Q&A: Lisa Green, Author of 'On Your Case,' A Legal Guide for Ladies

Taylor Starek

If you're like me and "Legally Blonde" is your main reference for most of life's law-related matters then Lisa Green's new book, On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman's Life, is probably for you.

As an attorney and legal analyst for NBC News, Green says she was often peppered with questions from her women friends, friends of friends, friends of family, etc. related to the law.

"I began to realize that law seemed to be the one area of life where women have failed to be as well prepared as they should," she says.

So she set out to write a book of legal basics for ladies. Sprinkled with humor and real-life scenarios, On Your Case is meant to explain the law in the same way Suze Orman's books explain personal finance, Green says.

"The hope is I can lead the women and men who read the book toward the same enlightened behavior," she says. "If you understand these legal principles, you can make life much easier."

Green will talk more about On Your Case when she visits the Columbus Museum of Art on Monday, Aug. 24, as part of a Thurber House event. A reception will run from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. and a reading will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 for the reception and reading and $25 for just the reading. Thurber is offering a special BOGO reading-only deal right now, too.

Read on to learn more about Green's guide to everyday law and three legal tips she wants every woman (and man!) to know.

What was your biggest challenge in writing On Your Case?

The biggest challenge when you're trying to explain the law is simplifying. Lawyers are well trained to parse through dense thickets of writing, statutes, prior cases and complicated fact patterns, and lots of times when you find yourself in a legal dispute, it's not black or white. Let's take a family fight over inheritance. Parents may not be behaving perfectly; there may not be a clear right or wrong result. The law presents a real challenge for someone trying to keep it simple. Fortunately, I've spent a lot of my career explaining the law, and always I'm striving to distill information in a clear way. I've tried to introduce humor in the book whenever possible, and I can certainly laugh at my own mistakes, and I thought maybe if other women read them they won't feel embarrassed or guilty about their own.

What was something you learned during the writing process that surprised you?

Oh, I've been continuously surprised while writing this book. As I'm writing the book, my wonderful mother was crossing a street near her home and was hit by a car. Here I am, I'm literally writing the book when I get the phone call, and I need to find a capable personal injury lawyer, and I recount in the book the process of getting recommendations from the neurologist. I was able to experience the situation from the eyes of my readers. I was nervous, I was anxious about my mother's wellbeing. Luckily she's fine now, but I wanted to see how best the law could help her. And I could write about the process and share that experience. It was a traumatic experience, but through it I was able to glean insight that went into the book, and that hasn't stopped. I'm living my life hyper-aware of law challenges and opportunities, and I'm hearing women's stories and sharing them online and trying to always see what we can learn and prevent and improve as we move forward through life, which intersects with the law.

What do you hope women take from On Your Case?

I hope women add one more topic to their toolkit. I often say it's The Joy of Cooking of law. I own [The Joy of Cooking], it's beloved to me, and I don't read it the way I read other cookbooks, but when I'm in doubt about a cooking technique, it is my go-to bible. On Your Case, I hope, can serve a similar function in women's lives. You just don't get to choose when it's your day to get a phone call with some unwelcome news, and the book aims to calm you down and get you started to make things right. My heart is in this because I feel it's so helpful for women to get a little bit of knowledge and build a little foundation to approach law in a sensible way.

Finally, what are three quick legal tips for women that will help them navigate everyday life?

  • Every woman should strongly consider getting not just a will but also two other documents: a healthcare proxy that lets your loved ones know how to take care of you, and then grant someone you trust something called power of attorney. That will give them the authority to look after your finances if you're incapacitated.
  • I advise in the book if you have a teenager, you should seek out and keep the number of a criminal defense lawyer who's licensed to practice in your state. Kids, even good kids, can have poorly developed judgment, and if they have an encounter with authority you may find yourself having to act speedily to avoid a problem. I'm not saying they should be protected from the consequences of their actions, but it's just one of those niche areas that's good to find out in advance.
  • For women who are remarrying, I advise they strongly consider a prenuptial agreement. If you're just starting out with the love of your life and you have equal assets, it's probably not necessary. But once you begin blending families and savings, it's a way to spark an important discussion.