Burgs Sunday book review
Reviewed by Jennifer Poff Cooper of Christiansburg, a graduate student at Hollins University.
It is clear from the first page that “The Litigators” is not a typical John Grisham novel. It is neither a page-turning legal thriller, nor is it one of his more poignant novels (in the vein of the semi-autobiographical A Painted House). What it is, is entertaining – a mixture of suspense, drama, and, yes, humor.
The story begins at the ‘boutique’ (read: small, understaffed, poor) law firm of Finley & Figg. The “partners” in this two-man firm are Oscar Findley, the older and more sensible of the two, and Wally Figg, the well-educated but alcohol-addicted lawyer who is always looking for a big break. Finley and Figg are ambulance chasers in the truest sense of the word, as they garner a large portion of their cases by literally following the sound of sirens outside their office.
Across town there is David Zinc, a Harvard graduate on the fast track at the upscale law firm of Rogan Rothberg. However he loathes his job and everything that it involves, from the insane hours to the required cocktail parties. At his elevator stop one day, David suddenly has a nervous breakdown and flees the building. He lands at a bar, where he spends the day drinking away his troubles. Eventually a soused David stumbles onto an advertisement for Finley & Figg, where he spontaneously decides he wants to work. As he makes his way to its doorstep, the two parts of the book intersect and the story is born.
Believability has to be suspended at this point, though. David has found the name of his employer on the side of a bus, and they hire him without so much as a background check. The reader assumes that once David sobers up he will realize his mistake and beg for his job back at Rogan Rothberg. Not so. If nothing else, the reader expects David’s wife to smack some sense into him. However, he seems to receive great gratification from his new gig, and she supports his endeavor. Through his trials – literal and figurative – David gains confidence in his legal abilities as well as his life plan. The growth of his character is one of the pleasures of the book.
What makes this novel most interesting is that it is both plot- and character-driven. The three lawyers are all fleshed out as real people. Certainly they have their flaws, but each one generates sympathy as well. The interactions between the lawyers, their secretary, and David’s wife offer insights into the characters. In addition, there are legal cases going on as Wally pursues a pie-in-the-sky suit against a ‘bad drug’ and David follows through on a true product liability claim that resulted in a devastating injury to a boy. Although the courtroom drama is less than riveting, as the outcome is predictable, Grisham keeps the reader’s interest by demonstrating the fascinating intricacies of the job at hand with both humor and cynicism.
“The Litigators” offers an unvarnished look at the legal profession. The world of small-time law is a different one for David, who has never even tried a case. Finley & Figg has no paralegals or even a cleaning crew, so David quickly finds himself down in the trenches – an obvious contrast with the outrageous fees paid by Rogan Rothberg to testifying experts and their fancy client events.
It is hard to tell whether Grisham intended the novel to be a critique of the legal profession and the justice system, an indictment of big corporations, or just a good story. Whatever the genre, his characters, humor and legal expertise make for an enjoyable read.
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