You Can Do Anything With a Law Degree – These Authors Prove It!

You Can Do Anything With a Law Degree – These Authors Prove It!This week we welcome back guest writer Marissa Geannette to talk about what you can do with a law degree.

You’ve no doubt heard it before – “you can do anything with a law degree!” But do you believe it? Are there really alternatives to working as a lawyer? There absolutely are plenty. And while most law students aren’t thinking about how to leave the profession before they even enter it, it’s good to know all of your options.

Here, for some inspiration, we delve a little bit into the fascinating world of lawyers turned novelists and give some tips on what you can do if you think that’s something you might be interested in doing. Knowing that alternative career paths exist is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself as a young lawyer.

Who knows, maybe you’ll add author to your resumé one day!

Lawyers Turned Novelists

No discussion about lawyers turned novelists would be complete without mentioning the iconic John Grisham. But you’ve heard of him, and probably read (and watched the movie versions of) his gripping legal thrillers, such as “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill,” before. So we don’t have to talk much about him. Instead, let’s focus on three women who’ve also used their legal talents to launch successful writing careers of their own:

Dervla McTiernan

McTiernan is a former lawyer turned crime fiction author. She practiced corporate law for twelve years before transitioning to fiction writing. Her latest book, “The Murder Rule,” follows the story of a law student and explores themes of justice, corruption, and the blurred lines between right and wrong, surely topics she faced while working as a lawyer. She’s proof that corporate lawyers can write fast-paced, suspenseful, courtroom dramas, too!

Marjorie Liu

Another lawyer turned fiction writer, Liu wrote her first novel almost immediately after law school and during her first year as a practicing lawyer. Realizing a long-term, traditional legal career as a litigator wasn’t for her, she doubled down on her writing and wrote her first novel, “Tiger Eye,” a paranormal magic thriller, in just one month. No doubt her training in law school and as a lawyer helped her focus so intensely to get her novel written in such a short amount of time.

Chanel Cleeton

Known for her historical fiction and romance novels, such as “Next Year in Havana,” Cleeton holds a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. It’s unclear if she ever practiced law before launching her writing career, which goes to show that you can follow your passions whenever they strike – you don’t have to wait. Your law school education will never go to waste, no matter what you end up pursuing after graduation.

How Can You Turn Your Writing Dreams Into a Reality?

If you have a passion for writing and aspire to become a novelist, there are several steps you can take to get started on this exciting journey. The best part is, this can all be accomplished either while as a law student or working as a traditional lawyer!

1. Write Regularly

Dedicate time to writing consistently, even for just a few minutes each day. Set aside specific hours or days to focus on your writing projects. Cultivate a writing routine that works best for you and your schedule and commit to it.

No matter how busy you are with work or other obligations, if you really want to write, you have to make the time for it. There’s a real value in not letting your creative life fall by the wayside, even when life seems too busy to handle it all.

2. Write What You Love

Choose subjects that genuinely interest you. Writing about topics that ignite your passion will keep you motivated throughout the writing process, and your enthusiasm will shine through in your storytelling.

While some of the authors mentioned above write about legal topics (Grisham, of course, and McTiernan), not every lawyer turned author writes about the law. Don’t try to be the next John Grisham if what you really want to write is romance – stay authentic to yourself.

3. Combine Legal Experience and Creativity

If you do want to write about the law, remember that you have something that most people don’t – a law degree! Leverage your legal background to add depth and authenticity to your storytelling. You can use your understanding of legal systems, courtroom drama, and human psychology to create compelling and realistic narratives.

Drawing from personal experiences, no matter the genre, can lend a unique perspective to your writing. As you go about your life in the law, take note of what might one day be a great story to tell.

Leverage Your Legal Skills to Become a Successful Writer

Lawyers and novelists might seem like they occupy two different worlds, but there is a real connection between them. Both disciplines require strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to construct compelling arguments. Lawyers are master storytellers in the courtroom and master negotiators. This storytelling ability often translates seamlessly into the world of literature, where these authors can craft intricate plots, develop complex characters, and explore profound themes.

Transitioning from a lawyer to a novelist requires dedication, practice, and a love for storytelling. You can embark on a fulfilling path as a novelist by honing your writing skills and leveraging your legal expertise. So, if you’re a lawyer or a law student with a passion for writing, don’t hesitate to begin this new chapter in your life!


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About Marissa Geannette

Marissa graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 2009 where she was a member of the Law Review. She began her career in the corporate department of White & Case LLP in NYC and spent 8 years as an associate there. Marissa is passionate about educating law students and recent law grads about Biglaw and career paths one can take after law school (both traditional and non-traditional). She wrote her book, “Behind the Biglaw Curtain” to help demystify Biglaw for those beginning their careers. Whether it’s in Biglaw or not, she believes that there is a satisfying career out there for everyone (even if it’s not the traditional one you thought you were “supposed” to have).

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