The Firm (novel)
- For the film of the same title based on this book, see The Firm (1993 film). For the television series also based on this book, see The Firm (2012 TV series).
First edition cover
|Publisher||Random House (1st edition)|
|Publication date||1 February 1991 (1st edition)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Pages||432 (Hardcover 1st edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-385-41634-2 (Hardcover 1st edition)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 20|
|LC Classification||PS3557.R5355 F57 1991|
The Firm is a 1991 legal thriller and the second novel by John Grisham. It was his first widely recognized book, and in 1993 after it sold 1.5 million copies, was made into a film starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill came into recognition afterwards due to this novel's success.
Mitchell Y. "Mitch" McDeere graduated in accounting from Western Kentucky University, passed his Certified Public Accountant exams on the first attempt, and graduated third in his class from Harvard Law School. Mitch is married to his high school sweetheart, Abby Sutherland. They also attended college together. His brother Ray is serving a prison term, and his other brother, Rusty, died in Vietnam.
Mitch has offers from law firms in New York and Chicago but eventually decides to join Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a small tax law firm based in Memphis. The firm seduces him by offering him a large salary, a lease on a new Mercedes automobile and a low interest mortgage on a house. Soon after he joins, his new colleagues help him study and pass his bar exam—the first priority for new associates. Mitch is assigned to partner Avery Tolar, the firm's "bad boy," but a highly accomplished attorney.
Two of Mitch's colleagues, Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodge, die in a scuba diving accident in the Cayman Islands a few days before he starts at the firm. On his first scheduled day of work, Mitch attends their funerals. Mitch finds the deaths unsettling, but focuses on his goal of becoming a successful employee of the firm. During a memorial service at the firm for the two deceased attorneys, Mitch notices plaques commemorating three other attorneys who died while working at the firm. Suspicious, he hires a private investigator, Eddie Lomax, an ex-cell mate of his brother Ray, to investigate the deaths of the attorneys.
Lomax discovers that all five of the deceased attorneys died under questionable circumstances: two in the diving accident, and the other three in a car accident, a hunting accident and a suicide, respectively. Lomax cautions Mitch to be careful. Soon after delivering his report to Mitch, Lomax is murdered.
Shortly after Mitch passes his bar exam, Wayne Tarrance, an FBI agent, confronts Mitch. Mitch gradually learns from the FBI that the firm is actually part of the white collar operations of the Morolto crime family of Chicago. The firm's founder, Anthony Bendini, was actually the son-in-law of old man Morolto. He founded the firm in 1944, and since then it has lured new lawyers from poor backgrounds with promises of wealth and security. Although a large part of the firm's clientele is very real, the partners and senior associates are actively involved in a multi-million dollar tax fraud and money laundering scheme. By the time a lawyer is aware of the firm's actual operations, he cannot leave. No lawyer has escaped the firm alive; the five who tried to leave did so after finding out about the firm's ties to organized crime and were killed to keep them from talking. Kozinski and Hodge were actually in contact with the FBI at the time of their murders. The takedown of the Moroltos is such a high priority that the FBI's director, F. Denton Voyles, is personally involved in the case. Mitch learns that his house, office and car are bugged. Mitch and Abby are also routinely followed, making his meetings with the FBI dangerous. Pressure from both the firm and the FBI, which warns him he will almost certainly go to prison if he chooses to ignore them, forces Mitch to make a decision quickly.
Desperate to find a way out and stay alive in the process, Mitch makes a deal with the FBI. He promises to collect enough evidence to indict the firm in return for $2 million and the release of his brother, Ray, from prison. Mitch tells Tarrance that he can obtain enough evidence to indict half the firm right away. However, this evidence will also prove that the firm is part and parcel of a criminal conspiracy. This will give the government probable cause to obtain search warrants for the firm building and files, which in turn will provide the evidence to completely destroy the firm and the Morolto family with a massive RICO indictment. In order to do so, however, Mitch must disclose information about his clients, and thus end his career as a lawyer (though in truth, the attorney–client privilege in most U.S. states, including Tennessee, does not apply to situations where a lawyer knows that a crime is taking place). Working with Lomax's secretary and lover, Tammy Hemphill, Mitch begins to copy confidential documents and makes plans to deliver them to the FBI as planned, eventually copying 10,000 documents. At the same time, Mitch and Abby secretly plan to flee once Mitch turns over the files, since they don't completely trust the FBI to protect them.
