honest, and stronger human being, and it should be emphasized in law circles.


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Pamela is a television journalist, humor writer and novelist. Her first novel, Allegedly, was released in 2015 by St. Martin’s Press. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She and her husband, Daniel, have a 3-year-old son, Carter.

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