Most American lawyers have read at least one of the great fictional or dramatic works about the law. The following are classics, all available in numerous different editions.
Lee Harper’s To Kill A Mockingbird, also available as a DVD, tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the South handling a racially charged criminal case.
Other legal classics are Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, which examines, among other things, what happens when the legal process becomes inefficient; Franz Kafka’s The Trial, available as a DVD, a chilling indictment of the 20th century bureaucratic state; Hermann Melville’s Billy Budd, Foretopman, which explores the tension between morality and law; and Anthony Trollope’s Orley Farm, the story of a forgery case by the great Victorian novelist, perhaps the most legally sophisticated novelist in the Anglo-American canon.
Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven provides a more contemporary take on the law.
Those wishing to examine the roots of Western legal consciousness might try two ancient Greek tragedies: Sophocles’s Antigone, which, like Billy Budd, explores the tension between law and morality, and Aeschylus’s Oresteia, a three part blood-soaked thriller about, oddly enough, the transformation of legal culture and legal institutions.