Meanwhile, the firm becomes suspicious of Mitch. With the assistance of Tarry Ross, alias "Alfred", a top FBI official who is actually a mole for another crime family, they discover Mitch is indeed working with the FBI. Once Mitch learns of this, he runs from both the FBI and Mafia with his brother and wife. He steals $10 million from the firm's Grand Cayman bank account.
Mitch manages to escape to the Caribbean with the help of Barry Abanks, a scuba diving business owner whose son died in the incident where the Moroltos killed Kozinski and Hodge. Armed with Mitch's evidence, the FBI indicts 51 present and former members of the Bendini firm, as well as 31 alleged members of the Morolto family, for everything from money laundering to mail fraud. At the end, Mitch, Abby, and Ray go into hiding and are quietly enjoying their newfound wealth in the Caribbean region.
List of characters
Mitchell Y. McDeere: An ambitious law student who graduates with honors from Harvard. He is seduced by the money and perks the firm offers until he is notified by the FBI that the firm is part of the Morolto crime family. He is almost caught by the firm, but escapes with $10 million (comprising both the money the FBI paid him and the money he stole from the Moroltos; of this, he gives $1 million to Tammy and $1 million to Abby's parents) and survives. He retires to the islands of the Caribbean with Abby and Ray.
Abby McDeere: Wife of Mitch McDeere and a third-grade teacher in a prominent private school in Memphis. She is stressed by the long hours Mitch spends at the firm. After learning the truth about the firm, she helps Mitch gather evidence, and eventually escapes along with him.
Wayne Tarrance: An organized crime specialist from New York and veteran FBI agent. He is not very cautious. He tries to help Mitch, but fails to protect him. Mitch and Tarrance now have bitter feelings toward each other.
Ray McDeere: The brother of Mitch McDeere. He is a convicted felon who killed a man in a bar fight. Dishonorably discharged from the army, he is a talented linguist who knows several languages. He escapes prison with the help of the FBI and Mitch, and later aids Mitch and Abby in their escape.
Eddie Lomax: An ex-con and prison friend of Ray McDeere; a private investigator who works for Mitch in investigating the five dead lawyers. He is later murdered by one of the Morolto gunmen.
Tammy Hemphill: Eddie's secretary and lover, she becomes frightened when Eddie is killed. Mitch recruits her to help him build the case against the firm. Along with taking a job as a cleaner in order to access files in the firm's building, she and Abby steal and copy the files in the Cayman Islands.
Oliver Lambert: Originally an unsuspecting early joiner of the firm, later unwillingly drawn into the conspiracy. He is now the firm's senior partner.
Nathan Locke: The number-two man in the firm. He grew up in Chicago and has served the Moroltos since the age of ten. He is a major figure in the Morolto crime family. Described as "evil, eccentric" with "black laser eyes."
Bill DeVasher: A former New Orleans police detective, now the firm's security chief. He is in charge of monitoring the firm's lawyers and carrying out the Moroltos' dirty work.
Tony "Two-Ton" Verkler: A thug for the Morolto family, with an impressive record of convictions. He and the Nordic are sent to search for Mitch as he begins his escape.
Aaron "The Nordic" Rimmer: A thug for the Morolto family, recognized by his strong Nordic features. He is nearly successful in catching Mitch several times, but is later strangled in a confrontation with Ray McDeere.
Lou Lazarov: A caporegime in the Morolto family, with oversight over the firm. A close associate of Joey Morolto (the head of the Morolto crime family). Former actor.
Joey "The Priest" Morolto: The boss of the Morolto crime family. The younger brother of Mickey Morolto, who has limited business with the crime family. He inherited the family business upon his father's death in 1980.
Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times wrote that "Mr. Grisham, a criminal defense attorney, writes with such relish about the firm's devious legal practices that his novel might be taken as a how-to manual for ambitious tax-law students."