John Grisham’s new novel, “the Litigators,” is, at base, a David and Goliath story. And it’s a good one.
Oscar Finley and Wally Figg of Finley & Figg in Chicago refer to themselves as a “boutique” law firm.
They’re dressing it up a bit. They are a two-man firm that chases ambulances, specializes mostly in divorces and DUI cases and barely operates within the law.
Oscar is 62 and married, but not happily. Wally has been married several times, but more noteworthy is the fact that he has been sober for 60 days.
The firm also has another employee, Rochelle Gibson, their receptionist, occasional typist and referee when the partners argue. Oscar wants to take on just about every case that walks through the door, while Wally is waiting for the one big score.
Into their life comes another lawyer, David Zinc. He’s a Harvard Law School grad who worked in bonds for the giant law firm of Rogan Rothberg, which employs 600 lawyers in its Chicago office. At Rogan Rothberg, David, who’s been practicing law for five years, is a senior associate, which means he starts work at 7 a.m. and finishes most days at 10 p.m. His makes good money — $300,000 a year — but has no time to enjoy it.
He also doesn’t have time to enjoy his marriage or start a family.
He’s expected to carry a phone with him at all times so the company can call him at any time. One day on his way to work, David has a panic attack, literally runs away from the job, goes to a tavern close by and spends the whole day drinking. He sees an ad and ends up at getting hired on at Finley & Figg.
Meanwhile, Wally meets with Lyle Marino with hopes of handling probate for Lyle’s father’s estate.
Lyle asks Wally if he has ever heard of the drug Krayoxx. The drug, intended to lower cholesterol, has been on the market for six years.
It was developed by Varrick Labs, the third biggest pharmaceutical company in the country.
Lyle also tells Wally that the law firm of Zell and Potter has filed suit in Florida against Krayoxx for wrongful death.
Wally takes this knowledge back to the office and convinces Oscar and Rochelle to help him search for clients whose injuries or deaths could be blamed on Krayoxx. Their plan is a mass mailing to past and present clients to involve all of them in a class action lawsuit. The lawyers figure the big drug company would settle all the claims out of court to avoid a national scandal that would be bad for business.
They’d rather get rich through their share of a settlement than by winning at trial. The mass mailings don’t bring in many customers, but a story on the Internet about the firm does.
The three lawyers make a strange team. David, the former big law firm associate, has never set foot inside a courtroom, and the other two partners have limited courtroom experience.
Varrick Labs has decided that it will not settle and will take one of the cases popping up across the country to trial.
Varrick Labs expects to win easily, and for good reason. Not only does it have a stable of top-notch lawyers, but it also has an endless stream of expert witnesses at its disposal. Goliath wants to swat David away.
The trial is fascinating. The chapters on jury selection and the expert witnesses are mesmerizing. It makes you want to drop in and take a seat in the courtroom to watch the proceedings transpire.
John Grisham has written 25 novels, most of which were bestsellers and a few of which have been made into movies.
In “The Litigators,” he works his magic once again.
Maggie Braun is a teacher at Manhattan High School.