Roosevelt, Kermit 1971–
Roosevelt, Kermit 1971–
CAREER: Lawyer, educator, and novelist. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, teaching fellow, 1993–94; law clerk for Judge Justice Stephen F. Williams, Washington, DC, 1997–98, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, 1999–2000; Mayer, Brown & Platt, Chicago, IL, associate, 2000–02; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, assistant professor of law, 2002–. Member of human rights advisory board of Harvard Kennedy School Of Government, 1998–; fellow of Information Society Project for Yale Law, 1998–. Senior editor of Yale Law Journal and editor of Yale Journal on Regulation, 1995.
AWARDS, HONORS: Detur Prize, and Derek Bok Center for Teaching certificate of distinction, both Harvard University; Israel H. Peres Prize, 1997, for best publication in Yale Law Journal.
In the Shadow of the Law (novel), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to law journals, including Michigan Law Review, Emory Law Review, Yale Journal on Regulation, Notre Dame Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Santa Clara Law Review, Connecticut Law Review and University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Contributor to books, including Exploring Nature on Nantucket, Kerriemuir Press, 1993, and Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law.
SIDELIGHTS: A lawyer and educator whose interests include conflict of laws, constitutional law, and law and technology, Kermit Roosevelt—the great-great-grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt—worked for a short time for a law firm before moving on to academia. In his first novel, In the Shadow of the Law, Roosevelt tells the story of young attorneys in a high-powered law firm working on two disparate cases. One is a pro-bono case in which the lawyers are defending an individual facing the death penalty. The other case involves a chemical company facing a class-action lawsuit for an industrial accident. "I wanted to look at the different ways that these cases get treated by the legal system—one involving a large corporation, the other a single individual who doesn't have the same sort of resources," Roosevelt told Legal Intelligencer contributor Joann Loviglio. "I wanted to give a lot of perspective on the legal system and the roles that people play and the choices they have to make."
As Roosevelt tells the story, readers get a first-hand look at the unique pressure placed on fledgling law firm associates, from the long grueling hours to the sometimes questionable ethical decisions they must make. Mark Clayton is assigned to defend a man sentenced to death, but there is little glory in the assignment. Nevertheless, Mark is an idealist who works hard on his client's behalf. On the other hand, Katja Phillips is helping out on the case defending the Texas chemical company client, whose negligence has led to the death of many of its lower-income workers. When she discovers documents that incriminate the company's high-powered client, Katja faces a moral dilemma. In addition to these cases, Roosevelt focuses on a variety of other people in the firm, including Ryan Grady, a shallow young associate who is only interested in getting ahead, and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Walker Eliot, who has top credentials and appears to be the star of the group.
Writing in the Library Journal, David Keymer called In the Shadow of the Law a "superior novel." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that it is "an issue-packed first novel." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book an "outstanding debut"and also noted: "Most of all it's the vividness and complexity of the characters … that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice." Gilbert Cruz, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted that the author "masterfully captures the culture of a legal factory," while Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer Carlin Romano wrote that the novel "contains enough harpoon attacks on corporate legal practice to drive impressionable young readers elsewhere … even (gulp!) to graduate school in the humanities." "And yet," the reviewer added, "a subtle payoff of Roosevelt's debut are the rays of idealism that creep in by the end."
Roosevelt told CA: "I started writing mostly out of a love of language. The interest in plot and characters came later. I started out trying to emulate James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov. That was a mistake, and the books I wrote then are deservedly unpublished. My more recent work is more influenced by Scott Turow and Jonathan Franzen. I work at night, usually from about ten p.m. to three a.m. There are no distractions.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how few copies most books sell.
"I hope that my books will help non-lawyers understand the legal system better, and inspire lawyers to retain independent moral judgment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Entertainment Weekly, June 10, 2005, Gilbert Cruz, review of In the Shadow of the Law, p. 113.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005, review of In the Shadow of the Law, p. 382.
Legal Intelligencer, June 24, 2005, "New Novel Is by Penn Law Professor with Presidential Ancestry."
Library Journal, April 15, 2005, David Keymer, review of In the Shadow of the Law, p. 76.
Philadelphia Enquirer, July 6, 2005, Carlin Romano, review of In the Shadow of the Law.
Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2005, review of In the Shadow of the Law, p. 37.
Time, June 20, 2005, Lev Grossman, review of In the Shadow of the Law, p. 70.
University of Pennsylvania Law School Web site, http://www.law.upenn.edu/ (September 18, 2005), information on author's career.