Legal thriller
The legal thriller is a sub-genre of thriller and crime fiction
Crime fiction
Crime fiction is the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred...

 in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. In this way, the legal system provides the framework for the legal thriller much as the system of modern police work does for the police procedural
Police procedural
The police procedural is a subgenre of detective fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. While traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime, police procedurals frequently depict investigations into several...


Usually, crusading lawyers become involved in proving their cases (usually their client's innocence of the crime of which he is accused, or the culpability of a corrupt corporation which has covered up its malfeasance up until this point) to such an extent that they imperil their own interpersonal relationships and frequently, their own lives.

Major authors

Major authors of this genre include Sydney Bauer, William Bernhardt
William Bernhardt
William Bernhardt is an American thriller/mystery/suspense fiction author best known for his "Ben Kincaid" series of books.Bernhardt has sold more than 10 million books in several different countries throughout the world. He has twice won the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, in 1995 and 1999,...

, Bill Blum, Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly is an American author of detective novels and other crime fiction, notably those featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch and criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. His books, which have been translated into 36 languages, have garnered him many awards...

, William J Coughlin
William J Coughlin
William Jeremiah Coughlin is the popular author behind such novels as The Twelve Apostles, Her Father's Daughter, Her Honor, In The Presence Of Enemies, and Shadow of a Doubt . He also wrote Cain's Chinese Adventure and The Mark of Cain under the pseudonym Sean A...

, Linda Fairstein
Linda Fairstein
Linda Fairstein is an American feminist author and former prosecutor focusing on crimes of violence against women and children. She served as head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office from 1976 until 2002 and is the author of a series of novels featuring Manhattan...

, Erle Stanley Gardner
Erle Stanley Gardner
Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author of detective stories, best known for the Perry Mason series, he also published under the pseudonyms A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J...

, Mark Gimenez
Mark Gimenez
Mark Gimenez is an author and lawyer from Texas. He specializes in the thriller genre writing, especially legal thrillers. His first novel, The Color of Law, was a New York Times bestseller. He also runs his own solo law practice.- Biography :...

, James Grippando
James Grippando
-Biography:James Grippando was born in Waukegan, Illinois and raised in rural Illinois.In his first job out of law school Grippando served as law clerk to the Honorable Thomas A. Clark, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta...

, John Grisham
John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...

, Jeremiah Healy, David Kessler
David Kessler (author)
David Kessler is a British author of mystery novels and thrillers. The plots of his novels often involve people falsely accused of crimes, legal battles, DNA, computer hacking and police investigations and are characterised by multiple plot twists and last-minute surprises...

, William Lashner
William Lashner
William Lashner , is an American novelist who formerly worked as a trial lawyer. He is a graduate of NYU School of Law and the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. He has served as trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Justice Department...

, John Lescroart
John Lescroart
John T. Lescroart is an American author best known for two series of legal and crime thriller novels featuring the characters Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky....

, Phillip Margolin
Phillip Margolin
-Biography:Phillip Margolin was born in New York City in 1944. After receiving a B.A. in Government in 1965, from American University in Washington, D.C., he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia until 1967...

, Steve Martini
Steve Martini
- Biography :Early Years - Born on February 28, 1946 in San Francisco, California , Steve Martini was raised until the age of ten in the Colma area of Daily City just south of San Francisco. He is part of a large extended Italian-American family, some of which reach back four generations in...

, Brad Meltzer
Brad Meltzer
Brad Meltzer is a bestselling American political thriller novelist, non-fiction writer, TV show creator and award-winning comic book author.-Early life:...

, John Mortimer
John Mortimer
Sir John Clifford Mortimer, CBE, QC was a British barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

, Michael Nava
Michael Nava
Michael Angel Nava is an attorney and writer.He is a third-generation Californian of Mexican descent. He was born and raised in Sacramento. He was the first member of his family to attend college, graduating with honors from the Colorado College in 1976. He received his J.D...

, Perri O'Shaughnessy
Perri O'Shaughnessy
Perri O'Shaughnessy is the pen name for two sisters, Mary and Pamela O'Shaughnessy, who live in Northern California. Pamela, a Harvard Law School graduate, was a trial lawyer for sixteen years. Mary is a former editor and writer for multimedia projects. Their novels have been translated into many...

, Richard North Patterson
Richard North Patterson
Richard North Patterson is an American author of fiction. He was born in Berkeley, California, the eldest child of a corporate executive and a housewife. While still a child, he moved with his parents to Bay Village, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Bay High School in 1964. He...

, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
Nancy Camille Taylor-Rosenberg is an American writer. She attended school at Gulf Park College in Gulf Port, Mississippi. She has three children, three step children, and resides in Dallas, Texas....

, Lisa Scottoline
Lisa Scottoline
Lisa Scottoline is an American author of legal thrillers. Her novels have been translated into 25 languages.Scottoline was born in Philadelphia and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree in English. In 1981, she received a Juris Doctorate from the...

, Sheldon Siegel
Sheldon Siegel
Sheldon Siegel is an American novelist and author best known for his works of modern legal drama.Siegel was born on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and later went on to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an...

, Arthur Train
Arthur Train
Arthur Cheney Train was an American lawyer and legal thriller writer, particularly known for his novels of courtroom intrigue and the creation of the fictional lawyer Mr Ephraim Tutt.-Life:...

, Scott Turow
Scott Turow
Scott F. Turow is an American author and a practicing lawyer. Turow has written eight fiction and two nonfiction books, which have been translated into over 20 languages and have sold over 25 million copies...

, and Kate Wilhelm
Kate Wilhelm
Kate Wilhelm is an American writer whose works include science fiction, mystery, and fantasy.- Career :Wilhelm was born in Toledo, Ohio....



A 2007 legal thriller film, Michael Clayton
Michael Clayton (film)
Michael Clayton is a 2007 American drama film written and directed by Tony Gilroy, starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack...

, was nominated for multiple and won one Academy Award in the 80th Academy Awards ceremony
80th Academy Awards
The 80th Academy Awards ceremony honored the best films in 2007 and was broadcast from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California on ABC beginning at 5:30 p.m. PST/8:30 p.m. EST, February 24, 2008 . During the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Academy Awards in 24...

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