I Sometimes Wish Lawyers Existed Outside The Fantastical World Of My Novels

John Grisham

Perhaps the greatest joy in writing fiction lies in the opportunity to fashion an entire world of one’s own devising. As an author, I can bring to life strange, wondrous characters and have them say or do anything I want. Sometimes, I grow so fond of my creations that I long for them to be real, and that’s especially true of the lawyers who fill my books. Oh, how I wish such a fantastical profession could exist outside my novels!

Can you imagine a world in which attorneys were real, actually living among us and practicing law? What could be more amazing than that?


When I sit down to write, I let my creativity run wild, populating my fiction with principled men and women who roam august “courtrooms” in outlandish three-piece suits and deliver arguments based on arcane knowledge they have gleaned from dusty old tomes. To flesh out this whimsical world, I have my lawyers train at institutions like the intensely competitive Harvard Law School, which I created for my 1991 novel, The Firm. They then must take special tests to gain admittance to mysterious “state bar associations.” I’ve even invented an entirely new tongue that attorneys alone can speak, filled with peculiar words like “amicus curiae,” “tort,” and “writ of certiorari.”

After spending so much time with my characters, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if lawyers were a part of our world, walking among us with their briefcases and their most curious affidavits!

For me, the magical journey all began with criminal defense attorney Jake Brigance, the protagonist I introduced in my first novel, A Time To Kill. I dreamed up special powers for him, including the subpoena, with which he can make people appear at trial against their will, and the cross-examination, which he can use to dispel testimony from a witness conjured by opposing counsel. I created all kinds of lawyers: Brigance was soon joined by the prosecutor Rufus Buckley, a dastardly opponent with an otherworldly ability to transport people to prison, and the divorce lawyer Harry Rex Vonner, an unlikely ally who could make marriages vanish into thin air!

Whenever I so much as think about lawyers, I’m instantly whisked away to a fanciful world I don’t ever want to leave. It might seem silly, but just picture for a moment what it would be like if you could simply hire a lawyer and take someone to court. And what if you could bring your case before a judge, just like the kind you find in my books?


While in court, you might encounter a jury, too. Ah, the cautious, deliberating jury! My second-favorite creation after lawyers. I’m reminded of the day in the mid-1980s when I was at the grocery store, mired in writer’s block over how these so-called cases would reach a verdict, when I rounded the corner and picked up a carton of eggs. That’s when it hit me—a 12-person jury!

With all the marvels involving prosecutors, defenders, judges, juries, and the rest of the court, can you really blame me for wishing this enchanted realm was real life?


But while I do eagerly indulge in such fantasies from time to time, I’m not as zealous as some of my diehard fans are. I’ve met people at book signings who have convinced themselves they really are lawyers. I mean, at a certain point, it’s honestly kind of sad.

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