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Scott  Turow

Scott Turow

Attorney & Author of Legal Thrillers


Uniting his passions for writing and law, Scott Turow is a best-selling author and attorney, considered by many to be the father of the modern legal thriller. He is the author of ten best-selling works of fiction, including his first novel, Presumed Innocent (1987), its sequel, Innocent (2010) and his newest novel Identical (2013), centering on identical twins in a tale of love, guilt and revenge. His works of nonfiction include One L (1977), which chronicles his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. Read More >

Turow has been a partner in the Chicago office of international firm SNR Denton since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense while also devoting a substantial amount of time to pro bono matters. He has been active in a number of charitable causes promoting literacy, education, and legal rights and is an active member of Rock Bottom Remainders, a musical group of best-selling authors raising funds for various literacy charities, of which fellow band member Dave Barry said, "We play music about as well as Metallica writes novels."

An engaging speaker, Scott Turow discusses capital punishment as eloquently as the craft of writing. He explores popular images of lawyers, the power of attorneys in US society, and their ideals as reflected in contemporary culture and media.

Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970 and was Edith Mirrielees fellow at the Stanford University Creative Writing Center from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1975, he taught creative writing at Stanford as E. H. Jones lecturer. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School and graduated with honors in 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he was an assistant United States attorney in Chicago and served as lead counsel in a number of prosecutions related to corruption in the legal profession connected to Operation Greylord, a federal investigation of corruption into the Illinois judiciary.

From 1997 to 1998, he served as president of the Authors Guild, the nation's largest membership organization of professional writers, and is presently serving as president once again. He is also a trustee of Amherst College.

He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Atlantic. His books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment, and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries.

Turow has been appointed to a number of public bodies. He was the first chair of Illinois' Executive Ethics Commission. He served as one of the fourteen members of the Commission appointed in March 2000 by Illinois Governor George Ryan to consider reform of the capital punishment system. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Celebrating Study

Speech Topics

It’s Only Words: Storytelling in the Courtroom

A serious dissection of the meaning of voice and rhetoric from the prospective of both a lawyer and novelist.

How I Got to be Two Things

Turow provides humorous reflections on having two careers: that of a writer and of a lawyer. He traces his early ambition to be a novelist, his many early failures, and how the great break of his literary career came when he decided to go to law school. The ensuing challenges of maintaining careers as both a writer and lawyer provide the backdrop for this highly entertaining presentation.

Where Are You Perry Mason?

Turow stimulates discussion of the popular image of lawyers, focusing on the dizzying ambivalence Americans feel towards lawyers and tracing the reasons for both their liking and loathing: attorneys' power in American society, their perceived dark sides, and their ideals as reflected in stories, books, movies, and on television.

A Novelist Goes to Hollywood

Turow discusses the high risks and rewards that come when Hollywood buys your book for the big screen. Having had six of his books purchased in Hollywood – resulting in one movie and two television miniseries, Turow recounts the fun: interactions with stars, enlightening creative experiences, and the follies of Hollywood's complex business calculations.

Confessions of a Death Penalty Agnostic

Turow provides a balanced discussion of a very volatile topic: capital punishment. As a prosecutor, Turow supported the death penalty reluctantly. However, his experiences as a defense lawyer and as a member of the Illinois Capital Punishment Commission made him realize that the important question about capital punishment is not whether it is moral, but whether it can work as a legal institution to give Americans what they want – justice.

Government Ethics In Illinois: An Oxymoron?

Is there such a thing as a culture of corruption? How does it sustain itself? How can the same political culture produce both Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich? What are the prospects for reform? And what reforms seem essential? In this stimulating keynote presentation, Turow examines answers to these seemingly unanswerable questions and more.

Truth to Justice?: How the Truths of the Legal System Often Seem Alien to Lay Persons

Language, Truth & Professionalism: How the Law’s Professional Culture Alienates Lawyers from the Public They Mean to Serve

The Billable Hour Must Die: Reflections on How Contemporary Billing Practices Interfere with the Practice of Law

Books & Media