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Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Lawyer Characters

Lawyer Up!

Lawyer characters have long been popular in novels, on TV drama and in movies.

As the author of Convictions, the first in a new legal suspense series featuring legal eagle Natalie Bach, I’m all for sexing up the legal profession.

But if I’m brutally honest, too many lawyer characters out there are samey or even stereotypical. Here’s my take on a few mistakes writers make about lawyer characters. Ready? Let’s go …

1) The lawyer is dodgy

In real life, lawyers have to be of the highest integrity and will be disciplined or struck off if they step out of line. Nor do they stop at nothing in service of their client. Sorry, no bribery, blackmail or abduction, even on a good day. Stealing or laundering client money isn’t allowed either.

But okay, okay … we’re sacrificing facts for drama. I get it. But do lawyers ALWAYS have to be ‘brilliant but flawed’ alcoholics with broken hearts?? Bored now! MORE: 5 Times It’s Okay To Sacrifice Facts For Drama

2) They bully their clients and witnesses

Unlike films and TV shows, criminal lawyer characters do not (or at least should not) bully, scream or rudely defend their case in court. In reality, they assert themselves with restraint in the best interests of their client. Again, we’re dealing with stereotypes here. Can you mix it up and subvert our expectations?

3) The lawyer is impossibly glam/sexy

Unlike Suits, The Split or The Good Wife, being a lawyer isn’t generally glamorous, exciting and sexy. It might have its moments but in reality only a small percent of lawyers practice crime or divorce. Even those areas involve hours of paperwork, research and reading in drab offices rather than strutting around a state-of-the art glass building or putting on a mind-blowing showdown in court.

So, what if your lawyer character WASN’T this well-worn character? What if s/he was up against the system, working from a shabby boxroom somewhere? Or maybe no one takes your lawyer character seriously, Erin Brockovitch style. MORE: How NOT to Write Female Characters

4) They commit perjury

In fiction lawyers sometimes lie to win a case. Nope, it’s not worth it, even for your favourite Aunt Mildred. They adhere to strict rules of law and ethics and cannot knowingly mislead the court.

If a client says he or she has committed the offence in question, then a lawyer cannot allow them to give evidence of their innocence under oath, otherwise they would be complicit in their perjury and get struck off. But what if they didn’t know the client was lying? Suddenly we’re back in the game.

5) The lawyer is an uncaring shark  

Fiction – and real life! – often suggests lawyers are rich, unethical and money-grabbing. Remember the old joke …

Q: Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?

A: Professional courtesy.

Sure, maybe some are in the law for money and prestige (and the occasional rock star lifestyle). In my experience though, most lawyers are genuine, decent and caring folk who want to do their best for their clients.

This is why I wrote Natalie Bach, the solicitor star of Convictions as such a person. Using her self-styled feminism, doggedness and charm, she tries to unearth the truth, but she soon discovers there are two sides to every crime.

Why not try similar by subverting those profession-based stereotypes in your own writing.

Good Luck!

BIO: Convictions is the first book in a gripping new legal, crime suspense series written by bestselling author Caroline England, writing as Caro Land. It will appeal to fans of authors like Diane Jeffrey, Samantha Hayes and K.L. Slater as well as readers of women’s fiction. Available in ebook and paperback, BUY IT HERE.

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3 thoughts on “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Lawyer Characters”

  1. Interesting post, and mostly true of the vast majority of lawyers, however a little bit of research will identify a significant minority who breach these rules. This link to the Law Gazette shows a number of such cases When money, power, love, control jealousy etc come in to play corrupt behaviour will emerge. Often starting with one opportunity then expanding. Of course as with anything it is important to know the rules before you break them.

    1. Yes, of course corruption exists in the legal profession 😉 The real point Caroline is making here is, why not mix it up a bit?

  2. I appreciate you providing this important information; it is really comforting that you brought it up. We appreciate you dispelling the misconception that many people had about us being attorneys. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work like this.

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