11 Novels You Probably Didn’t Know Were Written by Lawyers

Posted on March 18, 2016 by

Brenda Janowitz (14)This article is a guest post by Brenda Janowitz, author of five novels, including her latest release, The Dinner Party.

John Grisham and Scott Turow may be the most notorious ones on the lineup, but did you know that some of your favorite writers used to be lawyers? But don’t hold that against them… lawyers make great novelists. They’re used to long hours sitting in front of a computer screen; they constantly compose briefs and memos, so they’re natural writers. Then, when it comes time for a book reading and signing? Well, they’ve got that covered. Finicky readers are no problem once you’ve already given an oral argument in front of a surly judge.

I’m rounding up all the usual suspects to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about which of your favorite authors used to practice law (and which ones still do!). Get ready — court is now in session. Check out the list below, including publishers’ descriptions.

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First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late 30s, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single — and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother — a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew…and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

The facts: Ever wonder why Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed was a lawyer? Emily herself worked at a big firm in Manhattan before pursuing her dream of writing fiction.

The verdict: This summer, Giffin gives us First Comes Love, a novel about two sisters following two very different paths. When painful secrets from their past resurface, they are forced to revisit the choices they made in this story about family and friendship.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France… but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious 18-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can… completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France — a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

The facts: Hannah was practicing law when she found out she was pregnant and put on bed rest for five months. It was then that she dug out an old manuscript she’d worked on with her mother before she died. By the time she gave birth, she’d completed a first draft of a novel.

The verdict: The Nightingale is Hannah’s most ambitious work yet, a love story and family drama set against the backdrop of World War II.


Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline

Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato the founder of the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm hides her big heart beneath her tough-as-nails exterior and she doesn’t like to fail. Now, a case from her past shows her how differently things might have turned out. Thirteen years ago, Bennie Rosato took on Jason Lefkavick, a 12-year-old boy who was sent to a juvenile detention center after fighting a class bully. Bennie couldn’t free Jason, and to this day it’s the case that haunts her. Jason has grown up in and out of juvenile prison, and his adulthood hasn’t been any easier. Bennie no longer represents those accused of murder, but when Jason is indicted for killing the same bully he fought with as a kid, she sees no choice but to represent him. She doesn’t know whether or not to believe his claims of innocence, but she knows she owes him for past failures — of the law, of the juvenile justice system, and of herself. Forced to relive the darkest period of her life, Bennie will do everything in her power to get the truth, and justice.

The facts: Scottoline started her legal career as a law clerk before moving on to become an associate with a large Philadelphia law firm. After the birth of her daughter, she was looking for a way to make money from home, and began writing fiction part time.

The verdict: In Corrupted, part of her Rosato and DiNunzio series, a case from tough-as-nails Bennie Rosato’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to relive the most difficult period of her life.


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The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelly Rowley

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan — the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village — The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned inNew York Magazine, is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend, Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.

Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds.

The facts: Donnelley Rowley worked as a litigation associate at a large Manhattan law firm. Her last day at the firm was a Friday in January 2005 and she began writing what would become her first novel, Life After Yesthe following Monday.

The verdictThe Ramblers is a gorgeous story that follows three lost souls over the course of the week before Thanksgiving in Manhattan. With its many literary references and nods to New York City, it’s a must read for bibliophiles and city lovers alike.


The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig

As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards — but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at 34, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s 99th birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything…

Growing up at Ashford Park in the early 20th century, Addie has never quite belonged. When her parents passed away, she was taken into the grand English house by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, and raised side-by-side with her beautiful and outgoing cousin, Bea. Though they are as different as night and day, Addie and Bea are closer than sisters, through relationships and challenges, and a war that changes the face of Europe irrevocably. But what happens when something finally comes along that can’t be shared? When the love of sisterhood is tested by a bond that’s even stronger?

The facts: Lauren Willig signed her first book deal in her first month at law school. But that didn’t stop her from graduating, and then pursuing a career at a large Manhattan law firm.

The verdict: Her time as a lawyer inspired her novel, The Ashford Affair, which features a heroine who’s an associate at a big firm. Protagonist Clementine’s firm is loosely based on the firm where Willig worked.


The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex by Alafair Burke

Twenty years ago she ruined his life.

Now she has the chance to save it.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide — and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier — there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him — and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?

The facts: Burke is a former Deputy District Attorney who is now a law professor teaching criminal law and procedure in addition to writing.

The verdict: When a woman agrees to help an old ex who was framed for murder, she begins to wonder if she ever really knew him at all. The Ex, one of Burke’s standalone novels, is an emotionally complex legal thriller.


Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith — or an act of complete desperation — Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

The facts: Buxbaum worked as a litigation associate in a large Manhattan law firm, as well as a large firm in Los Angeles. She quit her job on January 1st as a New Year’s resolution, and then sold her first novel, The Opposite of Love, nine months later.

The verdict: Tell Me Three Things is Buxbaum’s first young adult novel, but it’s not just for kids. It’s a crossover story about a girl who moves to a new town and gets an anonymous email from someone called Somebody/Nobody, offering to help her navigate her new school. A wonderful read about figuring out who you can trust.


This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at 33 and 12-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

The facts: Alger worked as both a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before turning to writing full time.

The verdict: Alger’s second novel, This Was Not the Plan, is about a widower who learns that there’s more to fatherhood than just financially providing for your child. A heartbreaking and funny novel about parenthood, loss, and work-life balance.


The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

Summer 1941

Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Grief-stricken, Addie flees — first to Washington and then to war-torn London — and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

The facts: Jenoff worked at the Pentagon and State Department before going to law school. She then worked as a labor and employment associate and as an in-house attorney before becoming a law professor.

The verdict: When young Adelia Montforte flees fascist Italy for America, she is taken in by her aunt and uncle, where she falls for the boy next door. But when World War II hits home, their lives are thrown into turmoil. Perfect for fans of romance and historical fiction.


Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

Evie Rosen has had enough. She’s tired of the partners at her law firm emailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She’s over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it’s time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear — she’s done that too!)

And that’s when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn’t mean you can also unplug from life.

The facts: Friedland worked as an associate at a major law firm in Manhattan. While on maternity leave with her second child, she began writing what would become her debut novel.

The verdict: Friedland’s debut, Love and Miss Communication, is a funny novel about a lawyer who discovers that technology is ruining her life. When she unplugs from her smartphone, does that also mean unplugging from life?


The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks. They own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold’s daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she’s giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who’ll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won’t stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

The confession: I tried to plead the fifth, but now I confess! I’m a former lawyer, too. I worked at a large Manhattan law firm and then clerked for a federal judge before fulfilling my lifelong dream of writing a novel.

The verdict: My fifth novel, The Dinner Party, comes out this spring, and it’s the story of three very different families coming together for a holiday meal they won’t soon forget. It’s a thought-provoking read about family dynamics, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Which ones will you read? Tell us in the comments!


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