The legal thriller is a subgenre of thriller and crime fiction in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. In this way, the legal system provides the framework for the legal thriller much as the system of modern police work does for the police procedural.
Usually, crusading lawyers become involved in proving their cases (usually their client's innocence of the crime of which he is accused, or the culpability of a corrupt corporation which has covered up its malfeasance until this point) to such an extent that they imperil their own interpersonal relationships and frequently, their own lives.
Major authors of this genre include William Bernhardt, Michael Connelly, William J Coughlin, Marcia Clark, Robert Dugoni, Kenneth G. Eade, John Ellsworth, Linda Fairstein, Erle Stanley Gardner, Mark Gimenez, James Grippando, John Grisham, David Kessler, Lowell B. Komie, William Lashner, John Lescroart, Paul Levine, Phillip Margolin, Steve Martini, Brad Meltzer, John Mortimer, Michael Nava, Perri O'Shaughnessy, Richard North Patterson, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, Lisa Scottoline, Gianluca Arrighi, Sheldon Siegel, Arthur Train, Scott Turow, Hubert Crouch, and Kate Wilhelm.
A 2007 legal thriller film, Michael Clayton, was nominated for multiple and won one Academy Award in the 80th Academy Awards ceremony.
Capcom's Ace Attorney is a series of legal thriller adventure video games.
- Robinson, Marlyn (1998). "Collins to Grisham: A Brief History of the Legal Thriller" (PDF). Legal Studies Forum. 22: 21.
- White, Terry (2003). "Justice Denoted: The Legal Thriller in American, British, and Continental Courtroom Literature". Greenwood Publishing Group.