The best thing about being a writer is that all one's mistakes in life can be called research.
I grew up near Boston and on Cape Cod, then my family moved to rural Vermont when I was in high school. I was a science major in college, after which I settled in Alaska and lived with a bunch of sled dogs off-the-grid near Fairbanks. I travelled a bit, worked for the state briefly on a Bering Sea crabber, then got involved in fisheries policy. After going back to school for a law degree in New Hampshire I spent a summer with the U.N. in Nairobi. Back in Alaska I worked in child welfare for a Native organization and taught criminal justice. I studied fiction writing at Boston University and got my MFA from Bennington College. I spent a semester as "writer in residence" at the Interlochen Academy for the Arts.
I didn't realize it along the way, but it was all research.
Now I'm off the grid again, living in the hills outside of Anchorage, commercial salmon fishing in the summer and writing the rest of the year. I have two great kids, a dog, and a small law practice helping injured workers get compensation.
A short story I wrote for the Iowa Review received a nomination for the Pushcart Prize in fiction, and I've had work in Orion Magazine.
I never planned to write legal mystery. I was aiming towards social commentary of some sort until I realized what a great metaphor legal drama is for almost everything: Within the walls of the courthouse you'll always find judgment, moral ambiguity, suspense, good and evil, redemption and condemnation, punishment and victimization, privilege and want, trauma and exultation... I mean wow!
And, without meaning to liken my own writing to these pillars of literature, we who write legal mystery and courtroom drama today are in good company with literary giants of the recent and distant past. Consider The Merchant of Venice, The Trial, Cry the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, Les Miserables, A Passage to India. On and on...