Simon Lelic’s top 10 lawyers in fiction

Novelist Simon Lelic compiled the following list of literary lawyers for The Guardian newspaper:

  1. Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. Heroically decent, Atticus is the lawyer you would want on your side.
  2. Matthew Shardlake in ‘Dissolution’ by CJ Sansom. A melancholic hunchback with a heart, Shardlake is a terrific guide to the seedy politics of the 16th century.
  3. Sandy Stern in ‘Presumed Innocent’ by Scott Turrow. Ruby Sabich is the main protagonist, but Sandy Stern is the star of the show. His cigar habit means he doesn’t come cheap, but he’d be worth every cent.
  4. Sergeant of the Lawe in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer. He is prudent, wise and knowlegeable to the point of self-importance. He uses all of his lawyerly tricks to invoke sympathy for the heroine of his tale.
  5. Dr Gonzo in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. His legal skills are questionable, probably blunted by the contents of the trunk of his car.
  6. Sydney Carton in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. A young, self-pitying but brilliant lawyer, unlucky nevertheless in life and love. His redemption in Dickens’ tale is complete when he takes his former client’s place on the guillotine, declaring ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ One of the great last lines.
  7. Tom Hagen in ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo. A ‘family’ lawyer, who has only one client. Tom is the man you call, even if your problem isn’t exactly . . . legal. An all-round fixer and consigliere, who only shows his limitations when it’s ‘time to go to the mattresses’.
  8. Mitch McDeere in ‘The Firm’ by John Grisham. Callow and loaded with debt, Mitch is seduced by the promise of more money than he can imagine. His decision to join Bendini, Lambert & Locke, however, almost costs him his life. Ultimately he proves himself as being more capable than even his employers had hoped.
  9. George Edalji in ‘Arthur and George’ by Julian Barnes. A lawyer accused, this time, and championed by a writer: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle no less. George is a Birmingham solicitor, content in hardworking obscurity until he is swept to national prominence – and infamy – by The Great Wyrley Outrages. His story reads like a thriller, all the more gripping because it is based on real events.
  10. Herr Huld in ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka. A man with ‘a considerable reputation as a defending counsel and a poor man’s lawyer’, according to Joseph K’s uncle. In reality, Herr Huld is pompous, verbose and, from K’s point of view, worse than useless. Huld is ostensibly on K’s side, but turns out to be very much part of the nightmare. The advocate, to finish on, you wouldn’t want to end up with.

To read the full article go to:

Alec and Jerry’s friendship

The beginning:

  • Friendship is a new and exciting experience for the lonely Alec – ‘looking back it all seems so idyllic’.
  • Up until the point he meets Jerry, Alec’s life is lonely, isolated and restricted.
  • Jerry and Alec bond by swimming together, horse-riding and through Queen Maeve.


  • The social class barrier proves to be an obstacle in the way of their friendship. Alec’s mother disapproves of the friendship and she takes him to Europe for four months in an attempt to make him forget about Jerry. However this does not have its desired effect.
  • The war: Major Glendinning is also opposed to their friendship on the basis of social class. (p. 131)
  • Bennett, Alec’s friend, is curious about the origins of their friendship. He asks ‘How so?’ when he hears of their friendship. This shows that it was quite unusual for different classes to mix.

Acts of friendship:

  • Jerry shows his concern for Alec when he rubs his sore feet. He helps him take his boots off and massages his feet. This is an intimate act which shows their closeness and trust for each other. (p.122)
  • Alec asks the Major if Jerry can leave the army temporarily in order to search for his missing father. The major has already shown a dislike for Alec and has warned him about being in any way connected to Jerry. Therefore this act is brave of Alec and shows how much he wants to help his friend.
  • When Jerry returns after the search for his father, he knows he is in trouble because he left without permission. Immediately he goes to Alec for help. He listens to Alec’s advice. He decides to trust Alec and stay to face his punishment. Alec says he will speak for Jerry; he will try to persuade the Major not to punish Jerry too harshly. (p. 143)
  • The final point that shows their true friendship is Alec’s act to end Jerry’s life. Alec doesn’t want his friend to die a humiliating and harrowing death in front of a firing squad. By killing Jerry himself he prevents this. He doesn’t think of himself or the conseqences; he simply thinks of is friend. Perhaps he thinks his life is meaningless without Jerry anyway? (p.154-155)

Many thanks to Miss Ryan for her help with these notes!