Arin Greenwood ’00

Novel Ideas

Fall 2011

Law and literature have long been familiar bedfellows. From John Grisham to Scott Turow to David Baldacci, many a one-time lawyer has found later success writing fiction. But ask a recent member of that club, Arin Greenwood ’00, why attorneys oftentimes make great novelists, and she flips the equation on its head.

“I think it is the inverse; people who are great writers often end up as lawyers,” she says. “Both require good ideas, and working with language and people’s stories. Both also require a mix of creative and analytical thinking.”

In January, Back Porch Books published Greenwood’s first book, Tropical Depression. While technically a novel, it is fair to say that portions of the tale are borrowed from Greenwood’s personal experiences. The protagonist is a young legal graduate who jets off to a fictional tropical island where she works as a law clerk and pursues an array of professional and social adventures. 

In 2002, Greenwood left her job as an associate at Dechert to undertake a clerkship in the Northern Mariana Islands with Miguel S. Demapan, chief justice of the commonwealth’s Supreme Court. Thereafter, she helped develop the first-ever refugee program in the small western Pacific island territory, primarily for Chinese applicants concerned about religious persecution or China’s one-child policy. Back stateside now, Greenwood is recently married and living in Washington, D.C. She is hard at work on her second novel, and while she is not looking to return to practicing law full time, she acknowledges the imprint legal practice has left on her. “I think about going back [sometimes],” she says. “I am still very interested in asylum law, and I love learning about what is going on in the immigration world. I still really enjoy thinking about the law. And that will never change.”