66. Louis Auchincloss ’41
Father of ‘Going to Law School to Become a Writer’
If there’s such a thing as going to law school to become a best-selling writer, Louis Auchincloss ’41 may have set the template.
The author’s literary tableaus were known for providing insights into New York and New England’s old-monied society. “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs,” said author Gore Vidal, a cousin of Auchincloss by marriage.
Auchincloss’ first book was rejected (although he was given strong encouragement to try again). So as a career hedge, he went to law school at his father’s encouragement. He found he enjoyed it. But after he got the first year under his belt, he was back to practicing his first love in his spare time.
“I liked the Law School,” he told UVA Lawyer in 2005. “I loved Virginia and I loved the University. When I stumbled into [Justice Benjamin] Cardozo’s opinions, I became fascinated by his style and realized that the two occupations, law and writing, are more or less synchronized. I began the two careers I would follow from then on, law and writing. That summer I started a novel; the second summer I finished it.”
He continued to write as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and during military service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He later rose to partner at Hawkins, Delafield and Wood in New York, maintaining the output of a book a year.
“For some years, it went quite well. The clients all thought that I was fine. It was quite well-known that I was a best-seller; they thought it was rather nice to have somebody working on their things who was also a novelist. They didn’t know that I really did much of the work of the partners. Then, when I was in charge and they realized I really was doing all the work, right away a lot of clients didn’t like the idea of a novelist being their lawyer.”
He eventually retired from lawyering to write full time.