- Grisham, John.
New York: Bantam Books,  2012.
Every now and then you come across a novel where it's obvious,
from the first few pages, that the author had an absolute blast
telling the story, and when that's the case, the reader is
generally in for a treat. This is certainly the case here.
David Zinc appeared to have it all. A Harvard Law graduate,
senior associate at Chicago mega-firm Rogan Rothberg working
in international bond finance, earning US$300,000 a year, with
a good shot of making partner (where the real gravy train
pulls into the station); he had the house, the car, and a beautiful
wife pursuing her Ph.D. in art history. And then one grim
Chicago morning, heading to the office for another exhausting
day doing work he detested with colleagues he loathed, enriching
partners he considered odious (and knowing that, if he eventually
joined their ranks, the process of getting there would have made
him just the same), he snapped. Suddenly, as the
elevator ascended, he realised as clearly as anything he'd
ever known in his life, “I cannot do this any more”.
And so, he just walked away, found a nearby bar that was open
before eight in the morning, and decided to have breakfast. A
Bloody Mary would do just fine, thanks, and then another and
another. After an all day bender, blowing off a client meeting
and infuriating his boss, texting his worried wife that all
was well despite the frantic calls to her from the office asking
where he was, he hails a taxi not sure where he wants to go,
then, spotting an advertisement on the side of a bus, tells the
driver to take him to the law offices of Finley & Figg, Attorneys.
This firm was somewhat different than the one he'd walked out of
earlier that day. Oscar Finley and Wally Figg described their
partnership as a “boutique firm”, but their stock
in trade was quicky no-fault divorces, wills, drunk driving,
and that mainstay of ground floor lawyering, personal
accident cases. The firm's modest office was located near a
busy intersection which provided an ongoing source of business,
and the office was home to a dog named AC (for Ambulance Chaser),
whose keen ears could pick up the sound of a siren even before
a lawyer could hear it.
Staggering into the office, David offers his services as a new
associate and, by soused bravado more than Harvard Law credentials,
persuades the partners that the kid has potential, whereupon they
sign him up. David quickly discovers an entire world of lawyering
they don't teach at Harvard: where lawyers carry handguns in their
briefcases along with legal pads, and with good reason; where making
the rounds of prospective clients involves visiting emergency rooms
and funeral homes, and where dissatisfied clients express their
frustration in ways that go well beyond drafting a stern memorandum.
Soon, the firm stumbles onto what may be a once in a lifetime
bonanza: a cholesterol drug called Krayoxx (no relation to
at all) which seems to cause those who take it to drop dead with
heart attacks and strokes. This vaults the three-lawyer firm into
the high-rolling world of mass tort litigation, with players with
their own private jets and golf courses. Finley & Figg ends up
at the pointy end of the spear in the litigation, which doesn't precisely
go as they had hoped.
I'd like to quote one of the funniest paragraphs I've read in some
time, but as there are minor spoilers in it, I'll put it behind
the curtain. This is the kind of writing you'll be treated to in
This story is not just funny, but also a tale of how a lawyer, in
diving off the big law rat race into the gnarly world of retail
practice rediscovers his soul and that there are actually noble and
worthy aspects of the law. The characters are complex and interact
in believable ways, and the story unfolds as such matters might well
do in the real world. There is quite a bit in common between this
The King of Torts (March 2004),
but while that is a tragedy of hubris and nemesis, this is a tale of
While Wally doodled on a legal pad as if he were heavily
medicated, Oscar did most of the talking. “So, either we get rid of
these cases and face financial ruin, or we march into federal court
three weeks from Monday with a case that no lawyer in his right
mind would try before a jury, a case with no liability, no experts, no
decent facts, a client who's crazy half the time and stoned the other
half, a client whose dead husband weighed 320 pounds and basically
ate himself to death, a veritable platoon of highly paid and very
skilled lawyers on the other side with an unlimited budget and
experts from the finest hospitals in the country, a judge who strongly
favors the other side, a judge who doesn't like us at all because he
thinks we're inexperienced and incompetent, and, well, what else?
What am I leaving out here, David?”
“We have no cash for litigation expenses,” David said, but only to
complete the checklist.