The Street Lawyer
First edition cover
|Publisher||Belfry Holdings Inc.|
Published in English
|Media type||Hardcover, paperback|
The Street Lawyer is a legal thriller novel by John Grisham. It was Grisham's ninth novel. The book was released in the United States on 1 January 1998, published by Bantam Books, and on 30 March 1998 in the UK, published by Century.
A homeless man, identifying himself only as "Mister", enters the offices of the Washington DC law firm Drake & Sweeney and takes many of the lawyers hostage. Although he is eventually shot by a police sniper and the hostages freed, one of the hostages, an antitrust lawyer named Michael Brock, is concerned by what he has learned and feels compelled to investigate further.
He finds his way to the 14th Street Legal Clinic, where he meets Mordecai Green, an advocate for the homeless, who asks him to help one night at a homeless shelter. As Brock's investigation deepens, he finds that his own employer was complicit in an illegal eviction, which eventually resulted in the death of a young homeless family. He takes a confidential file, intending to copy it, but is quickly suspected of its theft.
Shocked by what he has found, Brock leaves his firm to take a poorly paid position with the 14th Street Legal Clinic, which works to protect the rights of the homeless. This leads to his wife divorcing him. He admits one of his clients, Ruby, to a therapy class for drug-addicted women, and in the process meets Megan. As Drake & Sweeney comes after Brock with theft and malpractice allegations, the Clinic launches a lawsuit against the law firm and its business partners. Terrified of the certain bad publicity, the matter is settled by mediation and the clinic receives a large payout to be shared with the victims of the eviction.
Drake & Sweeney's head partner, deeply troubled by the events, offers to make pro bono staff available to assist the work of the Clinic in fighting for the rights of homeless people. The book ends with Brock taking a short vacation with Megan and Ruby, and them reflecting on their lives.
- Michael Brock - the protagonist; a wealthy lawyer at Drake & Sweeney.
- DeVon "Mister" Hardy - homeless man who takes hostages at Drake & Sweeney.
- Mordecai Green - a street lawyer.
- Claire Brock - wife of Michael Brock; aspiring neurosurgeon.
- Arthur Jacobs - senior partner at Drake & Sweeney.
- Barry Nuzzo - long-time associate lawyer with Drake & Sweeney.
- Braden Chance - a real estate lawyer at Drake & Sweeney, who covered-up the illegal eviction.
- Hector Palma - paralegal for Braden Chance, who helps Brock gain evidence for his case.
- Lontae Burton - a homeless woman with four children; Ontario, Alonzo, Dante, and Temeko. They all die of carbon monoxide poisoning when snow blocks the exhaust pipe of their car. They were victims of the eviction, which indirectly resulted in their deaths.
- Abraham Lebow - a street lawyer; associate of Mordecai Green and Sofia Mendoza.
- Sofia Mendoza - a social worker; associate of Mordecai Green and Abraham Lebow.
- Tillman Gantry - former pimp, small-time hustler, and twice convicted felon, who owned the apartments where the illegal eviction took place.
- Ruby - a homeless woman addicted to crack. Brock tries to help her get over her addiction so she can see her son again.
- Megan - Brock's later love interest who works at the women's homeless shelter.
The novel received generally positive reviews. Charles Spencer wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that "no one does it better than Grisham" and that the book is "as unputdownable as ever". Mat Coward wrote in his review in The Independent that the novel is "fluent and fascinating" and mentioned "Few writers have so much to say, the skills to make reading what they say an irresistible pleasure - and the clout to be able to be able to say it to an audience of millions".
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times gave the novel a negative review, stating "Grisham is too busy charging ahead to bother fleshing out any of these developments" and describing the novel as "a brand-name novel with an unlikable hero, a slapdash plot and some truly awful prose." It reached #1 on the New York Times bestsellers chart, maintaining the position for several weeks.
Unsold television pilot
In 2003, plans were announced, and a television pilot filmed, for a proposed small screen adaptation of the novel. Produced by Touchstone Television, the show was to star Eddie Cibrian as Brock, KaDee Strickland, Mario Van Peebles and Hal Holbrook. Paris Barclay directed the pilot, which was scripted by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. For reasons that were never made public, the show was never given a full season pick-up.
- Grisham, John (1998). The Street Lawyer. p. 348.
- "The Street Lawyer". Nadpriemer.
- "Thursday's Book". London: Mat Coward. 26 March 1998.
- Kakutani, Michiko (10 February 1998). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; A Lawyer Converts To Virtue". The New York Times.
- "BEST SELLERS: February 22, 1998". The New York Times. 22 February 1998. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- "BEST SELLERS: March 1, 1998". The New York Times. 1 March 1998. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- "BEST SELLERS: March 29, 1998". The New York Times. 29 March 1998. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- "BEST SELLERS: April 12, 1998". The New York Times. 12 April 1998. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- Street Lawyer, The (ABC). The Futon Critic.