Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Writing and The Law - an author guest post by Steve Cavanagh - Blog Tour

I'm delighted to welcome Steve Cavanagh to my blog today, to talk about Writing and The Law (juggling two careers).  Steve's latest book The Plea is published by Orion today (19 May 2016).

Writing and The Law
By Steve Cavanagh

A drunk man once told me, “A trial is simple. It’s all about telling a story. In a trial, whichever side tells the best story usually wins.” The man was my friend, and fellow first year law student. It remains the simplest and yet most profound thing I’ve ever learned about the law. Clients and witnesses go to court to (hopefully) tell the truth. In the course of my career I’ve seen witnesses approach the task of testifying with a sense of relish. They are not nervous at all: they know they are right, that their version of events is truthful and honest and exactly how it happened. Inevitably, they go down in flames. Their story, irrespective of its truth, may not in fact be the BEST story. Their perfect recollection is questioned, prodded, pulled apart and dissected in minute detail. Before they know what’s hit them, an inconsistency appears.

                  “Mr. Bloggs, in your statement to police, at the scene of the accident, you stated that the traffic light was red. In your evidence to this court today, you stated that the light was amber, then it turned red…”

The slightest deviation from a previous statement by any witness is ruthlessly exploited and treated not as a lapse of memory, but as a dagger through the heart of their credibility. It is the trial lawyer’s job not only to produce a good story to the court, but to destroy his opponent’s story in the process. I suppose that having the kind of mind that is able to pull narratives apart does lend itself to editing.
A trial is conflict. There is a loser, and a victor. One story will be declared the best, and the verdict follows. Similarly, you can’t create drama on the page without conflict.

My skills as a lawyer probably derive from storytelling. I’m Irish, so I grew up in a house full of people that told and read stories all day long. I knew what a good story sounded like and it gave me an advantage in my career as a lawyer. Sure, I went to University, and did my post graduate stuff alongside my apprenticeship, but I didn’t learn anything that was of any use in my legal career. Knowing the law is not too difficult. It’s knowing how to apply it, and when necessary how to change it. The only other thing that I cling to in my legal career is a healthy disrespect for the law. There is such a thing as bad law. And bad laws can be manipulated.

I would never draw upon real cases that I’ve handled and allow that to feed my writing. That just wouldn’t be right. Has law helped my writing? It certainly helps when you’re writing legal thrillers, but my abilities as a storyteller probably help my career as a lawyer more.

There have been many great lawyers and writers. John Mortimer, the creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, immediately springs to mind. For many years he was able to balance writing and legal practice, and I’m doing the same at the moment. The only other lawyer and writer that I know of is Scott Turow. He continues to practice and produce a new novel every few years. I don’t mind telling you, it’s tough. But I wouldn’t pursue these careers if I didn’t enjoy them. I know that when John Grisham hit the big time with his second novel, The Firm, he said he left his law offices so fast he didn’t even stop to turn the lights off. In fairness, I suppose he could afford a large electric bill at that stage. In fairness, he could probably buy the electricity company.

At the moment I’m enjoying both careers. As a lawyer I get to help people during the day, and as a writer I make up stories at night. Just as long as I can keep doing that, in that order, I think it’ll all work out in the end. The moment I start making stories up during the day…well, let’s not go there.

About Steve Cavanagh

Steve was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is a qualified solicitor. He currently practices in the fields of Discrimination Law, Employment Law, Personal Injury Law and Judicial Review. He holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy jointly awarded by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in Boulder, Colorado. In 2011 Steve was appointed to the Labour Relations Agency’s panel of Arbitrators and Independent Appeal Chairmen by the Northern Ireland Department of Employment and Learning. As well as practicing law, he often lectures on various legal subjects (but really he just likes to tell jokes).

Steve is married to Tracy, they live in Northern Ireland with their two young children and a rescue dog, called Lolly, who keeps Steve company during those long nights at the writing desk.

Readers can find out more about Steve Cavanagh on his website. Follow Steve Cavanagh on Twitter - @SSCav 

The Plea
By Steve Cavanagh
Published by Orion (19 May 2016)
ISBN: 978-1409152347

Publisher's description
When David Child, a major client of a corrupt New York law firm, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm.
Eddie's not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie's wife, and if Eddie won't play ball, she'll pay the price.
When Eddie meets Child he's convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child's innocence while keeping his wife out of danger - not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.

My review is coming very soon - I'm reading the book at the moment and it's fantastic.

Click here to read my review of The Defence. 

And click here to read a Q&A with Steve Cavanagh on my blog last year.

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