Legal Fiction: How Lawyers Can Write Great Stories.

August 11, 20202

The demand for legal fiction is huge owing to the success of authors like John Grisham, James Patterson, Scott Turow, David Baldacci, and Lisa Scottoline.

Lawyers and legal practitioners, more than any other group are in a prime position to reap from the high demand of legal fiction.

Like these authors who are also lawyers, you can build a legal writing career by leveraging your legal experience.

Lawyers are known for their love and use of beautiful language in their everyday legal practice. 

Law and literature are similar in the way they use language artistically and intellectually to educate, enlighten, and inform the populace.

In many jurisdictions, literature is one of the core subjects required to gain admission to law schools.

Literature refers to a collection of written work, which is considered to possess intellectual or artistic value.

The purpose of literature is manifold depending on the intention of the writer. Literature seeks among other things to educate, enlighten, and express intellectual thought about a subject or issue.

Law refers to a system of rules and guidelines recognized as regulating the actions of members of any society.

The fusion of both law and literature can produce an educational, entertaining, and thrilling work of art. Legal fiction can be legal suspense, mystery, or thriller.

Below are some tips to help those who want to try their hands on a legal fiction.

Get Experience.

Henry David Thoreau was right when he wrote the following words:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live”.

Legal practitioners have a huge advantage over others to write legal fiction because of their wealth of experience in that area.

Lawyers who want to write legal fiction must first of all have adequate experience of most of the processes of legal practice.

Be Familiar with Legal Proceedings.

Most legal fictions have a scene of legal proceedings. If you are not familiar with the practice and procedure of a justice system, your readers will know.

While lawyers in active legal practice will have no difficulty in getting their facts right, lawyers not in practice are bound to struggle.

The best way, therefore, is to do your research. Sometimes reading is not enough to give you the picture you want to paint. There are times you need to go and observe real live legal proceedings to get the information you need.

Court workers like clerks, registrars, and bailiffs are excellent sources of information when it comes to legal practice and procedure.

In writing legal fiction, non-lawyers should avoid going into too many details so as not to get their facts wrong.

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The Beginning.

The very first process of writing a legal fiction or a book or indeed creating anything is having an imagination.


Imagination is the ability of your sensations to impress themselves upon your mind so that it was afterward possible for you to recall them as images.

One of the most distinctive and essential attributes of your mental being is the power to produce mental images.

As a writer, you cannot accomplish much without a clear mental picture and image of how you want to proceed and what you want to accomplish.

Feed your Imagination.

Everything that human beings have ever created, including books, started with imagination, which involves creating it first in his mind.

Your ability to create or produce mental images is one of the distinctive and essential attributes of your mental being.

In writing a book of fiction, authors use their constructive imagination, which involves subjecting images of their past experiences to the additional process of reconstruction and re-adaptation. 

Great writers have used constructive imagination to create characters that seem more real than those we’ve experienced.

Lawyers meet interesting people every day in their legal practice – from fellow lawyers, to judges, and clients.

With imagination, a lawyer can reconstruct these characters to assume any position and play any role in the story.

Constructive imagination has two phases:

  • Passive Construction.

This is the employment of your constructive power of imagination along the lines of daydreaming or pure fantasy.

  • Active Construction.

This is the employment of your constructive power of imagination along the lines of definite, purposeful, and creative effort.

Active constructive imagination gathers together the raw materials gotten through passive imagination to achieve a definite end.

After gathering the raw materials, you must go further to select, discard, arrange, and combine them according to what you want to achieve.

It is only when you exercise your real creative power by employing constructive imagination that you can create something unique.

Planning your Novel.

Now that you have a clear image and picture of the novel you want to write, it is time to bring it to life.

To bring your novel to life, you must have a plan. Having a good plan of action is usually the starting point of any project or work. This is not different in writing legal fiction.

Several stages are involved in planning your novel, and they include:

  • Research.

Just because you are writing a work of legal fiction does not mean you should mix up the facts or write unconvincingly.

To give your novel some level of authenticity, writers must research everything they intend to write on.

Proper research is the only thing that will give your work of fiction some form of reality and keep your readers turning the pages.

