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Lawyers in Love – The Biggest Mistakes Romance Writers Make

31 October 2011

Passive Guy is not going there, but Dear Author does:

I’ve largely given up reading romances with books featuring lawyers. So few authors do it right and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to get lost in the text. What I could do, however, is point out five of the biggest mistakes I’ve found in books featuring romances. Most of them do not involve around the intricacies of the law. I can forgive those. Most of the errors involve ethical breaches which would see the lawyers reprimanded at best and disbarred at worst.

1) Sleeping with the opposing counsel. This is a common trope because individuals on the opposite sides of the table is instant conflict. The problem with this trope is that most ethical rules require the sexual relationship to predate the suit that the two lawyers are involved with and require disclosure to the clients and consent of the clients in order for the lawyers to be involved with each other. Beginning to sleep with each other during the course of a case? Not without disclosure. Disclosure, though, makes everything so unsexy right?

2) Sleeping with the client. This is a HUGE no no. Does it happen? I’m sure, but sleeping with a client is considered an ethical breach. In Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin (review here), she handles it fairly well, but the fact of the matter is most lawyers view sleeping with your client as verboten. The Bar Associations which mete out the punishment to lawyers agree. Reader AS could not get over this ethical breach.

. . . .

5) Trial lawyers. Oftentimes I see lawyers having intense emotional relationships develop just days before a trial. I find this incredibly unbelievable. The more intense the case, the less likely I believe in the possibility. This is because trial preparation, if you are a decent lawyer, is all consuming. You are spending fourteen to eighteen hour days prepping your witnesses, reviewing your case law, reviewing your depositions, practicing your opening statement, reviewing your jury voir dire questions. There is no end of things that you need to do. People outside the case do not exist. There is a reason that there is a high burnout rate for trial lawyers and many divorces amongst those lawyers.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

“But,” you ask, “if lawyers can’t do these things, where do little lawyers come from?”

PG’s not going there, either.

He will only repeat the observation of a lawyer friend who said you can always tell which kids in a third grade class will grow up to be lawyers. They’re the ones who never shut up.

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7 Comments to “Lawyers in Love – The Biggest Mistakes Romance Writers Make”

  1. The fictional lawyers I really, really don’t believe in are the ones who strive to prove the innocence of their clients to the point of obsession, getting totally caught up in the case, dropping everything to rush out and meet a shady character who may provide evidence etc..

    In my reluctant experience of lawyers, their main interest is scrupulous invoicing, they wouldn’t work overtime no matter what, and they just aren’t that bothered about winning your case.

    P.G., tell me I’m wrong…

    • Once in awhile obsession happens, Lexi, but it is not a common occurrence.

      OTOH, very few lawyers enjoy losing a case that is taken to trial. I certainly didn’t. Often, the likelihood of losing spurs serious settlement discussions. As a general proposition, the sure losers get settled and only those that are really close cases on the facts or the law actually go to trial.

  2. I don’t follow DA any longer – my reasons don’t matter. She’s right on with this post. My father is a lawyer, I’ve worked with lawyers – You can get your ass disbarred it you get it on with a client.
    As a nurse (married to a doctor), I have to say nothing drives me up a wall as much as authors who write romances between doctors and patients. HUGE NO-NO. Illegal no-no. Lose your license no-no. Grrrrrr.

  3. I thought that attorney Michael Nava did an excellent job, one of the best I’ve ever seen, of writing about attorneys. Of course, his were mysteries but with a strong romantic theme (not with the client). I was sincerely sorry when he ended his mystery series.

  4. You mean all the slashfic for Phoenix Wright is unrealistic? OHS NOES! *bethfaints*

    *…the continued giggling suggests the faint is, perhaps, not authentic*

  5. Oh yeah, Julia. And this is the reason I couldn’t watch “Grey’s Anatomy” past the pilot: A doctor getting it on with a RESIDENT!?! Who he is SUPERVISING!?! Wow, the lawsuits/firings/loss of licenses/scandals that come from that in real life…and McDreamy’s all, “What’s the problem?” Psych consult, stat.

    My dad was the doctor. I was a reporter, and sleeping-with-sources or breaking-and-entering…no. Career-ending NO. Please, just acquaint yourself vaguely with the ethical requirements of your main character’s profession. Think of these things as akin to incest–maybe you want to go there, but 1. it’s going to provide a major barrier to many readers when they try to empathize with your characters (“I worked in X for Y many years, and I NEVER Z’d!!!”), 2. your characters shouldn’t delve into it without any thought as to the possible negative consequences.

  6. As someone who used to work with lawyers a lot, I also find that sometimes writers are a bit unrealistic about what many lawyers earn. Especially small town lawyers. I did make a lawyer the love interest in one of my books, but just the love interest. Lawyers in love, who knew… *grins*

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