More than fifty years ago, while still a student at Harvard Law School, John Jay Osborn Jr. ’70 penned a novel about an eager first-year law student named “Hart,” and his tumultuous relationship with an austere contracts professor named “Kingsfield.”
The book, “The Paper Chase,” became an overnight sensation. A hit movie version, released in 1973, earned John Houseman, the actor who played Kingsfield, an Academy Award, and a long-running television series aired for four seasons in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
“The Paper Chase” defined legal education for generations of students. For Osborn, the place that inspired his iconic novel made an impression that lasted a lifetime. In a letter earlier this year, he remembered how important the law school had been in his life. “It’s really quite amazing. I wrote novels inspired by the law school, and became a law professor for the same reasons. And it wasn’t just ‘law school.’ Law school was never generic for me. It was always ‘The Harvard Law School.’”
Osborn, an author, lawyer and legal academic, died of squamous cell cancer on Oct. 19 at his home in San Francisco. He was 77.
Best known as the author of “The Paper Chase,” Osborn taught at several law schools and wrote four other novels and more than 40 film and television scripts.
His third novel, “The Associates,” about life at a Wall Street firm, was adapted into a television series starring Martin Short. His last novel, “Listen to the marriage,” set in the intimate space of a marriage counselor’s office, was inspired by his own relationship-saving experience with a marriage counselor. Osborn had said that he hoped