Behind the fancy "Finley & Figg" sign are two middle-aged lawyers just getting by. Oscar Finley and Wally Figg qualify as ambulance chasers, specialists in hung-over DUIs, hapless shoplifting defendants, and no-fault divorce cases. Then one day, while they're wading through yet another mundane day of paper-pushing in their modest Chicago office, everything changes forever. The arrival of burned out fast-track attorney David Zinc to the firm takes their pick-up game to a whole new level. Before long, they are grappling with a real legal case, one that involves a $25 billion pharmaceutical corporation and a slam-dunk class action suit with infinite possibilities. What Messrs. Finley and Figg don't yet realize is that their road to riches will pit them against a legal team not accustomed to losing. John Grisham's new courtroom thriller combines realistic strategies with likeable characters. Nobody does it better.
Grisham's entertaining modern-day legal thriller offers a bitingly farcical look at lawyers at the bottom of the food chain. David Zinc, an associate at a Chicago mega-firm who's sick of the sweatshop he's been laboring in for five years, flees the office one morning and ends up spending all day in a bar. Soon after the bartender finally kicks him out, Zinc spots an ad on a city bus for a firm of ambulance-chasers, Finley & Figg, and resolves to join their hapless practice. Meanwhile, Wally Figg, one of Finley & Figg's two partners, thinks he's found a goldmine after learning that a client who died recently was taking an anti-cholesterol drug called Krayoxx. Zinc, who has zero litigation experience, aids Finley & Figg, who likewise lack litigation experience, in filing suit against the huge pharmaceutical company that produces Krayoxx. Grisham (The Confession) makes Zinc's personal transformation more convincing than his professional one. Some readers may feel the fairy tale ending clashes with the dark humor of the opening. (Oct.)
A tight (in a couple of senses), unexpectedly comic courtroom saga from veteran legal eagle Grisham (The Confession, 2011, etc.). After an unhappy showing with last year's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, Grisham is back in grown-up land. But grown-up is as grown-up does, and the characters who populate this latest are very, well, morally compromised—and on all sides of the law. One, David Zinc, cuts a formidable figure at the bar—and, once he's decided that, even though he's in his early 30s, he's done with practicing law at a huge corporate firm in downtown Chicago, he cuts a still more formidable figure drinking himself stupid at the nearest watering hole ("Do you serve breakfast?" "Yep, it's called a Bloody Mary"). A long bout of sucking down the sauce later, David has fallen far in the world, so far that he's now in cahoots with a practice that likes to call itself a "boutique firm," but that is in truth made up of a couple of dictionary-definition ambulance-chasers. Make that hearse-chasers: The brilliant legal minds at Finley & Figg like nothing better than to feed at the bottom, scouring the news and the obituaries for profit-inducing mayhem, for something, anything, to sue for. It's a hit-or-miss business, but with David on board, the partners' fortunes would seem to hold greater promise. Ah, but this is a Grisham novel, and the justice that's served up, as always, cuts both ways. There are a couple of holes in the plot (if David wants out of the law so badly, why does he so quickly fall right back into it?), but Grisham has a blast with all the righteous mischief in a tale with no real heroes and plenty of villains, with Big Pharma at the heart of the story. He writes with good humor, mostly, but with some calculating nastiness as well ("Oscar's perfect outcome would be breaking news of a pending settlement at about the same time his wife croaked on the drug"). Grisham's latest is a hoot—and, with its insider's view of jury selection and other dirty tricks, a very good reason to hope to steer clear of a courtroom.
…if you're a Grisham apostate, now might be the time to get reacquainted. And this snappy, well-turned novel might be a good place to start…Grisham brings his usual nuanced understanding of tort law and civil jurisprudence, but he seems just as interested in the non-experts…At the risk of making Grisham sound pretentious orworseboring, I would argue that his true subjectnow that he has the luxury to explore itis how the law serves as both accessory and antagonist to our dreams.
The Washington Post
From the Publisher
“John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we’ve got.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Grisham holds up that same mirror to our age as Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.”—The Boston Globe
“A mighty narrative talent.”—Chicago Sun-Times
Read an Excerpt
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. When used properly, it implied that Finley & Figg was something above your average two-bit operation. Boutique, as in small, gifted, and expert in one specialized area. Boutique, as in pretty cool and chic, right down to the French-ness of the word itself. Boutique, as in thoroughly happy to be small, selective, and prosperous.
Except for its size, it was none of these things. Finley & Figg’s scam was hustling injury cases, a daily grind that required little skill or creativity and would never be considered cool or sexy. Proﬁts were as elusive as status. The ﬁrm was small because it couldn’t afford to grow. It was selective only because no one wanted to work there, including the two men who owned it. Even its location suggested a monotonous life out in the bush leagues. With a Vietnamese massage parlor to its left and a lawn mower repair shop to its right, it was clear at a casual glance that Finley & Figg was not prospering. There was another boutique ﬁrm directly across the street—hated rivals—and more lawyers around the corner. In fact, the neighborhood was teeming with lawyers, some working alone, others in small ﬁrms, others still in versions of their own little boutiques.
F&F’s address was on Preston Avenue, a busy street ﬁlled with old bungalows now converted and used for all manner of commercial activity. There was retail (liquor, cleaners, massages) and professional (legal, dental, lawn mower repair) and culinary (enchiladas, baklava, and pizza to go). Oscar Finley had won the building in a lawsuit twenty years earlier. What the address lacked in prestige it sort of made up for in location. Two doors away was the intersection of Preston, Beech, and Thirty- eighth, a chaotic convergence of asphalt and trafﬁc that guaranteed at least one good car wreck a week, and often more. F&F’s annual overhead was covered by collisions that happened less than one hundred yards away. Other law ﬁrms, boutique and otherwise, were often prowling the area in hopes of ﬁnding an available, cheap bungalow from which their hungry lawyers could hear the actual squeal of tires and crunching of metal.
