Fiction

Last year, St. Martin’s Press published The Partner Track, the debut novel of lawyer Helen Wan. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, I praised the book for being engaging, suspenseful, and — unlike so many legal novels — realistic. The paperback edition of The Partner Track became available last week.

I enjoy fiction about lawyers, as both a reader and writer — my own first novel comes out in a few weeks — and I’m deeply interested in how other writers work. So I interviewed Helen Wan about her book, her approach to writing, and how she managed to write a novel while holding down a demanding job as an in-house lawyer for Time Warner. I also asked for her advice on how women and minority lawyers can succeed in Biglaw.

Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

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David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace died six years ago today, on September 12, 2008. The author of novels such as Infinite Jest, The Pale King, and essay collections such as A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again hanged himself in the garage of his California home. DFW was 46.
David Foster Wallace was a lawyer’s writer, if ever one could use that label without intending insult. DFW was not a lawyer, though he famously became friends and collaborators with legal writing expert Bryan Garner. Garner’s co-author Justice Antonin Scalia is also said to be a fan. Countless attorneys who haven’t cracked a novel in years will brighten at the mention of DFW. Analytical, language-obsessed, and neurotic, he may have captured the modus operandi of many lawyers as well as any novelist or essayist could.

David Foster Wallace, especially for a fiction writer, was logical, analytical. He never quite left behind the mindset of the analytic philosophy student he once was. Wallace’s senior thesis in modal logic was published posthumously. His senior thesis in English became his first published novel, The Broom of the System. He wrote lit for STEM geeks and logic nerds . . . including the many STEM geeks and logic nerds who later ended up in law. (Myself included.)

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* As one of our columnists David Mowry told us weeks ago, New York wants to close the justice gap by looking to the state’s best untapped resources for pro bono work: in-house counsel. [New York Law Journal]

* It turns out the “new employer survey” to be used by U.S. News is really just the old employer survey that’s been used in the rankings since 1990. How incredibly anticlimactic. [Morse Code / U.S. News & World Report]

* Law schools are officially ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to filling their classes. Some are now accepting first-time June LSAT scores for fall admission. [National Law Journal]

* Our managing editor, David Lat, comes to the defense of fictional representations of the law, but seeing as he’s writing a fictional legal novel, we think he’s kind of biased. [Room for Debate / New York Times]

* Mobsters really don’t like rats, and it looks like someone who was planning to testify against Whitey Bulger may have been whacked after having been dropped from the prosecution’s witness list. [CNN]

* Sorry ladies, but Seth Meyers is now engaged. To a lawyer of all people. Alexi Ashe of AC Investment Management graduated from Southwestern University School of Law and previously worked at the King’s County District Attorney’s Office, Human Rights First, and the Somaly Mam Foundation. [Gawker]

* A D.C. law firm is giving away its law library. An unscrupulous law school could bolster its U.S. News ranking because they count the number of volumes in law libraries even though no one has used a bound legal reporter in a decade. [Constitutional Daily]

* “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? And does it rise to the level of nuisance?” Just one gem over on this Tumblr. [Shakespeare Takes the Bar Exam]

* The Ohio Supreme Court may hear a speeding ticket case because there are no more pressing issues in Ohio. [USA Today]

* Pharrell is suing will.i.am because the latter seems to think he owns a trademark in every sentence with “I am” in it. And Pharrell quotes from noted legal authority Dr. Seuss. [Jezebel]

* Does Dwight Howard’s decision to sign with the Rockets highlight how state taxes pose a hidden threat to league parity? [TaxProf Blog]

* Still hankering for Supreme Court discussion? Here’s a thorough roundtable examination of the previous term. [Construction Magazine]

* Have a good legal-themed short fiction idea? Enter the ABA Journal’s Ross Writing Contest and you could win $3,000. [ABA Journal]