Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Litigators ...by John Grisham

If only life can run its course like a novel. Grisham's books are mostly the legal type... lawyers, courts, lawsuits. The kind of stuff that makes Law and Order a hit back in those days when most who watched it wanted to be a lawyer or have something to do with that field.

Anyway, this is a 2011 book, written at a time many young lawyers graduate from law schools in America only to find that law might not be such a lucrative field after all. These are days are surpluses.... supply is outstripping plum law positions. Tuition fees are soaring. It now can cost a small fortune to study at top law schools. Graduates are saddled with a huge study loan debt.... In Malaysia we are slowly coming to that too. Back to the book.

A young Harvard lawyer cracks up after 5 years at a huge and well-known law firm. He walks away from a 300K a-year salary. On the day ge cracks, he spends the day drinking away and then stumbles into a small law firm, with 2 lawyers, legal clerk and a dog. The senior partner is unhappily married, a former cop. He's in his 60s. The junior partner, fortyish, is sleazy enough to do what it takes to get a case or a settlement. The reader is brought into a world where lawyers are like hustlers. There are many hilarious situations.

The case that makes the book is a drug related one, not of the drug cartel type but more of pharmaceutical. Mass tort law, suing big companies for releasing drugs not exhaustively tested, is the name of the game. Anyway, I think lawyers and big companies; they are the same. Both are like packs of vultures - go where the money is. Big law suits are still about the percentage lawyers get. One case and that's the break a struggling lawyer needs. A struggling lawyer is not necessarily old. These days, some struggle way on. Pharmaceutical companies are also about money. Testing done in third world countries where lives are inconsequential and less important because ignorance reigns.... and lousy leaders. Data collected, approval and sale of drugs, everything can be arranged, doctored.... It boils down to the money.

But the author tries to balance things up a bit, injecting hope, that there are still those who hang on to principles. In a case of lead poisoning, accountability by admitting and compensating as should came from the the toy company. A kid falls seriously ill, irreversible damages done and dies in the end. But the company owned up, apologized and compensated without much question. But underlying all that admission is still money rules. A toy company with a public case of poisoning due to their products cannot hope to survive long.

In the meantime, the young Harvard trained lawyer who walked away from his world of corporate law finds meaning in his life. The book ends with a fairy tale ending for him - kids, a new successful law firm, family and career seemingly in good balance. In a novel, that can be dictated... would be nice if we have that amount  of control over our own lives too.

Finished this 2 days ago after that particularly long read on Einstein. Didn't take much time, this one. Book 2. This year if I can do 12, it'd be quite an achievement. These days, the books that I am reading sway more to the textbook kind.... Not that I am complaining but trying to learn a new language in between is rather taxing.

1 comment:

Portugal said...

I have just finished "The Litigators" and did enjoy it. I have difficulty "getting into" some books, but this was not a slow start for me. Midway it was slowing down a bit, but then it seemed to pick up again and soon it ended. I have felt that a few of Grishom's weren't top entertainment, but this was worth the read and I was never sure what I would find until I completed it. Interesting tale about a small lawyer on the street taking on big money and a big pharmaceutical company with deep pockets.