Monday, October 11, 2010

Face-Lift 830

Guess the Plot

In Love and Law

1. Written in the style of a Regency romance, an in-depth exploration of the consequences of twenty-first century information technology on intellectual property law as it specifically pertains to the Regency romance genre.

2. It's a case not even John Grisham wants to solve. Who murdered the in-laws?

3. How will straight-laced lawyer Jimmy Halpern manage the brothel his grandmother just bequeathed him--when he can't even seduce the new judge?

4. Allison puts off a social life to become a major player at a big law firm. Then she goes looking for love. But after falling for Brian she discovers that he's a judge! Should she dump him on the grounds that she can't try cases in front of a guy she's romantically involved with, or should she quit the law and try med school?

5. Ginevra has never met her sister's fiance, David--until the wedding. Ginevra is maid of honor. During the ceremony her eyes meet his, and when he says "I do" she feels he is speaking to her. Before David and his new wife leave for the honeymoon, can Ginevra make him see that he was meant to be with his . . . In Love In-Law?

6. Erica hires a divorce attorney who turns out to be the wife of her husband's divorce attorney. Not only that, she falls in love with her husband's divorce attorney, and her husband falls in love with her divorce attorney. It's kind of like they're all trapped in a Shakespearean comedy.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Allison Knowles has dedicated the last five years of her life to establishing her career as a litigator for a large Indianapolis law firm, sacrificing her social life in the process. Now that Allison has reached her dream career, she’s ready to shift her focus to finding love. She quickly meets Brian, her ideal man, and soon believes she has everything she’s ever wanted, until she discovers Brian is a federal magistrate judge. [She discovers it? Surely his occupation came up no later than their first date, so did he lie?] Allison knows the rules—attorneys can’t try cases before judges they’re dating, but is true love worth jeopardizing her career? [I assume one normally hires an attorney before knowing which judge will be presiding, so it would have to be the judge's responsibility to recuse himself if his lover's case were assigned to him.

Judge: Sir, I'm afraid you'll have to hire a different attorney.

Accused: Why?!]

Judge: Because I'm sleeping with that one.

Accused: Hey, why do you think I hired her?]

When Allison learns there are other secrets in Brian’s life too, [He's also a professional expert witness and was once convicted of jury tampering.] her decision is easily made, and she breaks up with him. [I don't think you need to learn other secrets once you discover your man lied about his occupation.] Convincing herself she’s moved on, Allison begins dating Patrick. He’s tall, dark, and handsome, not to mention eager to marry Allison. Best of all, Allison can date Patrick without sacrificing her career. [Not necessarily. What if Patrick is accused of murder and Allison acts as his attorney and the case is tried in front of Brian, who is still resentful because Allison dumped him?] [I highly recommend changing your book so that this actually happens.] Everything is perfect, except that Allison can’t stop thinking about Brian. [That's like saying this chocolate cake is perfect, except that they forgot the sugar and the chocolate.] And when Brian reappears in Allison’s life [as the judge in Patrick's murder trial], she quickly finds herself weaving a tangled web of lies and questioning the same ethics code she pledged to uphold. As Allison forges ahead, searching for a way to have it all—to keep the job she loves and a man she needs, moral lines blur and Allison begins to wonder if something so wrong can ever be right. Allison must decide what truly matters most to her in life, and her ultimate choice surprises even herself.

In Love and Law is a 98,000-word novel about love, life and working with the law.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


You need to make it clear why dating a judge is "something so wrong." I don't see one Indianapolis attorney crossing paths with one federal judge so often that her firm would replace her if she were dating him. And I don't see that it's an ethical issue as long as she and the judge aren't on the same case.

The guy's gonna have to tell Allison he's a judge at some point, and she's not gonna be happy with him when he does, so the only point in waiting is that he wants to get her in the sack before she calls it off. So why does she want anything to do with the guy? And what makes her think she isn't just his fling of the month?

