Review: The Litigators by John Grisham – a fun romp

I really enjoyed reading John Grisham‘s The Litigators. In fact, I stayed up far too late reading it, and paid the price the next day by feeling sluggish and exhausted!

The book revolves around David Zinc, a lawyer at a large New York law firm who is being worked to death by an unfeeling, unreasonable boss. David has a meltdown and leaves the office, never to return. He gets falling-down drunk at a downtown bar and ends up in front of a small, down-at-heel law firm – which he joins.

While the scenario of a top lawyer joining a seedy little firm stretches the imagination a little too far, Grisham’s use of humour gets you past this. The sad-sack lawyers, hard-as-nails secretary and even the office dog (named AC for ambulance chaser) keep you interested and entertained.

One of the lawyers, Wally, participates in a class-action lawsuit, convinced he’ll make millions from it by the big-name tort litigators who are running it. But the evidence on which the suit is based is faulty, and the “big boys” pull out. The test case happens to be one of Wally’s clients and he and his firm are stuck presenting it, even though they have minimal court experience.

When Wally, his partner Oscar and David realize they have to go ahead with the high-profile, impossible test case – or get sued for millions by the defendant for bringing a frivolous lawsuit – they hit rock bottom. Grisham draws out the empathy for these fleabag lawyers with humour. “Hey Iris, guess what? You owe half of $9 million,” David imagines telling their client, a poverty-stricken widow, if they withdraw from the case and get sued by the other side.

The inexperienced lawyers argue the high-profile case against an impossible opponent, with an unsympathetic judge. “Thank God it’s not me!” you think, your own problems paling in comparison.

The pace keeps going at top speed, with many twists and turns to a satisfying end.

Although several of the female characters – the opposing lawyer and David’s wife – seem one-dimensional and not very believable, this story wasn’t meant to be believable. It’s a fun romp through the world of high-stakes litigation.

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