A New Chapter: ABA Launches Publishing Arm for Aspiring Grishams

The American Bar Association recently launched a new trade imprint that will publish legal fiction and nonfiction books that the association hopes will draw readers from both inside and outside the profession.

If you’re a fan of a good legal thriller á la John Grisham, you might want to check out some of the new works of fiction the American Bar Association plans to publish over the next year as part of its recently launched trade imprint, Ankerwycke.

While ABA publishes nearly 160 books a year for lawyers and other legal professionals, this new arm of its publishing division is an attempt to reach a broader audience by stepping outside the realm of legal information and advice.

Our bread and butter has always been books for lawyers by lawyers.

“Our bread and butter has always been books for lawyers by lawyers,” Timothy Brandhorst, ABA director of new product development and Ankerwycke’s editorial director, told Publishers Weekly.

And while the association has published some fiction, more accessible nonfiction, and children’s books in the past, it decided to up the ante after a push from its distributor, National Book Network. “We wanted to do this right,” Brandhorst said. “We decided to launch an imprint.”

First up in Ankerwycke’s slate of new titles is the recently released legal thriller Supreme Ambitions—“the most buzzed-about novel of the year,” among federal judges and their clerks, according to The New York Times. Written by lawyer and legal blogger David Lat, the novel follows a young law clerk working for an ambitious, yet ruthless, appellate court judge with eyes on the Supreme Court.

“While he’s unlikely to knock John Grisham or Lisa Scottoline off the best-seller list,” according to the Times review, “Mr. Lat and the American Bar Association are betting that there are readers for a subgenre of highly realistic, legal procedural fiction that’s heavy on the legal material, and somewhat light on the thrills.”

Other novels scheduled for release over the next year include Courtship, a romance involving a public interest lawyer, and Tuttle in the Balance, which follows the midlife crisis of a Supreme Court justice. Brandhorst told Publishers Weekly that there are about six ABA staff dedicated to Ankerwycke, which is named after the tree under which the Magna Carta was supposedly signed roughly 800 years ago.

The legal profession isn’t the only one writing about itself. Last year, Stefan Jaeger, CAE, a veteran association professional and a managing director at the American Society of Civil Engineers, won a  2013 SET award [PDF] from the Entertainment Industries Council for his work promoting engineering in his novel The Jackhammer Elegies.

“You work for an industry so long and you become one with their issues, you become sympathetic to their issues, and you sort of want to give back,” Jaeger told Associations Now of his novel. “The issues of the people I’ve worked with for so long are worth promoting. It was definitely a conscious effort to get some of that out there.”

David Lat's "Supreme Ambitions," the first book launched by the ABA's Ankerwycke imprint. (handout photo)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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