About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reflections on Female Fictional Lawyers

Being on a cruise ship has certainly slowed blogging. I can get on the internet usually when I want but the motivation level to blog is low.

My last post discussed Female Fictional Lawyers through a pair of academic articles and a list from my reading. In the law.arts.culture blog from the Osgoode Hall Law School, Kate Sutherland set out that lists from the American Bar Association and the Guardian of top fictional lawyers were male dominated. 

Looking at the ABA list it was mainly drawn from from T.V. series and movies. In my last post and this post I am focusing on lawyers from written crime fiction.

Sutherland continued that the pool of female fictional lawyers is smaller. The number of female fictional lawyers in crime fiction may have been lower, even 5 years ago, but I question whether there are fewer in current fiction.

I believe what has skewed the issue is that the trio of most prominent American legal fiction authors - Connelly, Grisham and Turow - all feature males as their primary characters. The authors draw disproportionate attention because of their success.

Not all of their lawyers are male. Connelly has Mickey Haller's ex-wife, Maggie "McFierce" McPherson as one of his lawyers and Grisham has the occasional female lawyer such as Reggie Love in The Client.

If any of them was to make a female lawyer the primary character in a series it is likely that fictional female lawyer would instantly gain public fame.

It seems unlikely to happen because authors have been creating fictional lawyers of their own sex. Grisham is an exception with Reggie Love. Canadian author, Robert Rotenberg, has also created a female lawyer in defence counsel, Nancy Parrish.

The seven authors listed in the William & Mary article - Gini Hartzmark, Lia Matera, Barbara Parker, Carolyn Wheat, Lisa Scottoline, Linda Fairstein and Christina McGuire - are all women who created female lawyers.

In the law.arts.culture blog at Osgoode Law School are mentioned Alafair Burke, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Margaret Atwood, Michele Martinez, Ruthann Robson, Cynthia Ozick and Sarah Caudwell. Once again all are women whose characters are female.

In my personal posts under Legal Mysteries I have books by 20 different authors. Beyond Grisham and Rotenberg there are four authors who have made lawyers of the opposite sex their primary characters. They are Rosemary Aubert, Robert Dugoni, Harper Lee and Paul Levine.

I do not think there is a special reason for the infrequency of opposite sex lawyers. The most successful legal crime fiction writer of all time, Harper Lee, made Atticus Finch the best known of all fictional lawyers.

As contemporary crime fiction is often a reflection of the society of the time I expect there to be a majority of female fictional lawyers in the future. In Canadian law schools female students now make up over 50% of the classes. When I started in 1972 my class was the first class in which 1/3 of the students were female.


  1. Bill - Thanks for your thoughts on this. Certainly changes in our society have meant that more women are assuming authority in lots of different professions including the law. So I'd suspect you're right that there will be more female fictional lawyers as the years go on. You make an interesting point too about same sex/opposite sex authors and protagonists. I don't know that there's a particular reason either as there've been some very succcesful protagonists who were written by members of the opposite sex. I'll have to reflect on that one... Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. While I have no analysis to back me up I think fewer authors of legal mysteries create lawyers of the opposite sex.

  3. Bill, do you think there are fewer female fictional lawyers because authors feel they may not be as convincing or believable as male fictional lawyers?

  4. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I know you are not trying to be provocative but it is too challenging a question to deal with in a comment reply. I will consider a post on the issue.