Grisham back in the court room

JOHN Grisham deserves the throne when it comes to legal thrillers.

When he released “Camino Islands” in June, I thought he had become tired of his traditional story-lines as he dumped the courtroom and traded it for rare book dealers.

In his recent novel “The Rooster Bar”, which was published last month, he is back on his old groove, law. After reading the synopsis of the book, I was a bit sceptical about the story, but well, Grisham is one of those writers who rarely disappoints and on this one he does not.

Mark Frazier, Todd Lucero and Zola Maal only have a few huddles to jump before they call it a day at Foggy Bottom Law School, but something is just not right.

Their classmate, Gordy Tanner, who later on commits suicide, is hot on the trail of a conspiracy he has uncovered, leading to the three friends realising that they have been studying at a dodgy institution that admits unqualified students in order to profit from their student loans.

After also discovering that the school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator, Hinds Rackley, who also happens to own a bank specialising in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in a scam.

In a world where it is difficult to be admitted into law school, Grisham shows us another shadowy side where there are for-profit law schools that actually absorb students that do not even meet the requirements.

These students have been promised a great future and the exhilarating career of being an attorney, but they have been sold dreams.

He writes: “We’re in this mess because we saw the opportunity to pursue a dream, one that we could not afford. None of us should be in law school and now we’re in over our heads. We don’t belong here, but we were scammed into believing we were cut out for lucrative careers. It’s all about marketing and the promise of jobs.”

Having borrowed heavily in order to attain their law degrees, their way out is to expose the bank and the scam. The protagonists drop out of school, change their identities and start their own law firm on top of a drinking hole called “The Rooster Bar”, where they operate without a licence.

Without much experience in the legal world, they start hustling for clients in need of representation in court. Along the way, they have to bear the brunt of dodging creditors and unsatisfied clients, while at the same time trying to stay a step ahead of Rackley.

Grisham does a good job in shedding light not only on the issue of student debts but he also explores phony universities that churn out fake degrees to anyone who can afford to pay the tuition.

The book was inspired by “The Law School Scam”, an investigative article by Paul Campos, which was published in The Atlantic a few years ago.

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