Escape from Life in a Corporate Law Firm
How would you feel if you had to work a hundred hours a week in a corporate law firm at a job you hated for a boss you despised because your father had pressured you into it? What if that job brought you three hundred thousand dollars a year? Would the promise of more entice you to keep up the pace to become a full partner in the law firm?
The Litigators is the story of Chicago corporate lawyer David Zinc’s breakdown and escape from his high-pressure law firm. He snaps one morning as he’s about to take the escalator up to his office. When he can’t force himself to get on, he sits on a bench to try to figure out why he suddenly feels like he is having a heart attack. Five years of his deadly dull and meaningless work with colleagues he couldn’t stand have made him physically ill.
David Flees from the Building
David finally makes it to an elevator going up to his office on the ninety-third floor, watching others get off on the way up. He was sweating and hyperventilating by the time his floor approached. When he arrived, his colleagues urged him out of the elevator, but his head was spinning and he fled back into it before it started down.
When he sat down in the corner of the elevator, other riders were a bit freaked out. He felt better when he finally got to the ground floor. He’d had the guts to leave and the pressure was off. But what would the important people in his life think? Would his boss send security after him? He decided to flee the building as quickly as he could, though he had no idea where to go.
When he sees a bar he ducks into it. He begins to drink to get drunk (though he has never done so before.) When his secretary calls to ask where he is, he brushes her off. When his wife calls to say the office had called twice trying to find him, he doesn’t answer. He spends most of the day in the bar with Abner the bartender.
Finley and Figg: A Shady Personal Injury Firm
Before the author introduced us to David, he first introduced us to the shady “boutique” law firm of Finley and Figg and the two partners, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg. Their specialty is personal injury cases. They never let ethics get in the way when they try to recruit or sign up clients.
We also meet their secretary, Rochelle Gibson. She had only two qualifications.
- She’d been a client whose case had been butchered.
- She had threatened to sue the partners.
She hung around the office so much that the three got used to each other, and she was there when the real secretary quit. As phones continued to ring and the partners were busy yelling at each other, Rochelle started answering. Soon she became the new secretary, peacekeeper, and real manager.
David Joins Finley and Fig
Back to David, who at almost five o’clock is passed out at the bar. Abner wakes him up, tells him it’s time to leave and go home, and puts him in a cab. But David doesn’t want to go home and face his wife. When he sees an ad on the side of a bus for Finley and Figg he tells the cab driver to take him there.
Shortly after that a disheveled David Zinc walks into the office of Finley and Figg. He says he loves the place and want to work there. When asked why he left his corporate job he says, “let’s just say I hate the work, hate the people I work with, and hate the clients.”
Rochelle opines he should fit right in at Finley and Figg. Over Oscar’s objections, they let him stay to see how things will work out. Around eight Wally calls Helen Zinc to come get David. She proves to be fairly understanding — at least enough to wait until he sobers up before they really talk.
My Opinion and Recommendation
I love the way Grisham brings the most unlikely people together. David had a Harvard education and impeccable law credentials. He had been on the path to a partnership in the large firm of Rogan Rothberg. Finley and Figg was a two-bit ambulance chasing firm. Finley and Figg had felt no need or desire to add another lawyer, but David makes an offer to work at a price they could afford, on a trial basis.
David joined the firm just before Finley and Figg were on the verge of what Figg considered their ticket to wealth — a class action suit against a large pharmaceutical company. David becomes the ethical voice of reason in the firm. He gets stuck with the dirty work and gets paid little for it. Watching these unlikely characters interact as each meets his own goals makes this book fun to read.
I won’t tell you any more. I found the ending very satisfying and consistent with what we might expect of the characters as Grisham portrayed them. You will get to know them well before you are very far into the book.
David discovers he needs to use all his education and experience his new position. His character and the genuine concern he has for his clients give the book heart. As he saves himself, his presence is a catalyst in saving Figg, Finley, and Rochelle. As in most of Grisham’s books, we see plenty of courtroom drama, and a bit of humor. I highly recommend the book.
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