Women lawyers writing on life in the law and more
Given lawyers work so closely with words and people, perhaps it’s not a surprise that so many turn out to have a book (or more!) in them. In this post we celebrate some of our favourite books by women lawyers turned authors from the last 18 months. Whether you’re a fiction aficionado or deal strictly in facts, there’s something here for you.
Girl A – Abigail Dean
Gripping right until the very end, Girl A is part mystery story, part an examination of family dynamics and the nature of memory. Inspired by a number of tragic real-life cases, the novel is at times upsetting, at others touching in its exploration of the resilience and intelligence of the teenage girl turned young woman at its centre.
Abigail Dean took three months leave from her work as a technology lawyer to write the foundations of the book, her debut, telling the Guardian that she felt the need to “make a change” just before her 30th birthday to avoid burnout and make time for her writing. Her experience of the 24/7 world of legal practice makes its way into the present-day story of Girl A, who uses long hours and work trips as a way to escape from her past. Her manuscript prompted a bidding war on both sides of the Atlantic, meaning she is now focused full-time on writing her second book.
The Lies You Told – Harriet Tyce
Like her first novel, Blood Orange, The Lies You Told is a pacy thriller, with plenty of twists in the tale. Again, themes of family, girlhood and parenting are at the heart of the novel, though this time it is a mother’s story that carries us through the drama, set in London’s courts and private schools.
Harriet Tyce was a criminal barrister for nearly ten years before, as she puts it, “escaping law and early motherhood” to start writing. Having completed the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, she made the Richard and Judy Book Club with Blood Orange. Her experience as a barrister is woven through her novels, with the narrators in both trying to balance motherhood alongside the realities of life as a junior barrister in the criminal courts.
In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System – Alexandra Wilson
Staying with the Bar, In Black and White is the story of Alexandra Wilson’s career as a black criminal and family barrister in England. Relating her experience of the inequalities she has observed in the British education, legal and social systems through her early teenage years, pupillage and beyond, Alexandra pushes the reader to question why our institutions operate the way they do and brings to life the strengths and frailties of our adversarial legal system. It is uncompromising in its scope, with Alexandra sharing shocking personal stories of loss and injustice experienced by her and her family. It provides an insider critique of the UK’s underfunded justice system, the inequalities women face in trying to work as a barrister and have a family and the racism that exists within the court system.
Alexandra Wilson is a barrister specialising in criminal and family law at 5 St Andrew’s Hill. She is also a member of the Criminal Bar Association Social Mobility Committee, founder of Black Women in Law and co-founder of One Case at a Time, which assists disenfranchised minorities in the legal process.
Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women – Helena Kennedy QC
Given the current attention being paid to the extent of the lack of equality in British society between men and women, Misjustice is a timely read for anyone looking to better understand how the legal system is letting women down and what needs to happen to change it. “Sadly there are still too many in the law who believe that the law is an objective set of rules, that law is neutral”, writes Kennedy, going on to call for a “demolition job on the structural engineering of society.” Covering a huge range of areas, including trends in women’s crime and imprisonment (84% of women sentenced are held for non-violent offences), lack of representation in the judiciary and domestic violence, this book brings together academic research, policy and case history to make the case for change.
Helena Kennedy QC is one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers. Her two previous books, Eve was Framed and Just Law have been influential in leading to a number of reforms of the law and her achievements have been recognised with many awards and honours, including a life peerage.
The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President – Jill Wine-Banks
Stepping back into the Seventies, Watergate Girl takes you on a journey through the Watergate scandal through the eyes of Jill Wine-Banks, the only woman lawyer on the team that prosecuted the White House officials involved. Her writing style makes this history book read more like a novel and she does a great job of bringing the reader into the day-to-day realities of working on such a high profile case, which even saw her own her phone tapped.
Jill Wine-Banks has served as general counsel of the US Army, solicitor general and deputy attorney general of the state of Illinois and EVP and chief operating officer of the American Bar Association. In each case, she was the first woman to hold these posts.
We hope our recommendations inspire you to try a new author or two. It’s a pleasure to celebrate the talent of so many talented women lawyers turned authors whose shared passion for justice shines through in their writing.