Observing proceedings in courtrooms offer great insights into the rules and procedure of a court.

  • Gather your Materials.

Getting the requisite number of materials needed to write your novel will determine the success or otherwise of the venture.

Get little materials and you will be stuck. Gather too many materials and you will be overwhelmed by the whole adventure.

One way to gather materials for your novel is to make use of your perceptive powers.

Without perception and observation, you cannot create images that serve as models or patterns of future projects.

Constructive imagination cannot create anything from nothing. To effectively write legal fiction, you need to arm yourself with good books and materials on the subject.

Other places you can get materials for your novel include:

  • Books
  • Movies
  • Courtrooms
  • Case laws.
  • Police reports.
  • Court staff.
  • News reports.

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This is a process of separating or breaking up that which has previously existed in a united form.

Every image of memory is made up of or composed of several parts or elements united in a single image.

Constructive imagination begins its work by first separating and tearing apart the associated elements or parts of the reproduced images.

Dissociation involves tearing down old images to reconstruct its parts into a new form with the parts of other broken-up images.

Constructive imagination without preliminary dissociation would be impossible. Picture this scenario:

  • You want to build a new car.
  • And you decide that the new car be built with the materials of an old car.
  • You decide that the old car be left intact until the new car is completed.

As you can see, it is impossible to accomplish your set goal with the above plan. The justice system is filled with exciting and thrilling personalities like difficult judges, shrewd lawyers, awkward clerks, tricky bailiffs, registrars, and observers whom you can turn to compelling characters in your novel.


This involves the putting together of the separated elements into new combinations and arrangements.

Reconstruction can be achieved by:

  • Simple rearranging the elements of a particular image, or
  • Combining certain of these elements with certain other elements of another dissociated image.

There are many forms of imaginative reconstruction that writers employ in their works. Two of the most common forms are idealization and invention.


This is the process of constructing imaginative images or mental pictures in which the actual images of experience are given a more perfect or ideal form.

Idealization allows writers to create ideal characters, events, and qualities that are merely partially represented in real life.


Writers are inventors and possess the power of creation. A writer can construct imaginative images or mental pictures of familiar objects adapted to familiar uses and ends.

Many inventions have revolutionized the way we do things which were first written down as science fiction.

Legal fiction allows constructing imaginary courts, legal procedures, legal practitioners, and legal processes that are better than what we have now.

Writing legal fiction is also a chance to raise complex legal issues and moral dilemmas in society.

Legal fiction can, therefore, be an important tool for social engineering and change especially in the legal profession.

There are many judges, lawyers, and other legal players who were motivated to join the legal profession after reading or watching legal fiction.

Diversify: Don’t Restrict your Writing to the Legal Profession.

Writing a legal novel does not mean everything should start and end in the lawyer’s office or the court.

Like in real life, the characters in your legal fiction must not all be legal practitioners, although the plot or setting should be linked to the legal system.

To give your novel more appeal, include non-legal characters to reflect real-life situations and circumstances.

Write Convincingly. 

The technical nature and procedure of legal practice mean that any representation must capture the facts to persuade your readers.

The opportunity and experience of working in the legal profession enable you to write convincingly on legal issues.

Part of writing convincingly should not be limited to legal issues. It should extend to the settings of the novel.

The location and setting in your novel must, therefore, be familiar to you so that you’ll come across as authentic and authoritative.

You can easily put your readers off if you misrepresent facts, laws, and rules of procedure. 

To write compelling legal fiction, you need to pay detailed attention to every one of your characters, procedures, laws, and settings.

Resting my Case

Being a lawyer gives one the advantage not only of knowing how the justice system works but also an opportunity to look at things from different perspectives.

This ability to see many sides of a case or issue can help lawyers to write compelling legal fiction. 

Lawyers can leverage on their legal experience by writing legal fiction full of twists and turns that keep readers guessing.

The legal experience allows these writers to infuse their stories with a credible and authentic narration of the legal process.

The most successful writers in legal fiction like Grisham, Patterson, Turow, Baldacci, and Scottoline all have extensive experience in legal practice.

If non-lawyers with little or no experience of legal procedure and practice can delve into legal fiction, lawyers stand a better chance in that genre.


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