Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life as Casino: Review of John Grisham’s The Litigators

By Meg Curtis

The Litigators smashes every likely preconception of “boutique firms.” The attack comes with the opening line of the novel, and it never quits. Trendy? Nope. High niche? Nope. Ridiculous? Yep—and counting, somebody else’s money, always.

In case there's any doubt what a litigator does, he races into court, and never knows what will happen. He or she opens his mouth to gasp at what his client says next. Then there's the judge who's always out to fool him or her. Who's up for craps?

If an author could assemble a more hare-brained cast than this one, let ‘em try!  Here three legal eagles compete to bring down the very house they call their own. Count them: Drunk 1, Drunk 2, and Harrumph make three.

John Grisham played his comedic talent close to his vest for years. With this novel, he takes the gloves off, and turns on his clever key. Every outrageous character that could wander around a court room finds his way to Finley & Figg & counting.

The plot begins with a breakdown—first, a hotshot lawyer for a corporate firm; then an auto crackup right in front of a gaggle of ambulance chasers. Respect for the attorneys vanishes as they forfeit advertising on TV and plunk it onto bingo cards, where it belongs!

As fate will dictate, the young attorney becomes the catalyst to shoo the older two down the alley of their dreams. Drunk 2 maintains religious faith that tort cases will balance the firm’s finances. Of course, he also dreams that dead guys make the best clients.

Harrumph hides in his office to avoid Drunk 2 while Drunk 1 places his faith in pursuing off-shore makers of lead-painted toys. These guys complete their artistry out of sight, out of mind. If anyone could find them, their business would be hell’s own.

Meanwhile, readers collect a serious lesson on risk-takers of the first order. Overall, the litigators here risk what minds they have left by taking impossible cases. Next, they risk discovery of fraud. Last, they risk their firm every time clients don’t pay up.

Casinos trade on this kind of tomfoolery, but who knew courts may work the same way? Can losers sometimes outwit themselves? Grisham sees inside the human heart where winners fight to get out. That's where sobbing ends and laughter really begins. 

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