lawyers write and sometimes leave the law

We have among our authors many lawyers.  That’s in part because lawyers are liberal arts majors with no clear career path until someone begins to whisper in our ears, rather insistently, law school, law school, law school.  And that’s three full years so at least we won’t be (pick one) waiting on tables; doing clerical work; or, driving a cab for awhile.

We lawyers are readers and writers, of course, because the common law – which we inherited from the Brits – is all about narrative.  For those r.kv.r.y. readers who aren’t lawyers, this is what law school is about.  You read one little story about, say, how Mrs. Palsgraf was hit by a scale on a Long Island Railroad platform when a passenger’s box of fire-crackers exploded, causing the crowd to flee and . . . knock over the scale.  You apply a rule of law to that like, for instance, a chain of events flowing from a careless act must be reasonably foreseeable to the actor if he is to be held responsible for the injury.  That’s the law of Torts, pretty much.  And we spend one full year learning that. 

So you read Mrs. Palsgraf’s story and then you look at the next narrative.  Let’s say the next tale is  one about police officers allowing a drunk driver to continue driving after which he tries to pass a truck and runs head-on into a family of five, killing everyone but the father.  (this is my case – Harris v. Smith and I may be foggy now on the exact details). How is that story like Mrs. Palsgraf’s story?  Is it similar enough to reach the same conclusion based upon the rule of foreseeability?  Are there public policy issues to consider that should prevent us from applying that rule in this instance, where the drunk driver also died and the police officers are the defendants?  Does it matter that the police work for the County of Placerville (a sovereign with at least partial immunity)?  Does it matter that the drunk driving is a crime and not simple carelessness?


Anyway.  That’s the law.  And law schools are full of writers, actors, musicians and champion baton twirlers; anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology and literature majors.  Therefore, it’s not at all surprising when we learn that yet another attorney has published his first novel and finally, finally, has a better alternative than cab driving to the practice of law.  See who he is and what he’s written after the jump.


(thanks to @reiserlaw in my twitter network for the head’s up on this story)

During the nine years Doug Dorst struggled over his first novel, he became a contestant on the “Jeopardy!” game show to pay the rent.

“Alive in Necropolis,” about a rookie cop who talks to ghosts to solve crimes in Colma cemeteries, is loosely based on how Dorst felt while writing it – unsure of his decision to turn his back on a law career and disconnected from his circle of high-achiever friends. Dorst won $70,000 on the game show and whittled his 800-page manuscript in half. This year, San Francisco city officials chose his debut work for its citywide book club: One City One Book. He has moved to Texas, where he teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University. What a difference a decade makes.

Read more: 


For other poet- and writer-lawyers, a quote from one-time law student and author Gustav Flaubert — “inside every lawyer is the wreckage of a poet.”  Don’t let that be true for you!  Send your poems, short stories and literary non-fiction to the r.kv.r.y quarterly.


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