There is a good array of fiction set in the legal world. But why are the stars always barristers and not solicitors?
Most people seem to have gone away or at least forgotten to turn off their automatic out of office messages. I have had several automated messages today saying: ‘Thank you for your email. I am out of the office now and will not be back until 2 July.’
If you are going away for the annual break I hope you have packed your indemnity proposal forms that have been piling up in your in tray and will have time to read the latest emails about Legal Aid Agency contracting. You may just have some room for some light holiday reading.
I have been reading John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, which is now available in paperback for about the cost of a legal aid letter. It is a story about a man who makes a homemade will and then immediately goes out and kills himself. Apparently in America homemade handwritten wills do not have to be witnessed – just to make life a bit more profitable for lawyers.
Surprisingly he leaves his money not to his ungrateful good-for-nothing children whom he hates, but to his good-looking, obliging housekeeper. This being America, the legal hero not only runs a small high street legal business but is a star court-performer, or trial lawyer as they call them in US (or barrister as we call them in the UK). The thriller is very entertaining and genuinely exciting. Contested probate is the next big thing in the legal world but it is unlikely ever to form the basis of a legal thriller in this country, although you never know.
If you want something light-hearted and more British try anything by John Mortimer, including of course the Rumpole series, or perhaps some Henry Cecil stories or A P Herbert’s Misleading Cases. But these are somewhat dated. And the problem with most legal fiction is the barrister is the star of the show not the solicitor. In real life, of course, all the hard work is done by our branch of the junior profession.
For something about solicitors there is the Forsyte Saga series or anything by Reginald Hine. Sometimes you come across his Confessions of An Uncommon Attorney.
Both are relics of a bygone age when lawyers were well paid and had time on their hands to write, and had managing clerks who did all the work and turned away undesirable prospective clients. Now we need obliging staff to throw undesirable prospective clients into the office.
Happy summer reading.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott