ACFW Conference Preview: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Law (But Couldn’t Afford to Ask)

Ever wonder what all that legalese in a book contract means? Or when it’s okay to quote from someone else’s work—and when it’s not? Or how to research and write legal scenes like a professional? Or what to do if you find one of your books on a pirate website?

Cara Putman and I will be answering those questions and more at the 2010 ACFW Conference ( We’ll be teaching two law-related workshops on Sunday, September 19: “Author Law 101” and “Legal Scenes Tricks & Traps.”

In Author Law 101, we’ll summarize what you need to know about the law as an author. First, we’ll give you a guided tour of a typical book contract and explain what the key terms mean and why they’re there. We’ll also outline the basic principles of copyright and libel law and give some practical tips on protecting yourself and staying out of dangerous areas. And if there’s extra time, we’ll tell some of our favorite lawyer jokes (e.g., What do you call it when a man-eating shark saves a drowning lawyer and carries him to shore? Professional courtesy).

Legal Scene Tricks & Traps will give you the tools to get your legal scenes right and illustrate some ways in which they often go wrong. We’ll open with a quick overview of how the legal world works: what the differences are between a civil and a criminal case, why some cases go to federal court and others to state court, and so on. Then we’ll go over some common examples of what I call Stupid Lawyer Tricks: things that lawyers often do in poorly researched movies or books, but that no competent lawyer would ever try in real life. We’ll also hand you a treasure trove of research tips and resources to bookmark for the next time you write a legal scene.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!


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