(42. – 929.) The Rooster Bar by John Grisham – Gordon, Mark, Todd and Zola face disaster. They are third year law students at the little known for profit law school of Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C. with no prospects but a crushing debt load. Between them they owe almost $800,000 in student loans.
They had been lured to Foggy Bottom, a law school with a dismal record of graduates passing the bar exam, by a glossy website and heavy promotion that graduates had strong prospects of high paying jobs. Grades and LSAT scores were immaterial for entry to Foggy Bottom. Easy loans from the federal government financed students at the law school.
The reality they face is a job market that has no interest in graduates from schools like Foggy Bottom. There is on over supply of law graduates from better law schools.
Upon graduation they know they will be hounded to pay back their student loans.
Gordon, bi-polar, and off his meds goes through a manic phase ultimately determining a New York lawyer and businessman has been making millions off of his ownership of their law school and other for profit law schools. He is also the largest shareholder in Swift Bank, a huge bank with customer problems of the same nature being endured by the real life Wells Fargo Bank.
Ultimately Gordy crashes and commits suicide.
The surviving trio, filled with guilt and deeply depressed, see no future in completing law school. Lacking any skills except for the minimal legal knowledge they gained in law school they decide to become fake lawyers.
They will count upon crowded courts and busy lawyers not demanding their credentials as they practice law. That they lack the knowledge to actually know how to practice law does not trouble them. They will fake it.
Not surprisingly they choose criminal law and personal injury law. In each area they can pursue clients who have little education and are desperate to have a lawyer represent them.
They pay for fake identities and go into business. Their office address is The Rooster Bar where Todd has worked part-time as a bartender.
Grisham creates a credible narrative of what happens as they venture into the illicit practice of law. As in most occupations a little knowledge is dangerous. While understanding some of the risks the trio is unaware of many of the perils facing them.
I wondered for awhile if Grisham had lost touch with legal reality as the trio appeared to be succeeding as fake lawyers but their lies and inexperience caught up with them.
There is an intriguing subplot involving Zola’s family who, after 26 years as illegal immigrants to the U.S., are about to be returned to Senegal. Born in America Zola has American citizenship and is exempt from the deportation.
The ultimate scheme concoted by the trio is clever and leads to a thriller ending I could appreciate as not far fetched.
The heroes are less pure than in most thrillers. I wish the bad guys could have been equally nuanced.
The pages flow by as swiftly as usual and I enjoyed the book but it is time for Grisham to head back to the South, preferably Mississippi. Four books have gone by since Sycamore Row. He has produced good books with interesting, even great lawyers as characters, but it has been long enough since he wrote a great book. I took a look around the net but could not determine if his next legal mystery would return to the South.
There has also been more than enough preaching in recent books especially Gray Mountain (railing against coal mining in West Virginia), Rogue Lawyer (injustices in the American criminal justice system) and The Rooster Bar (American for profit law schools and student loans).
****Grisham, John – (2000) - The Brethren; (2001) - A Painted House; (2002) - The Summons; (2003) - The King of Torts; (2004) - The Last Juror; (2005) - The Runaway Jury; (2005) - The Broker; (2008) - The Appeal; (2009) - The Associate; (2011) - The Confession; (2011) - The Litigators; (2012) - "G" is for John Grisham - Part I and Part II; (2013) - The Racketeer; (2013) - Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Analyzing Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Sycamore Row; (2014) - Gray Mountain and Gray Mountain and Real Life Legal Aid; (2015) - Rogue Lawyer and Sebastian Rudd; (2016) - The Whistler; (2017) - Camino Island; Probably hardcover