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The Associate

A book by John Grisham

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This is a disappointment

  • Jun 22, 2009
  • by
People ask: How do you feel when you hear that ten lawyers drowned. They answer: It's a good start.
This joke could have been written by John Grisham whose best novels focus on the diabolical and unethical intrigues of large corrupt legal firms who take unfair advantage of people we come to like as we read his tale.
The associate Kyle McAvoy is the typical likable Grisham protagonist. He is in his early twenties, a bright aspiring lawyer, in his final year at Yale Law School, the editor of the Yale Law Journal, with the admirable goal of engaging in public service legal work for at least a couple of years after graduation, to help people who are financially strapped and unable to afford to hire a lawyer. He is facing the prospect of a brilliant future. But someone appears with a slight foreign accent, who calls himself Bennie, who has other plans for him. Bennie, or more precisely the people he works for, decides to use Kyle as a pawn, to aid them in winning a legal case involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
During his college years, in the midst of a drunken orgy, Kyle became involved in what may have been a rape. But he and we, the readers, wonder, was it a rape? Was he involved? And if so, how? We are drawn into the drama with these and other tantalizing and interesting questions.
Bennie blackmails Kyle, against his and his father's will, into joining one of two of the largest legal firms in the world. Kyle must illegally and unethically hand Bennie all the documents he desires. Kyle does not know who are Bennie's employers and their goal?
Bennie's coconspirators follow Kyle every minute. His apartment, telephone and computer are monitored by Bennie's team. Can Kyle escape the surveillance? Can he defeat Bennie and his unknown associates? Will Bennie publicize that Kyle was involved in a rape and destroy his future as a lawyer and land him in jail?
The drama introduces us to many interesting characters. There is a murder, of course. Kyle falls in love. All of this makes for a delightful read without the additional tale of how the legal firm functions. But, it is here that Grisham excels.
Grisham describes the ideal law firm as being "the cornerstone of democracy and the front lines for so many social conflicts." But the machinations of the world's largest law firm, the firm that Kyle is forced to join, are staggering and in no way similar to this ideal. The firm bills its clients $200 an hour for work that Kyle performs before he passes the Bar exam, and $400 an hour after he passes. He is taught by the firm how to lie about the hours spent and pad his bills. He and a senior partner who bills $800 an hour, for example, have a social lunch at an expensive restaurant unrelated to any case the firm is handling, and then bill a client for the meal and the two hours they spent eating. They are stealing $2,400 from the firm's client for the two hours plus a couple of hundred dollars for the meal and two bottle of expensive wine.
The law firm insists that its lawyers bill as many hours as possible. Some of the lawyers do not go home and sleep at their desk. The lawyers work close to 80 hours a week at the office and an associate occasionally hits a hundred hours. As a result, firm lawyers have a 72 percent divorce rate.
Reading Grisham's novel one wonders whether the atrocious legal system that he portrays is widespread, and, if so, should our country somehow try to reduce litigation. Lawyers did not exist in the early Judeo-Christian culture or among most ancient societies. If people had a dispute, they were expected to argue their own case without help of an uninvolved paid paladin.
Many ancient societies turned to God to resolve litigation. If a woman was suspected of adultery she was tossed into water. If she survived, then "obviously" God was declaring her innocent. This is barbaric; but is it worse than the legal system that Grisham portrays?
Grisham's new novel has two problems. First, the theme of the overbearing large law firm is the same theme of his earlier works. If someone else wrote his first books, even the law firm he portrays would have been unable to defend him against the charge of plagiarism. Second, as usual Grisham does not end his mystery well. Leaving the resolution of a single issue obscure is fine; it provokes thought and the reader can write his or her own ending. However to leave the resolution of every single issue unresolved is nothing less than writing half a novel; it is not thought provoking; it is annoying.

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More The Associate reviews
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
Another lawyerly Grisham. A good not too intense summer read.
review by . June 26, 2010
The Associate - An incomplete story
The Associate written by John Graham is a balanced book. It is really good but the ending could have been better. Towards the end, you find out what the main character did, he could have done it at the start of the book as well. The story revolved around a bright law student who is forced to work in a big law firm by blackmail. He has a dark secret which is now used to blackmail him to commit corporate espionage. The entire book shows how he tracks his blackmailers, as in, how he finds out how they …
review by . January 10, 2010
Interesting how I will probably be in the minority on this one. To me, John Griham can do little wrong with his writing. The Associate is really no exception. The story is detailed without being boring and quite exciting as Kyle seems to be a bit clever in avoiding the different bugs and wire traps Bennie and his boys throw at him. The fact that Bennie's real name is never revealed or discovered is not of great consquence to the novel.    There are several subplots but each one …
review by . February 24, 2009
If you have read the last few John Grisham fiction books, then you probably don't have to read this review. The Associate contains the typical Grisham elements: nefarious agents seeking to pervert the law, a sympathetic young protagonist, a somehow close yet superficial look at one particular aspect of the legal profession/justice system, and an ending that leaves one (or at least me) feeling vaguely unsatisfied.     The area explored in The Associate is the big New York law …
review by . February 03, 2009
I read some of the reviews before I read this book to try and get a feel for it and from what I was reading I was like "uh oh", I hope this isn't a Grisham bomb!! Thankfully this book IS NOT near as bad as other make it out to be. It's actually not bad at all. This was a very fast paced book that was written precisely for the movies, which is not at all surprising since they announced the actors for the movie before they even released this book. Strange. Grisham truly has his own style and it's …
review by . January 27, 2009
This novel grabbed me on the first page. Why is this bright young law grad doing community service? Why is the FBI stalking him? And why is he so nervous? The plot reminded me of The Firm, which I enjoyed. The writing is competent, the story initially engrossing. A large law firm blackmails its own members for a nefarious agenda. The hero is a not so innocent, but sympathetic hero...    Grisham used to write novels that kept me on the edge of my seat. I recall The Pelican Brief, …
About the reviewer
Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #64
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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About this book


Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father's small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential.

But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn't want—even though it's a job most law students can only dream about.

Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

With an unforgettable cast of characters and villains—from Baxter Tate, a drug-addled trust fund kid and possible rapist, to Dale, a pretty but seemingly quiet former math teacher who shares Kyle's "cubicle" at the law firm, to two of the most powerful and fiercely competitive defense contractors in the country—and featuring all the twists and turns that have made John Grisham the most popular storyteller in the world, The Associate is vintage Grisham.

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ISBN-10: 0385517831
ISBN-13: 978-0385517836
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Doubleday
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