A little behind the eight ball, I’ve never read a John Grisham novel. So, I had high expectations when I picked up The Litigators – and I wasn’t disappointed. Grisham has made what could be considered a very dry topic into a page-turner, with some humour thrown in for good measure. Not an easy task, when your subject matter includes in-depth research, client interviewing, and filing numerous court documents.
The novel centres around the ‘boutique’ (re: dodgy) law firm of Finley & Figg. Oscar Finley and Wally Figg essentially spend their time chasing ambulances, and waiting for their ‘big break’, while bickering like school children over client fees, ethics, and whether or not advertising on bingo cards is a good idea. They look set to spend another decade scraping through, until David Zinc waltzes through their door, blind drunk. David was, until ten hours earlier, a lawyer at one of the top firms in the city. However, that morning, he’d had an epiphany and realised that being on the fast (and exhausting) track was killing him – so he’d walked out and spent the rest of the day at a bar. When a drunk David sees Oscar and Wally in action, he knows where he wants to start his legal career over again.
Not long after David arrives, Wally stumbles upon what he believes is the big break they’ve all been looking for. Popular drug ‘Krayoxx’ is suspected of causing heart attacks in its patients, and suing the pharmaceutical company could mean millions for Finley & Figg. All Wally needs to do is find a few clients who are willing to sue, and then he can ride the coat tails of the national class action all the way to fame and fortune. But, of course, nothing is ever that simple, and the trio of lawyers are soon in way over their heads.
Grisham managed to make this novel a page-turner, predominantly because of the interesting, though not always likeable, characters. Where David is a straight-laced family man, with an idealistic view of life outside of a giant corporate law firm, Wally is a schemer always looking to make money, and Oscar is like a strict father figure who is constantly exasperated about Wally’s antics. The storyline was good, but it was somewhat predictable that Wally’s plan wouldn’t go off without a hitch, so I wouldn’t really consider it a legal thriller, as the cover said it would be. That said, I couldn’t put the book down because I really wanted to know whether they’d manage to wriggle out of all their troubles.
As a lawyer-to-be, I was particularly interested in this storyline. With no real idea of what being an actual lawyer in a class action is like, I enjoyed reading about life in the ‘real’ legal world. Yes, it was a fiction novel, and Australian law isn’t exactly like what we see on American TV, or in American books, but it still makes the profession look exciting and worthwhile. After five years of writing essays and attending lectures, it’s reassuring to think that our careers may be something like those of the lawyers at Finley & Figg… though hopefully less chaotic.
If this book piques your interest, you can get it cheaply (and with free postage!) here.