"Girlfriends of the Court"

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

In books, legal education, women on May 3, 2011 at 9:56 am

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Entries have recently closed for the University of Alabama Law School, where Harper Lee studied law, and the American Bar Association Journal for the Harper Lee prize for legal fiction.


Clearly, the entries are unlikely to match the original. Indeed, many works of fiction about lawyers are often highly compelling airport fodder.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the competition. Many lawyers I know yearn to write or indeed do write in their “spare” time. I also wonder how many lawyers would rank To Kill a Mocking Bird as one of their formative reading experiences.

What are your favorite or formative legal fictions (of the literary kind)?

LATE BREAKING NEWS: a signed 1st edition of To Kill A Mockingbird sold last week for $25,000 (LA Times, click here). Some people really love that book!

  1. Agatha Christie’s “Mysterious Affair at Styles” – fantastic legal twist at the end
    Agatha Christie’s “Sad Cypress” where a substantial portion of the book involves examination and cross examination during murder trial
    I really like Agatha Christie 🙂
    Also 12 Angry Men.

  2. I must confess I just read ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, and secretly enjoyed it! But I cannot claim it was formative or a favorite!

  3. Bleak House was certainly formative for me, and a great read.

    • I could never get through Bleak House, but I did enjoy the miniseries form a couple of years ago…watched it as a marathon over an Easter weekend.

  4. I thought the Swedish trial procedure was very interesting too! Inspired to look into it further. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. DPP v Whiteside and Deiber [2000] 1 VR 331 was one of the most compelling legal fictions I have come across, and it definitely changed my approach to both how I understand law and how I was directing my career. I’d definitely classify it as a piece of literature.

  6. There is some legal literature on that judgment: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/MULR/2002/6.html and a paper by Julia Davis at UNISA ‘Judicial Reasoning and the ‘Just World Delusion’: Using the psychology of justice to evaluate legal judgments’ Judicial Reasoning: Art or Science Conference, National Judicial College, Australian National University, Canberra, 2009

  7. Is Atticus Finch the greatest fictional lawyer ever? The ABA blog collated a series of perspective on Atticus, which reminds us of the power and endurance of Harper Lee’s creation. See http://www.abajournal.com/mobile/article/farewell_atticus

  8. It’s important to be counterintuitive sometimes. Here’s a post from tbe ‘Above The Law’ blog, on the legal fiction which makes our lives worse. http://abovethelaw.com/2008/08/which-legal-fiction-makes-your-life-worse/

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