In his 2017 novel "The Rooster Bar," John Grisham gets to create a happy ending for three duped 3Ls in a for-profit law school.
Spoiler: They turn rogue and, after plenty of non-stop action, become financially comfortable anti-heroes outside the U.S. Obviously this kind of spin is resonating. On Amazon, it's ranked 26.
Grisham puts this happy-clappy yarn out there even though he knows how many graduates of for-profits will suffer. In his author's notes he explains he derived the tale from The Atlantic article on that for-profit scam.
Mark, Todd, and Zola are heading into their last semester at fictional Foggy Bottom Law School in D.C. The job Mark was promised in a small law firm falls through in a merger.
Each of the three carries about $200k in student loans. The demand for lawyers not from elite schools has already been plummeting. Any one of them would be very very lucky to land a government job paying in the mid-40s.
Meanwhile, their classmate Gordy has been connecting the dots on the shady financial business associated with their law school.
In addition, he is being squeezed by a woman back home who demands marriage and the prospect of the debt he will be unable to pay off with no job. Simultaneously he is having an affair with Zola.
He stops his psychiatric meds and takes a fatal leap off the bridge.
The suicide unhinges the three survivors. Around the same time, Zola's family is deported back to Senegal. Yes, Grisham also takes a swipe at the immigration system. The book was published at the end of this past October.
The three drop out of school, relocate from their apartments to space over the Rooster Bar, take on fake identities, and impersonate licensed lawyers. Actually they do well with the usual DUIs. When they move onto personal injury representation, the scam begins unraveling.
But, the card up their sleeve is to, as a fake law firm with more than 1,000 imaginary plaintiffs, participate in a Wells Fargo type class action lawsuit. That will finance their permanent new lives overseas. There, out of boredom, they become owners and operators of a cafe as close to their memory of the Rooster Bar as possible.
Like all anti-heroes we love, they do a lot of right things.
From the proceeds of the class action they give Gordy's parents the funds to pay off his student loans. They also pay off their own. They finance a comfortable life for Zola's family in Senegal.
Also, justice prevails. The fraud Foggy Bottom is gets exposed by law enforcement.
Although Grisham is a skilled story-teller, in this novel the characters aren't well developed. Mark and Todd, for example, seem interchangeable. Zola, whose background is Muslim, isn't portrayed with any depth. And, one wonders if it is all that easy to practice law, including appearing in court before judges, without a license.
However, this is a fast-paced read which, ironically, can relax us during this holiday season. Be prepared not to be able to put it down, even if that means pulling an all-nighter.
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