Michael was in a hurry. He was scrambling up the ladder at Drake & Sweeney, a giant D.C. law firm with eight hundred lawyers. The money was good and getting better; a partnership was three years away. He was a rising star with no time to waste, no time to stop, no time to toss a few coins into the cups of panhandlers. No time for a conscience.
But a violent encounter with a homeless man stopped him cold. Michael survived; his assailant did not. Who was this man? Michael did some digging, and learned that he was a mentally ill veteran who'd been in and out of shelters for many years. Then Michael dug a little deeper, and found a dirty secret, and the secret involved Drake & Sweeney.
The fast track derailed; the ladder collapsed. Michael bolted the firm and took a top-secret file with him. He landed in the streets, an advocate for the homeless, a street lawyer.
And a thief.
John Grisham is back with his latest courtroom conundrum, The Street Lawyer. This time the lord of legal thrillers dives deep into the world of the homeless, particularly their barely audible legal voice in a world dominated by large, all-powerful law firms. Our hero, Michael Brock, is on the fast track to partnership at D.C.'s premier law firm, Sweeny & Drake. His dream of someday raking in a million-plus a year is finally within reach. Nothing can stop him, not even 90-hour workweeks and a failing marriage--until he meets DeVon Hardy, a.k.a. "Mister," a Vietnam vet with a grudge against his landlord--and a few lawyers to fry. Hardy, with no clear motive, takes Brock and eight of his colleagues hostage in a boardroom, demanding their tax returns and interrogating them with a conviction that would have put perpetrators of the Spanish Inquisition to shame. Hardy, a man of few words and a lot of ammunition, mumbles cryptically, "Who are the evictors?" as he points a .44 automatic within inches of Brock's face. The violent outcome of the hostage situation triggers an abrupt soul-searching for the young lawyer, and Hardy's mysterious question continues to haunt him. Brock learns that Hardy had been in and out of homeless shelters most of his life, but he had recently begun paying rent in a rundown building; that means he has legal recourse when a big money-making outfit such as Sweeny & Drake boots him with no warning. When Brock realizes that his profession caters to the morally challenged, he sets out on an aimless search through the dicier side of D.C., ending up at the 14th Street Legal Clinic. The clinic's director, a gargantuan man named Mordecai Green, woos Brock to the clinic with a $90,000 cut in pay and the chance to redeem his soul. Brock takes it--and some of the story's credibility along with it; it's hard to believe that a Yale graduate who sacrificed everything--including his marriage--to succeed in the legal profession would quickly jump at the opportunity for low-paying, charitable work. However, Brock's search for corruption in the swanky upper echelons of Sweeny & Drake (via the toughest streets of D.C.) is filled with colorful characters and realistic, gritty descriptions. In the The Street Lawyer, Grisham once again defends the voiceless and powerless. In the words of Mordecai Green, "That's justice, Michael. That's what street law is all about. Dignity."