Law and Literature Seminar to Examine Guterson’s “The Final Case” Washington and Lee University School of Law will host the 2023 Law and Literature Seminar on Oct. 27-28.
Washington and Lee University School of Law will host the 2023 Law and Literature Seminar on Oct. 27-28. This year’s program will focus on “The Final Case,” a new novel by David Guterson.
Guterson’s work was featured during the seminar a decade ago, when attendees explored “Snow Falling on Cedars,” an acclaimed courtroom drama set in the period of the Japanese internment. “The Final Case” is more of the moment, set against a backdrop of today’s polarized political culture and an ebbing sense of national community.
The story follows an aging, doggedly conscientious lawyer, Royal, who believes in the rule of law and has spent his career representing unpopular pro bono clients. But Royal’s final case stretches his professional code to a breaking point. When he takes on the representation of an adoptive mother whose shockingly harsh discipline may have led to the death of a foster child adopted from Africa, Royal confronts an unexpected depth of human failure and self-delusion.
Brian Murchison, Charles S. Rowe Professor of Law, will continue his long association with the annual program, which invites five speakers to address a fictional work about lawyers from different perspectives.
“David Guterson is a world-class American novelist who tells affecting stories about moral divisions in contemporary U.S. culture,” says Murchison. “In ‘The Final Case,’ he reflects on the idea of vocation, particularly among lawyers. What does it mean to devote one’s whole life to seeking justice in a flawed system? In drawing an incisive picture of an aging public defender, Guterson gives us a courtroom drama full of evil and shock – yet also with a touch of hope.”
Murchison will be joined in teaching the seminar by Matt Boaz, Acting Director of the W&L Law Immigrant Rights Clinic; Dayo Abah, W&L journalism professor; and Suzanne Keen, former English professor and Dean of the College at W&L and now on the faculty of Scripps College. David Caudill, a former member of the W&L Law faculty now at Villanova Law School, will also return to teach in the program, which is now in its 29th year.
“Each October I look forward to welcoming alums and other friends back to Lewis Hall and turning them loose on a vivid story of the law and its wandering ways,” says Murchison. “What could be more serious, more engaging, and more fun than that?”
As a bonus to practicing attorneys, the 2023 program will again seek approval for two hours of Continuing Legal Education ethics credit. The program is open to anyone interested in literature—you don’t need to be an attorney to attend. Contact the Office of Lifelong Learning at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration information.