Wait, did Patrick tell her he was a federal magistrate judge and she found out he was a busboy?

We don't need Patrick. Just say she's moving on, dating other men, when suddenly Brian shows up at her door, selling magazine subscriptions. Or whatever brings them back together. What is this tangled web of lies and the ethics quandary? That seems to be a crucial plot point.

If this is a romance and Allison ends up with Brian, you need to make him sound more sympathetic. As it stands, we aren't rooting for that to happen.

If you have any experience with the law, you might add a line or two to that effect.


Amy said...

Interesting, I just read a couple of contemporary romances about lawyers, so I know and love this genre. But I agree with EE; the premise isn't quite working. Why is it such a big problem that Brian is a judge? So she can't try cases before him. Aren't there other judges? I can't see it being a problem unless they're in a really small town or something, or her employer has a rule that litigators can't date judges. Also, what are the "other secrets" in Brian's life? If those secrets are the real reason for the break-up, they seem too important to leave out. I agree with EE that you can omit Patrick. All we really need to understand is the conflict surrounding Brian.

Anonymous said...

Seems like you need to do some homework. Attorneys know what all the judges in their court system look like. Yakking at judges is what they do, right? If she can't identify the federal magistrate on sight, it can only be because she doesn't represent clients whose cases get heard in that court system. And she never reads anything that comes from her local bar association. We can only conclude these people work in courts with different jurisdictions. Which means they can get married and both have illustrious careers with no problem. So you need a different reason for them to not hang out.

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that the entire second act of this story consists of Allison "forging ahead," "questioning" an ethics code, "beginning to wonder" about right and wrong, and telling some lies. What actually happens?

Anonymous said...

How would she not know he's a judge?? If she's a litigator and has the potential to show up in his court, she should know of him. In fact, it's her job to know all about him and his cases and his rulings, especially after five years. If she could never come before him, it's not an issue and besides, doesn't everyone google the intriguing guy she just met? Unless his name is Brian Smith. But still, recusal is not a big deal.

The 5 years got me, too. At most large firms, partnership comes after 6 or 7 years. There's no, oh i have all this suddenly free time at the five year mark. In fact, that is when people stay late into the night (or overnight) at their firms, changing into jeans after hours and ordering take out to bill to the client. First year as a partner is no picnic either. So the set up here has me asking a lot of verisimilitude-type questions.

Dave F. said...

I hate to blow holes in a plot but Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife Virginia leads a Tea Party Group and it's not considered a conflict of interest.

SC Justice Ellen Kagan is recusing herself from any case that came before her in the Justice Department. That's like 20 cases before the SC this year.

There's got to be more than just a simple conflict of interest that keeps Allison from her true love.

My Mother had to own up to knowing more than one judge in a civil case I was involved in many years ago. It's not that difficult to know a judge and have a conflict of interest.

There's got to be "more" to this story than what's in the query and that "more" would make story more interesting.

vkw said...

What if Patrick is accused of murder and Allison acts as his attorney and the case is tried in front of Brian, who is still resentful because Allison dumped him?

Write this book because it's a win-win for Patrick. Let's say Allison has something over the judge so he doesn't recluse himself but if Patrick is convicted he can get a new trial based on judicial misconduct and having a bad lawyer.

Then Patrick can go free and become a serial killer and you'll have a series.

Back to your book - There is a few problems. Lawyers actually do marry judges and sometimes lawyers marry lawyers and then one becomes a judge and divorce is not immenient.

The only way I can see this working is putting the story in a small location, like rural Colorado or the entire state of Wyoming where there are three federal judges, (I think, if I'm wrong there is no need to correct me) . . .in other words you'll have to set up a case where it would be very likely an upcoming lawyer would try a case before the judge, giving Allison doubts about dating him. Then more doubts occur when she finds out he did whatever. (I want to know what whatever is)

I really can't think of a case where the judge would not be able to recuse himself from a case.

