Practicing Lawyer Wins 2018 Harper Lee Prize

By George Khoury, Esq. on July 26, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For many attorneys out there, their first exposure to the law wasn't in a courtroom, or even on a TV screen, but rather, it was Harper Lee's canonical work: To Kill a Mockingbird. And to honor that ground-breaking work, the Harper Lee Award recognizes the best work of fiction depicting the role of lawyers in society since 2011.

This year, appellate attorney and author, Cynthia E. Tobisman, was honored with the 2018 Harper Lee Award for best legal fiction for her work Proof.

Awarding Proof

According to one of the University of Alabama professors that judge the contest, Tobisman's main lawyer character, "is the perfect cross between lawyer Atticus Finch and the grown-up Scout."

The main character, who some readers might recall from Tobisman's first book, "Doubt," is a techie-turned-lawyer. The story tracks this character as she deals with leaving a prestigious law firm, her grandmother's death, and then delving into the truth behind why her grandmother left her entire estate to questionably charity. In addition to the realistic portrayal of her attorney-lead, the novel exposes readers to a very serious problem that Elder Law lawyers frequently combat.

Lawyer and Novelist

The fact that Cynthia Tobisman is a practicing attorney is likely to shock most other attorneys who barely have the time to write a blog post, let alone a novel.

And a fact that is sure to surprise everyone, Tobisman won the award despite not carrying the popular vote. Another nominee, Lisa Scottoline received more than 5,000 more votes than Tobisman in the public vote. However, because the award is given by Alabama University, the public's vote is only considered as a single vote, with four other judges from the university, each getting a vote.

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