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Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Help pick the winner of the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Posted May 29, 2014 8:30 AM CDT
By Allen Pusey

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Poll: Which novel should win the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction?

This poll ended on Mon, June 30, 2014 - 11:59:23.


  • "Once We Were Brothers" by Ronald H. Balson
    603 votes (66.78%)
  • "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham
    205 votes (22.7%)
  • "The Burgess Boys" by Elizabeth Strout
    95 votes (10.52%)
Total Votes: 903

The three finalists for the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction have been announced by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Law School, co-sponsors of the Harper Lee Prize. They are: Ronald H. Balson for Once We Were Brothers; John Grisham for Sycamore Row; and Elizabeth Strout for The Burgess Boys.

You can help choose the winner by voting for your favorite in the poll accompanying this post. Voting is open through June 30, and the winner will be honored on August 28 at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

This is the fourth year for the prize. Inspired by Lee’s resolute lawyer/hero Atticus Finch, it is given annually to a book-length work of fiction published in the preceding year that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. Previous winners include John Grisham, for The Confession (2011); Michael Connelly for The Fifth Witness (2012); and Paul Goldstein for Havana Requiem (2013). For complete rules, click this link.

The Finalists

The Burgess Boys
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess are both lawyers who live in New York, and that’s where the resemblance ends. Jim is a high-powered, corporate success story. His brother Bob is a softhearted Legal Aid attorney who drinks too much. But when they return to the small town in Maine where their nephew is accused of a hate crime, the long-buried tensions that have shaped their attitudes toward each other are challenged and changed in ways they could not have expected.

Once We Were Brothers
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson (St. Martin’s Griffin)

When a survivor of the Holocaust becomes convinced that a respected civic leader is a former Nazi SS officer, he hires lawyer Catherine Lockhart to bring the man to justice. What emerges is a much more complicated story of abandonment, identity, betrayal and a Polish family’s struggle to survive.

Sycamore Row
Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Doubleday)

Jake Brigance, the young defense lawyer in Grisham’s A Time To Kill, returns to the town that witnessed his first brush with fame. One of his wealthy white clients, Seth Hubbard, has committed suicide by hanging himself from an old sycamore tree, leaving the bulk of his fortune to his African-American housekeeper. Brigance is instructed to defend Hubbard’s will from any challenges by his greedy children. In doing so, Brigance uncovers new depths to Ford County’s history of racial violence.


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