(71. – 632.) The Litigators by John Grisham – Finley and Figg is a two man law firm eking out a slender existence on the streets of southwest
. Harvard graduate, David Zinc, is toiling day and night on bonds for the 600 plus firm of Rogan Rothberg. Chicago
Oscar Finley and Wally Figg pretentiously call themselves a boutique firm. They are actually street lawyers ready to take on the legal needs of all who enter the office. The daily mix of their practice is my life as a lawyer. I equally work on the problems of people not corporations or governments. Fortunately, I am not literally chasing ambulances as Finley and Figg anxiously listen for ambulance sirens nearing their office.
Zinc is exhausted by the hours demanded by his firm. Almost all his waking hours are consumed reviewing documents from international bond transactions. He is too tired to conceive a child with his wife. About to enter the office one morning about , his usual arrival time, he snaps and successfully dives for the descending elevator. After a long day of drinking he ends up at the office of Finley and Figg and asks for a job. The bemused partners decide to give Zinc a chance, principally because he is willing to work for little money.
Figg, perpetually seeking a case to take them to the big time, is a master of cheap advertising. He is known for being the first lawyer in
to advertise on bingo cards. Chicago
Figg manages to snag a case concerning a cholesterol drug, Krayoxx, manufactured by Varrick Labs, a pharmaceutical well sued for problems with other drugs. Reading of court actions being commenced in
with regard to Krayoxx, Figg conducts a desperate search around Florida for other clients with potential claims over Krayoxx. Chicago
Having assembled several clients Figg is given the opportunity to join with nationally known mass tort lawyers to go after Varrick. Figg is in the big time. He is totally unready for this level of litigation.
I can remember what it was like 20 years ago when my small firm joined national litigation over Canadians infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through our blood system. Unlike Figg we appropriately managed our participation in billion dollar litigation.
Grisham’s distaste for the mass tort bar is once again evident in the book. I understand his dislike of some of their tactics but I believe his disdain is over-stated. There is no way individual plaintiffs can seek redress for wrongs done by drug companies and governments. Only through class actions of hundreds, if not thousands, of plaintiffs with the lawyers taking their fees on a contingency basis is there the prospect of proper compensation.
Zinc follows a wild ride through the process of a major claim against a pharmaceutical. Finley & Figg desperately want a settlement that will provide them some financial security for the first time in their careers.
To the amazement of his former colleagues and the consternation of his parents and in-laws Zinc loves working with people. He finds it, as I do, interesting dealing with all the varied legal problems encountered by people.
As the action proceeds in Chicago Varrick follows an unconventional defensive strategy. It allows the case to proceed on a Federal Court judge’s “rocket docket” towards trial. They will not contest every application, do not make discovery of every document difficult, do not launch every possible motion to delay the process. Having been involved in several national Canadian class actions I have never seen a defendant adopt the same strategy. One reason is that the Canadian actions have all involved claimants in numerous provinces joined in one action and the defendants cannot pick the weakest case to defend in court.
Finley & Figg are ill-prepared novices in a high stakes world. When the court actions involve money of 9 or even 10 digits you need to be well resourced and well prepared.
Once again Grisham creates interesting lawyers who are credible lawyers and places them in a contemporary legal case. No author has better litigators. (Dec. 29/11)