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Budding John Grishams who do not have the benefit of a law degree are finding their lives a little easier these days, thanks to the efforts of one Manhattan attorney. Stacy Grossman, who practices literary law as an associate to Kenneth David Burrows, launched a Web site, legal-fiction.com, two years ago with the idea of giving writers access to accurate legal research without the frightening prospect of a lawyer’s normal hourly fee. The site has since found an audience among novelists, television writers and screenwriters who want to buttress their legal plots with inside detail. “It’s for when people want a real nitty-gritty sense of what the criminal justice system is like,” Grossman said. “Straight research doesn’t give you those kinds of answers.” Legal Fiction evolved as a natural outgrowth of Grossman’s legal practice, which is heavy on contract negotiations and litigation work on behalf of authors. She jumped into literary law shortly after her graduation from Boston University School of Law in 1995, when Burrows called her back from a post-bar exam vacation to work on a high-profile case representing the actress-turned-novelist Joan Collins. After a week of trial in February 1996, a Manhattan jury said that the former “Dynasty” star could keep a $1.2 million advance for a manuscript her publisher, Random House, had declared to be unreadable. Grossman remembered the case and the accompanying media circus as a nerve-wracking but exciting introduction to the entertainment business. “I graduated in May and was on Court TV in February,” Grossman said. “Everyone said, �Retire.’” The idea for Legal Fiction came not long after, when Grossman, now 29, realized that authors often came to their lawyers not just for legal advice but also for technical questions. “I just had the idea that it was not necessary to charge writers who need advice on legal plots an attorney’s hourly rate,” she explained. SITE LAUNCH The site launched in 1998 and barely a month later Grossman was contacted by a Los Angeles-based television writer working on a script for the Pax TV drama “Little Men,” based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Grossman immersed herself in Massachusetts negligence law from the 1870′s, finding a case to build the plot around and collecting period legal jargon for detail. When the show aired a couple months later, it was for Grossman validation that the site’s concept worked. “It was gratifying and exciting to see the work I had helped her with on television,” she said. “That was the hardest one. I thought, �If I can handle this, I can handle anything.’ “ NETWORK OF EXPERTS Since then, Grossman has analyzed the work of about 20 clients, including several potential movie screenplays and scripts for the ABC drama “The Practice.” In addition to reviewing legal issues, she occasionally provides more general editorial guidance on matters such as story line and character development. Grossman handles most of the questions herself and farms out the rest to specialists in various aspects of the law. Fees for the service vary, from as little as $25 for a simple legal question to $500 for a full legal critique of a television script, and more if additional work is requested. As the flow of clients has increased in recent months, Grossman has frequently found herself working late into the night at home on Legal Fiction matters. “A lot of the time at this point it’s like having two full-time jobs,” she said. For his part, Burrows, far from discouraging Grossman’s work on the site, said he considered legal-fiction.com to be a potential boon to his own business. “It’s an interesting adjunct to my practice,” he said. “This is a way we can really expand our usefulness to our clients.” In a sign of the times, the site sometimes seems to be most attractive to lawyers who want to be a part of Grossman’s network of experts. “More than clients, I get r�sum�s from attorneys, which is pretty interesting,” she said. “This is really a creative thing to do with a law degree.” With that in mind, the site relaunched last month with an invitation to attorneys around the country to submit their r�sum�s. Grossman said she is also hearing from investors interested in expanding the site, perhaps by developing official relationships with television and film production companies. Grossman said she does not rule out leaving the actual practice of law if Legal Fiction were to take off. But for now, the synergy between the two pursuits is undeniable. “It’s a great way to meet new talent because I’m working with a lot of new writers and I do have contacts” in the publishing and film industries, she said. “If it turns out I can take advantage of those and expand Legal Fiction and give a service to my clients, that would be great.”

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