5 minutes with... Marcia Clark
When did you decide to become a lawyer?
I decided to become a lawyer after I realized my BA in Political Science was useless.
Starting out, what did you expect from a career in the law?
I decided to become a prosecutor after I'd been in criminal defense for a few years because I realized I wanted to work for the victims instead of the criminals.
What law would you change, abolish or create?
I wouldn't create any new laws. I think we have more than enough on the books. We just need to enforce the ones we have.
Who is your legal hero?
My legal heroes are J. Miller Leavy, the greatest prosecutor of all time, and the intrepid Nancy Drew, whose father always mysteriously leaves town just before a case lands in her lap. I have a short story that's based on J. Miller Leavy, "If I'm Dead."
What career would you have in your second life?
I currently have my second career: a novelist. Writing murder mysteries was my childhood dream and I got lucky enough to have the chance to finally live it.
“Choose a field of practice for which you truly have passion."
What advice would you give to students trying to enter the legal profession today? And secondly, to those who ultimately hope to become prosecutors?
My advice to law students is to choose a field of practice for which you truly have passion. The practice of law is too time consuming to work in a field you don't love. And if you really don't love the practice of law, then do yourself a favor and find something else to do with your law degree. This all comes under the heading of 'life's too short...' Do what you love, or at least like.
As for those who want to be prosecutors, congratulations. It is far and away the most rewarding, soul satisfying career of all – in law or otherwise in my opinion. But be aware there is a compromise: you won't make the big bucks your friends in private practice will make. I took a big pay cut to leave private practice in criminal defense. I did it knowingly and willingly because I only wanted to practice criminal law and I wanted to support the victims. If that's where you're coming from, then go for it. I promise you'll love it.
To what extent do your experiences in the law feature in your crime novels?
My experience as a prosecutor, especially my ten years as a prosecutor in the Special Trials Unit – which handled only the most high-profile, complex cases – gave me an entrée into a fascinating world. And so I drew on that experience to create the series based on Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and her besties, Detective Bailey Keller of the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division and Toni LaCollette, fellow Special Trials prosecutor.
Though the stories are fiction, the way the cases are investigated and especially the humor and camaraderie are as realistic as can be (no-one wants to read about the boring parts, right?).
And I wanted to show the humor and camaraderie of that world. Homicide detectives are some of the funniest people I know – they'd have to be to maintain their sanity with jobs so grim – but the crime fiction I'd seen didn't ever seem to capture that sense of fun. I hope I've managed to deliver that in the Rachel Knight series