I didn't like "she quickly meets Brian" how? Is it an internet dating site? Could not have been at a convention, dinner party or a set up because she probably would know right away he was a judge and there would be no discovery. Maybe they meet at the gym or a bar. Ohhhh, is Brian an alcoholic?

I would either expand on how they meet or would write, "She meets Brian" and leave out quickly.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't Uncle Phil a judge and Aunt Viv a lawyer?

150 said...

If you have any experience with the law, you might add a line or two to that effect.

EE, you of all people should know how quickly and horribly it can backfire if you admit your previous convictions.

Khazar-khum said...

Are Brian and Patrick the same person? Long-lost brothers? Long-lost sisters? Did Allison just move here to forget a guy in another town--a guy who looks and sounds a lot like Brian/Patrick but called himself Dave? Is Brian's secret that he's really Owlman or some other superhero--and Patrick is his arch enemy?

Kings Falcon said...

As a partner at a law firm, I'm going to tell you that once you make partnership you need to keep busting your hump to stay there. The work doesn't just vanish when you can hand it off to associates, you have to keep them busy as well. I also echo all the things other people have said about dating judges or other attorneys. Even if he's the only judge in the circuit, the court will bring in a substitute judge to hear any case she's on. AND since you're talking Federal Court there are other judges on that bench who can hear her matters even if he's the only Mag Judge.

Because the legal portion of your query raises severe questions about your research, I'd be leary about the story.

Part of my hesitancy may be because you have no details in the query regarding Brian's secret or her lies to balance out playing with the "real life" conflict rules.

Scrap this query and start over. Start by telling me what genre this is. I presume romance since the MC is looking for love, but it could just as easily be horror, mystery or legal thriller. Then make sure you mention the genre elements in your query. Also if you have any legal background (other than convictions) tell me this since it bears on your ability to tell this story.

Good luck,

Anonymous said...

I just don't buy the whole big time successful lawyer with ethics thing.

Stephen Prosapio said...

The EE quote of the week:
"That's like saying this chocolate cake is perfect, except that they forgot the sugar and the chocolate."

And therein lies the rub.

First off, as many others have noted there are wayyy too many plot holes here to the point I don't know they can be easily solved. Next, what genre is this? If it's a lighthearted quirky romance or chick lit maybe the problems don't even need to be solved, but if it's anything serious, then the novel had better subscribe to the standards of the genre. This doesn't really appear to be doing that.

If this is anything but Romance, then there is no other real action here. No trying case (pun intended), no threatening criminal element, no vampires even???

Not sure this is going to get anyone's attention.

_*rachel*_ said...

If my date lied about something as simple as his profession, I wouldn't trust him for a long time. Maybe if he was a CIA operations officer or something, and waited until we were pretty serious, but still.

It's a romance; there has to be some sort of can they/can't they. But it also has to be believable.

Anonymous said...

The minions are clever tonight.

I just don't buy the whole big time successful lawyer with ethics thing.

I think the genre is fantasy.

If you have any experience with the law, you might add a line or two to that effect.

EE, you of all people should know how quickly and horribly it can backfire if you admit your previous convictions.

Excellent point. Does anyone know how many books are written in prison? I would imagine a few.

Phoenix said...

The comments are as much fun as EE's workover this time around!

Nothing to add except to ask if the answer that surprises her is a threesome? And isn't 98K a little long if this is category romance?

Anonymous said...

150, you made me laugh on a rather grim day! Thanks!

batgirl said...

A minor problem I see is that Brian and Patrick are easily confused (note that several people here are using the names interchangeably). If choosing between them is a major plot point, you might want to make them more distinctive. So far all we know is that one is a judge who lies about it, and the other is tall, dark and handsome. Since those characteristics are not mutually exclusive, can you give us a bit more? Like, one is a judge and the other is a mechanic, or one is tall, dark and handsome, and the other is short and blonde with a broken nose.