About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#29: The Litigators

The Litigators, by John Grisham (New York: Doubleday, 2011)

"The partners at Finley & Figg -- all two of them -- often refer to themselves as 'a boutique law firm.' Boutique, as in chic, selective, and prosperous. They are, of course, none of these things. What they are is a two-bit operation always in search of their big break, ambulance chasers who've been in the trenches much too long making way too little. Their specialties, so to speak, are quickie divorces and DUIs, with the occasional jackpot of an actual car wreck thrown in. After twenty-plus years together, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg bicker like an old married couple but somehow continue to scratch out a half-decent living from their seedy bungalow offices in southwest Chicago.

"And then change comes their way. More accurately, it stumbles in. David Zinc, a young but already burned-out attorney, walks away from his fast-track career at a fancy downtown firm, goes on a serious bender, and finds himself literally at the doorstep of our boutique firm. Once David sobers up and comes to grips with the fact that he's suddenly unemployed, any job -- even one with Finley & Figg -- looks okay to him.

"With their new associate on board, F&F is ready to tackle a really big case, a case that could make the partners rich without requiring them to actually practice much law.

"The Litigators is a tremendously entertaining romp filled with the kind of courtroom strategies, theatrics, and suspense that have made John Grisham America's favorite storyteller."

Opening Lines:
"The law firm of Finley & Figg referred to itself as a 'boutique firm.' This misnomer was inserted as often as possible into routine conversations, and it even appeared in print in some of the various schemes hatched by the partners to solicit business."

My Take:
Meh. Yeah, I've said this before, but I think Grisham has, too, so that seems fitting. Sadly, it seems the John Grisham of A Time to Kill, The Firm, and The Pelican Brief has either retired or gone on extended hiatus. The Litigators reads like something he texted in on his smartphone while devoting most of his attention to something else.

The Point, in so much as there is one, seems mostly to be about Big Pharma. While paying a condolence call to a recent widow in hopes of being hired to handle the deceased's estate, Figg stumbles on what he's sure is The Next Big Thing: several deaths that just might be related to Krayoxx, a fairly new cholesterol-reducing wonder drug manufactured by New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Varrick. (Gee, I wonder what that's based on?) If Finley & Figg can get in on even a tiny piece of what they're sure will be a huge mass tort action and correspondingly huge settlement, they'll be in hog heaven. Trouble is, it's not quite clear who the real bad guy is here -- the Varrick minions, for having enough lawyers, money, and machinery to weather pretty much any legal hiccups that arise, or Finley & Figg, for being complete caricatures of every shady lawyer joke you've ever heard?

What was clear is that none of these players are especially likable. Zinc is more so, but his arrival at Finley & Figg and the way his path and the firm's go on from there are somewhat clumsy and unconvincing. What's supposed to be a sideline, about Zinc representing a family of Burmese immigrants whose son has suffered permanent brain damage from sucking on a cheap Halloween toy, is more compelling, but hasn't Grisham told us this story -- big shot lawyer gets burned out, but then finds more fulfillment in the less lucrative world of representing regular people -- already in The Street Lawyer?

Read it if you're bored or there's nothing else around, but don't expect serious entertainment here.

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