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Practicing law for 27 years has given Ken Isaacson the qualifications and plenty of material to indulge his passion for writing legal thrillers. But it was his undergraduate experience at MIT that taught him to think like an author. Isaacson published his first novel, Silent Counsel, last September.

“Thinking outside the box in constructing problems and plot points is extremely helpful, and MIT is a place where you learn to think outside the box,” says Isaacson, who lives in Morristown, NJ, with his wife, Sylvia. “To construct any plot at all–and certainly to construct any intricate plot–involves a kind of analysis and analytical point of view that MIT certainly helped with.” Silent Counsel centers on a mother’s quest to learn the identity of a hit-and-run driver who killed her child. The driver hires a lawyer to negotiate a plea bargain and claims attorney-­client privilege to keep his name secret.

Isaacson came to MIT as a freshman with his sights on a career with the U.S. space program. But midway through his undergraduate years, his focus shifted to law. Isaacson enrolled in Course XI, urban studies and planning, and went on to Columbia School of Law. He received his JD in 1979.

While at MIT, Isaacson served on the Student Center Committee. One of the committee’s accomplishments has helped keep students awake ever since. Isaacson explains that the center’s library was open all night, but there was no place for students to get a cup of coffee. The committee petitioned to convert a room into a 24-hour coffeehouse. The students furnished it with cast-off furniture and hired staff to sell coffee and bagels. Isaacson gets a latte-warm feeling when he visits MIT and sees the coffeehouse still in operation.

Isaacson knows the value of all-nighters–another quintessential MIT experience. By day he is on the job as general counsel for Allstates WorldCargo, an international transportation company. But late at night–and often into the early morning hours–he works on his second novel, another legal thriller.

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