In a note to readers, author John Grisham (pictured), who practised ‘street law’ for a decade, said he ‘secretly admired the lawyers who had little time for the office, who preferred instead to spend their days doing battle in front of juries, often with clients and causes that were unpopular’.
Grisham said he was ‘afraid to get my hands dirty. Deep inside, though, I really wanted to be a rogue lawyer’.
I am not sure how many solicitors in this country would share his views, especially if Sebastian Rudd, the ‘hero’ of his latest book, represents the life Grisham admires.
Rudd takes on the cases others will not touch – a man accused of murdering two girls, a crime lord on death row, a homeowner accused of shooting a SWAT team that invaded the wrong house.
Rudd is admirable for the lengths to which he will go to ensure his clients have a fair trial. He is not afraid to walk an ethical tightrope he is willing to fall off if the authorities who should know better are playing dirty.
Hodder & Stoughton (£20)
‘The law is my life,’ Rudd explains, ‘always consuming and occasionally fulfilling. I wouldn’t call it a “jealous mistress” as some forgotten person once so famously did. It’s more like an overbearing wife who controls the [cheque-book]. There’s no way out.’
How close to real life is Grisham’s legal world? When there is no physical evidence linking a defendant to the crime, does the state often proceed with fabricated testimony instead of reconsidering the case? Do solicitors loiter around hospital emergency departments looking for injured clients? Are solicitors willing to break client confidentiality when lives are at risk?
Grisham’s book may not fully reflect reality, but that is part of the joy of reading his fiction. For a moment you are transported to the daring legal life you fantasised about when you were younger – before being transported back to your office, which, I am guessing, is probably not (like Rudd’s) a customised van with bullet-proof windows, a small fridge for your beer and a heavily armed driver.
But then it is probably a while since your office was firebombed by either drug-dealers or the police.
Monidipa Fouzder is a Gazette reporter