The book, “The Street Lawyer”, written by John Grisham, is a story that revolves around a city lawyer named Michael Brooks. He is three years away from making partner in a prominent law firm called Drake and Sweeney, when he suffers a violent incident that turns his life around. It starts as a normal day, and he is hurrying to get to his office when he notices an untidy man riding the lift with him. The untidy man ignores him, but Michael studies him.
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He notices that he has, an unpleasant smell, and has more clothes on than a normal person. He reasons that the untidy man has probably put on all his clothes because it is a cold morning. When they reach the eighth floor, the untidy man, who later insists on being called ‘Mister’, also alights; he waves a gun and fires some shots. He later holds nine lawyers as hostages. During that time, he asks them how much they earn, how much they spend on lunch alone and, how much they give to charities.
He is not pleased to hear that they take expensive lunch, and do not care much for donations as he is a homeless veteran. He asks them if and why they cannot help a homeless person (Grisham, 1998, pp. 5). Mister is later shot after he orders soup. It is delivered by a policeman, and he is shot by a sniper during the delivery.
Michael spends some time at the hospital being examined by doctors after the incident, given that Mister’s blood and tissue splatter on him after the shooting. His wife, Claire does not visit him while he is at the hospital. He later goes home to an empty house since his wife is working late at the hospital due to the incident at the firm. It turns out that their marriage is on the rocks as they both work long hours.
The shooting incident tugs on Michael’s conscience, and he aims to find out more about Mister. He drives to 14th Street Legal Clinic; here, he meets Mordecai, a lawyer who is fighting for the rights of homeless people (Grisham, 1998, pp. 12-13). He finds out that Mister’s real name is DeVon Hardy. He finds out that he was evicted from a building by lawyers from Drake and Sweeney. The eviction was illegal, since DeVon was a tenant, not a squatter.
When Michael returns to his office, he remains unsettled, and he decides to ask for the eviction file, but the real estate lawyer, Braden Chance refuses to give it to him. A few days later, Mordecai calls him and requests him to help at a shelter, he agrees. The night at the shelter turns out to be so cold, and volunteers are not enough.
He also meets the Burton family which comprises of, a mother and three young children. The following day he shops for them, but when he goes to the shelter, he does not see them. He later finds out that they died due to asphyxia after they slept in a car with the engine running.
He later finds out that the Burton family was part of the illegal eviction, and Michael resolves not to let another family die due to the same injustice. He accepts a job invitation from Mordecai, to help him fight for the rights of the homeless. Michael is selfless in this case, given that, he accepts to leave the firm from which he would have made partner in the coming three years.
In addition to that, the job at 14th Street Legal Clinic does not pay as well as the Drake and Sweeney firm. As he leaves the big firm, he steals the file on the eviction case, but this is not his intention. He is supposed to make a copy of it and return it, but he suffers an accident that delays return of the file. He does not stay in the hospital for long as he has to move from his house. His wife decides that the change of jobs was the last straw, and she visits a lawyer to file for divorce.
Michael starts getting clients at his new job. One of them is Ruby, a drug addict. She has been to prison countless times for drug abuse, and her daughter does not even speak to her. With help from Sophia, Mordecai’s secretary, Michael gets her to a rehabilitation center where he meets Megan, the woman who runs that center. He develops a liking for her and dates her.
Michael later meets Hector, Chance’s assistant, and they pretend that they have never met. Hector informs Michael that his fingerprints were on the file drawer from which the eviction file was taken. When Michael goes through the file again he notices that the note denoting the eviction was illegal is missing. One night, Claire wakes Michael to tell him that the police are in their former house looking for the missing file.
He confesses to Mordecai that he took the file. He later meets Hector and persuades him to give him the missing note, and Hector agrees. He decides to take the note to Mordecai, but he finds policemen at the office waiting to arrest him. Mordecai bails him out after a few hours, but not before he is roughened up by some inmates. They file a lawsuit claiming four million dollars for the death of the Burton family. This serves as a blow to the great and mighty Drake and Sweeney.
The big firm decides to settle. They pay each of the evicted families twenty five thousand dollars, and three million for the Burton case. They also drop the theft charges against Michael, but he loses his license as a lawyer for the next nine months. Since Michael cannot work as a lawyer, he starts a pro-bono program. He gets a pleasant surprise when Arthur Jacobs, a senior partner at Drake and Sweeney, sends four hundred of his workers to help him.
The following weekend, Michael, Megan and Ruby go away for the weekend.
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In summary, a high profile lawyer has his life turned around by a violent incident at the office. The incident triggers him to find out additional information about the veteran who holds them hostage. He learns of the plight of homeless people who suffered an illegal eviction, and he files a lawsuit on their behalf.
During this time, he changes jobs, and he takes one that does not pay as well as his previous one did. His marriage breaks up as his wife does not like the job transition. He encounters major challenges at his new job, but he finally overcomes them. Michael’s life transforms as a result of that incident at the office.
Grisham, J. (1998). The Street Lawyer. New York: Doubleday.