With only two attorneys/partners, it was of course mandatory that one be declared the senior and the other the junior. The senior partner was Oscar Finley, age sixty-two, a thirty-year survivor of the bare- knuckle brand of law found on the tough streets of southwest Chicago. Oscar had once been a beat cop but got himself terminated for cracking skulls. He almost went to jail but instead had an awakening and went to college, then law school. When no ﬁrms would hire him, he hung out his own little shingle and started suing anyone who came near. Thirty-two years later, he found it hard to believe that for thirty- two years he’d wasted his career suing for past-due accounts receivable, fender benders, slip-and-falls, and quickie divorces. He was still married to his ﬁrst wife, a terrifying woman he wanted to sue every day for his own divorce. But he couldn’t afford it. After thirty-two years of lawyering, Oscar Finley couldn’t afford much of anything.
His junior partner—and Oscar was prone to say things like, “I’ll get my junior partner to handle it,” when trying to impress judges and other lawyers and especially prospective clients—was Wally Figg, age forty-ﬁve. Wally fancied himself a hardball litigator, and his blustery ads promised all kinds of aggressive behavior. “We Fight for Your Rights!” and “Insurance Companies Fear Us!” and “We Mean Business!” Such ads could be seen on park benches, city transit buses, cabs, high school football programs, even telephone poles, though this violated several ordinances. The ads were not seen in two crucial markets—television and billboards. Wally and Oscar were still ﬁghting over these. Oscar refused to spend the money—both types were horribly expensive—and Wally was still scheming. His dream was to see his smiling face and slick head on television saying dreadful things about insurance companies while promising huge settlements to injured folks wise enough to call his toll-free number.
But Oscar wouldn’t even pay for a billboard. Wally had one picked out. Six blocks from the ofﬁce, at the corner of Beech and Thirty- second, high above the swarming trafﬁc, on top of a four-story tenement house, there was the most perfect billboard in all of metropolitan Chicago. Currently hawking cheap lingerie (with a comely ad, Wally had to admit), the billboard had his name and face written all over it. But Oscar still refused.
Wally’s law degree came from the prestigious University of Chicago School of Law. Oscar picked his up at a now-defunct place that once offered courses at night. Both took the bar exam three times. Wally had four divorces under his belt; Oscar could only dream. Wally wanted the big case, the big score with millions of dollars in fees. Oscar wanted only two things—divorce and retirement.
How the two men came to be partners in a converted house on Preston Avenue was another story. How they survived without choking each other was a daily mystery.
Their referee was Rochelle Gibson, a robust black woman with attitude and savvy earned on the streets from which she came. Ms. Gibson handled the front—the phone, the reception, the prospective clients arriving with hope and the disgruntled ones leaving in anger, the occasional typing (though her bosses had learned if they needed something typed, it was far simpler to do it themselves), the ﬁrm dog, and, most important, the constant bickering between Oscar and Wally.
Years earlier, Ms. Gibson had been injured in a car wreck that was not her fault. She then compounded her troubles by hiring the law ﬁrm of Finley & Figg, though not by choice. Twenty- four hours after the crash, bombed on Percocet and laden with splints and plaster casts, Ms. Gibson had awakened to the grinning, ﬂeshy face of Attorney Wallis Figg hovering over her hospital bed. He was wearing a set of aquamarine scrubs, had a stethoscope around his neck, and was doing a good job of impersonating a physician. Wally tricked her into signing a contract for legal representation, promised her the moon, sneaked out of the room as quietly as he’d sneaked in, then proceeded to butcher her case. She netted $40,000, which her husband drank and gambled away in a matter of weeks, which led to a divorce action ﬁled by Oscar Finley. He also handled her bankruptcy. Ms. Gibson was not impressed with either lawyer and threatened to sue both for malpractice. This got their attention—they had been hit with similar lawsuits—and they worked hard to placate her. As her troubles multiplied, she became a ﬁxture at the ofﬁce, and with time the three became comfortable with one another.
Finley & Figg was a tough place for secretaries. The pay was low, the clients were generally unpleasant, the other lawyers on the phone were rude, the hours were long, but the worst part was dealing with the two partners. Oscar and Wally had tried the mature route, but the older gals couldn’t handle the pressure. They had tried youth but got themselves sued for sexual harassment when Wally couldn’t keep his paws off a busty young thing. (They settled out of court for $50,000 and got their names in the newspaper.) Rochelle Gibson happened to be at the ofﬁce one morning when the then-current secretary quit and stormed out. With the phone ringing and partners yelling, Ms. Gibson moved over to the front desk and calmed things down. Then she made a pot of coffee. She was back the next day, and the next. Eight years later, she was still running the place.
Her two sons were in prison. Wally had been their lawyer, though in all fairness no one could have saved them. As teenagers, both boys kept Wally busy with their string of arrests on various drug charges. Their dealing got more involved, and Wally warned them repeatedly they were headed for prison, or death. He said the same to Ms. Gibson, who had little control over the boys and often prayed for prison. When their crack ring got busted, they were sent away for ten years. Wally got it reduced from twenty and received no gratitude from the boys. Ms. Gibson offered a tearful thanks. Through all their troubles, Wally never charged her a fee for his representation.
Over the years, there had been many tears in Ms. Gibson’s life, and they had often been shed in Wally’s ofﬁce with the door locked. He gave advice and tried to help when possible, but his greatest role was that of a listener.
Excerpted from The Litigators by John Grisham. Copyright © 2011 by Belfry Holdings, Inc.
Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.