The Litigators by John Grisham

November 25, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): 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. An extremely popular drug, Krayoxx, the number one cholesterol reducer for the dangerously overweight, produced by Varrick Labs, a giant pharmaceutical company with annual sales of $25 billion, has recently come under fire after several patients taking it have suffered heart attacks. Wally smells money.

A little online research confirms Wally’s suspicions—a huge plaintiffs’ firm in Florida is putting together a class action suit against Varrick. All Finley & Figg has to do is find a handful of people who have had heart attacks while taking Krayoxx, convince them to become clients, join the class action, and ride along to fame and fortune. With any luck, they won’t even have to enter a courtroom!

It almost seems too good to be true.

And it is.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Score one for the big guys. Varrick came out on top, which is surprising for a Grisham novel. Usually he despises multi-billion dollar corporations and makes them seem like evil incarnate while his underdog lawyers move in for the big score. Not this time.
  • This novel provided an interesting look at how class-action suits (mass tort) play out. Obviously I have no way of knowing how close to the truth Grisham’s picture is, but it was still cool to see how quickly the vultures circle overhead whenever there’s even a hint of wrongdoing.
  • I’m glad there was no fairy tale ending for Finley & Figg. I was fully expecting Oscar, Wally, and David to practice happily ever after in their little boutique firm and to become a respectable outfit after all was said and done. I thought it was very much in character for Finley and Figg to essentially take the money and run, and for David to turn out to be the only one with a real love of the law and desire to make a future for himself.
  • I knew the lead toy lawsuit would end up being the big winner; even so, I still appreciated the ending and am glad the firm (or David, really) got money through a more ethical and legitimate suit.

Disliked:

  • This book had one of the slowest, most boring openings I have ever plowed through! I couldn’t believe how long it took for the action to get going! I think it was close to 1/4 or 1/3 of the book before Zinc hooked up with Finley & Figg, and by that time I was predisposed to hate all three lawyers. What was the point of having David be drunk out of his mind before joining the firm? Couldn’t he have just had an epiphany and gone to a small firm? Couldn’t he have gone somewhere less than Harvard and accepted the job out of desperation? That setup was painfully bad.
  • The dialogue in this book was awful from beginning to end. It sounded completely amateurish and had me flipping to the cover every once in a while to make sure this was indeed a Grisham book. (Not that he’s known for particularly stellar dialogue, but still….)
  • David’s cross-examination in the Varrick trial came across as unnecessary and out of place. Was that just a sign that Grisham was unable to keep his hatred of pharmaceutical companies entirely under control for one novel? I mean, come on. After not having a single, solitary question for any of the defense witnesses, David suddenly sees the light and goes off about Varrick’s unethical testing in third wold countries? That’s a classic Grisham lecture for sure!

Rating:

While The Litigators was better than most of Grisham’s recent efforts, it still doesn’t come close to early works like The Firm, The Client, and A Time to Kill. The slow start, unlikable characters, and bad dialogue made it hard to get into the book with any real enjoyment, but the main plot and the ending were worthwhile. Overall I guess the good and bad points offset, so I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Leave a Reply