Fiction for Truth About Law Firms

The academics and the message boards can only tell us so much about law firms. Lost illusion is the undisclosed title of every novel, so surely the fictionalists have something to add. But if you’re not up for the latest Turow or Auchinloss, where should you turn? Chick lit has provided us with insight into the cultures of magazines, movie studios, nannies, and bounty hunters – but, though In Her Shoes makes a bow in that direction, I’m unaware of a really good law firm entrant in the genre.

Which brings us to Kermit Roosevelt’s In the Shadow of the Law and Nick Laird’s Utterly Monkey. The former – idealistic young lawyers in a powerful DC firm, and Pacey from Dawson’s Creek is working on the televised adaptation – struck me as quite authentic in the way and style of One L, though you can certainly quibble with the decision to tell the story through fifteen main characters. The latter – fish out of water Irish Proddy tries to survive Magic Circle London firm and his nogoodnik Ulster mates – is, if anything, even more writerly, though I had the same problem with it that I had with Cameron Stracher’s Double Billing, an early entrant in the genre: both match the elegant prose with a kinda grating woe-is-me-the-poor-young-associate schtick.

But these are the quibbles – I raced through the Roosevelt, and I found the Laird (fun fact!: married to Zadie Smith! she’s definitely his better half, tho) quite enjoyable, too. I hope that today’s young lawyers do a bit better in firm life than their fictional counterparts. Maybe they will do so if they find the time to read some novels – as well as plenty of law review articles.

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