The Firm (novel)

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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).
The Firm
The Firm Grisham.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorJohn Grisham
GenreLegal thriller
PublisherRandom House (1st edition)
Publication date
February 1st, 1991 (1st edition)
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages432 (Hardcover 1st edition)
ISBN0-385-41634-2 (Hardcover 1st edition)
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3557.R5355 F57 1991

The Firm is a 1991 legal thriller by American writer John Grisham. It was his second book and the first which gained wide popularity; in 1993, after selling 1.5 million copies, it was made into a namesake film starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, came into prominence afterwards due to this novel's success.


Mitch McDeere is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a degree in accounting, who has passed his Certified Public Accountant exam on the first attempt and graduated third in his class at Harvard Law School. Mitch is married to his high school sweetheart, Abby Sutherland, an elementary school teacher who also attended Western Kentucky University. His older brother Ray is imprisoned in Tennessee, and his other brother, Rusty, died in Vietnam.

Mitch spurns offers from law firms in New York and Chicago in favor of signing with Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a small tax law firm based in Memphis. He finds the firm's offer — a large salary, a lease on a new BMW, and a low-interest mortgage on a house[1] — too generous to resist. 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 the youngest partner in the firm's history. 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-cellmate of his brother Ray, to investigate the deaths.

Lomax discovers that the other three deceased attorneys died under suspicious circumstances: in a car accident, a hunting accident, and a suicide, respectively. While the details of their deaths don't add up, nothing concrete was ever proven. Lomax cautions Mitch to be careful. Soon after delivering his report to Mitch, Lomax is murdered. FBI agent Wayne Tarrance confronts Mitch, telling him the FBI is watching the firm.

While in Washington, D.C. on business, Mitch learns from the FBI that the firm is a white collar front for the Morolto crime family of Chicago. Although Mitch's work so far has been legitimate, tax fraud and money laundering account for as much as 75 percent of the firm's business. By the time their lawyers become aware of the firm's true nature, they cannot leave. No lawyer has escaped the firm alive; the five who tried were killed to keep them from talking. Kozinski and Hodge were actually in contact with the FBI at the time of their murders.

Mitch learns that his house, office, and car are bugged. He is under growing pressure from the FBI, which warns him he will almost certainly go to prison if he chooses to ignore them, as well as the firm, whose security chief, DeVasher, suspects he is getting too close to the FBI. Desperate to find a way out and stay alive in the process, Mitch has to make a decision quickly.

Ultimately, Mitch and Abby decide to cooperate with the FBI. However, they secretly decide to flee after turning over enough evidence to topple the firm, since they don't completely trust the FBI to protect them. In order to cooperate with the FBI, Mitch must disclose information about his clients. The attorney–client privilege in most U.S. states, including Tennessee,[2] does not apply to situations when a lawyer knows that a crime is taking place. However, Mitch must disclose information about some of his legitimate clients as well, which will all but end his legal career. He promises to collect enough evidence to bring down the firm in return for $2 million and Ray's release from prison. Working with Lomax's secretary and lover, Tammy Hemphill, Mitch obtains several confidential documents from the firm's bank records in the Caymans, eventually copying over 10,000 documents detailing over 20 years of illegal transactions.

Mitch tells Tarrance that while these documents spell out only a fraction of the firm's criminal activities, they contain enough evidence to indict roughly half the firm's active members and several retired partners immediately. However, the documents will also provide strong circumstantial evidence that the firm is part and parcel of a criminal conspiracy. This will give the FBI probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the firm's building in downtown Memphis and with it, access to all of the firm's dirty files. Mitch is certain those files will provide enough evidence for a massive RICO indictment that will bring down the firm and cripple the Morolto family.

Meanwhile, the firm becomes suspicious of Mitch. Tarry Ross, alias "Alfred," a top FBI official and close confidant of Voyles who is actually a mole for another crime family, confirms that Mitch is indeed working with the FBI. Once Mitch learns of the leak, he flees to Panama City Beach, Florida with his brother and wife with the Moroltos and FBI chasing them. On the way, he steals $10 million from one of the firm's Grand Cayman bank accounts, sending some of the money to his mother and in-laws, depositing some in a Swiss bank account, and leaving the rest for Tammy.

Mitch manages to escape to the Caymans with the help of Barry Abanks, a scuba diving business owner from the islands whose son died in the incident which 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. In the end, Mitch, Abby and Ray enjoy their newfound wealth in the Caymans.


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.

Avery Tolar: A highly accomplished attorney and partner at the firm, he becomes Mitch's mentor.

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."

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. Also noted to be crazy by Lambert for wanting to eliminate Tarrance since it would cause the FBI to bring in the "troops"'.

Joey "The Priest" Morolto: The boss of the Morolto (Mafia) 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.

Critical reception[edit]

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."[3]

Differences with movie adaptation[edit]

The film based on Grisham's book kept the earlier part of the plot, but has a completely different ending. In the film, Mitch makes a deal with the FBI for his brother's release along with large sums of money in exchange for information about his firm's clients. But rather than betray his oath as a lawyer by turning the confidential files over to the FBI, Mitch finds a devious legal way to keep both the FBI and the Mafia off his back so he can continue to practice as a lawyer though not in Tennessee. Reviewer George Crown noted that "In this case, I have the distinct feeling that the film improved on the book. The book's Mitch undergoes a very sudden transformation - plodding lawyer to dashing action hero. Virtually nothing in what had gone before has given us any idea that he had that in him. The film's Mitch, conversely, stays very much in character. He was a clever young lawyer to start with, that was why The Firm took him on in the first place - but he just gives them a bit more than they bargained for. His way of getting out of the predicament is the quintessential lawyer's way: a very neat, devious (and a bit dubious) legal solution, which only somebody with a good legal mind could have come up with.".[4]


  1. ^ job interview at hotel
  2. ^ "Rule 8. Rules of Professional Conduct". Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Tennessee Supreme Court. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
    See Rule 1.6, "Confidentiality".
  3. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (March 24, 1991). "Crime". The New York Times.
  4. ^ George B. Crown, "Fictional Lawyers, Fictional Detectives and Fictional Criminals of the late 20th Century" in Barbara Wisenfeld (ed.) "Multi-Disciplinary Round Table on the Interface Between Popular Culture and Social Science"

External links[edit]