Behind The Writing

Behind The Writing
by Michael Connelly

Have case, will travel.”

Five or six years ago, I was invited by a friend to join him and others at opening day for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I sat next to a man I hadn’t met before and in the exchange of pleasantries and howyadoins learned he was a criminal defense attorney. As a news reporter, I had briefly covered courts in L.A. County years earlier and knew that defense attorneys, because of the breadth and numerous courthouses in the county, usually concentrated their work in a geographic section of the county. This prevented them from having long down times while driving between courthouses.I asked which courthouses he worked and he said all of them. He said, “have case, will travel.” I asked him where he located his office and he said, “Basically, it’s my car.” He then went on to explain that, since he was willing to take cases anywhere, he made his car a working office. He used a client, who was working off his legal fees, as a driver, and he sat in the back where he had a fold down desk, computer, printer, wireless fax, etc. And, of course, he had his cell phone. While driving from courthouse to courthouse, he worked the phone, wrote legal briefs and pleadings, basically turning driving time into office time. I ended up spending more time talking to him than I did watching the game, and when I went home that day, I had an idea for a new character.

But the idea would need a lot of research. I would need to spend time with defense attorneys. The problem was that, in 2001, I moved from L.A. to Florida, and though I return often, there was not a lot of time for hanging out with lawyers. I put the idea aside, until one day in Florida when I read a story about a trial in the newspaper and recognized the name of the defense attorney as a former roommate from my first job after college at the Daytona Beach News Journal. I reconnected with my friend and spent a couple of years, off and on, watching him work and spending time after work with him and his law partner. From all of this came The Lincoln Lawyer. I wrote it using several of the experiences of my Florida friend and his partner, and then I asked the lawyer in L.A., who originally planted the idea in my head, to read the manuscript to make sure I had California laws and procedures correct. I also have a friend who is a judge in the Criminal Courts Building in L.A., and she allowed me full access to her courtroom so that I could get the sense of trial procedure and custom.

All of this took place over five or six years, which was unusual for me. Most of the time my books run only a couple of years between their inception and completion. This one was with me the longest.

— Michael Connelly, August 2005