Lawyers in Literature

Lawyers are reasonably common as characters in literature; interestingly, they can be either the good guys or the bad guys. One thing is constant, though: they are are nearly always agents of change.

Caine, Mallory (has her own series by K. Bennett)
Good guy. Girl. Sort of. Apart from the part about eating brains (although she tries to only eat bad people’s brains). It’s a zombie thing…

Finch, Atticus (in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)
Good guy. One of the most famous fictional lawyers. This is the man who will defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Not that, in the book, it does him any good. The corrupt, bigoted jury still convicts – but Atticus Finch is one of the heroes of legal literature.

Haller, Mickey (has his own series by Michael Connelly).
Good guy.

McDeere, Mitch (in The Firm, by John Grisham)
Good guy. Mitch McDeere is a new law graduate, nearly top of his class, and from a ‘wrong side of the tracks’ background. He receives an extremely flattering job offer from the small Southern law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke (bad guys) and subsequently discovers that
a) The whole firm works for the Mob and
b) He was chosen because, as a young man with few relatives and a poor background, he would be easy to dazzle with money and then keep under control.
Interestingly, the film and the book end differently. In the book, McDeere sells the firm and their clients out to the FBI and ends up cruising the Caribbean in a yacht, giving up on law as a career. In the film, he gets every other lawyer in the firm prosecuted for mail fraud (a federal offence) which breaks the firm; McDeere himself ends up going back to Boston to start up his own one-man firm, having ruined his career as a high-flying tax lawyer by ‘doing the right thing’.

Rumpole, Horace (in Rumpole of the Bailey)
Good guy. Rumpole is a criminal defence barrister, and a firm believer in ‘innocent until proven guilty’. He is untidy, likes cheap wine and cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, and has a mere third class degree. His refusal to bow to what other people think is authority, and his tendency to ignore convention and do what he needs to do to get justice, are what makes him a hero.

Shardlake, Matthew (has his own series of books by C. J. Sansom)
Good guy. A lawyer in the time of Henry VIII, his passion for justice tends to get the better of his sensible desire to keep his head down, his mouth shut, and steer clear of politics.

Sinclair, Paul (has his own series of books by John Hemry)
Good guy. Paul Sinclair isn’t a lawyer; in this science fiction series set on space ships in the relatively near future, he is a US Navy ensign who has done one legal course and has been given the poisoned-chalice job of ‘ship’s legal officer’. He’s a young man in over his head, and doing his best to figure out what is the right, and legal, thing to do. In contrast to most literary lawyer characters, he isn’t a fearless crusader for Justice: he just wants to do his job as well as he can, and he is primarily a naval officer not a lawyer.

Slant, Mr, of Morcambe, Slant and Honeyplace (character in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series).

“Mr. Slant did not, despite what had been said, have the respect of Ankh-Morpork’s legal profession. He commanded its fear. Death had not diminished his encyclopedic memory, his guile, his talent for corkscrew reasoning, and the vitriol of his stare. Do not cross me this day, it advised the lawyers. Do not cross me, for if you do I will have the flesh from your very bones and the marrow therein. You know those leather-bound tomes you have on the wall behind your desk to impress your clients? I have read them all, and I wrote half of them. Do not try me. I am not in a good mood.”

Mr Slant is also a zombie, and apparently became one in order to chase up payments regarding the fact that he conducted his own defence at his trial leading to his execution.

Solomon, Steve, and Lord, Victoria (have their own series of books by Paul Levine)
Good guys. This is, in many ways, the traditional ‘cop buddy film’ done as a book, but with lawyers. Solomon is the freewheeling one, Lord the by-the-book uptight one.

Urquhart, Norman (in Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers)
Bad guy. The solicitor who murders his cousin in order to cover up the fact that he (Urquhart) has been misusing his position as holder of his great-aunt’s power of attorney, and her solicitor, to embezzle her estate.


Go on, comment... you know you want to!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s