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In the Shadow of the Law: A Novel Hardcover – May 26, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This outstanding debut goes behind the scenes at Morgan Siler, one of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful K Street law firms, as several lawyers become embroiled in two difficult cases: a pro bono death penalty case in Virginia and a class action suit brought against a Texas chemical corporation after an explosion kills dozens of workers. Assigned to the pro bono case is the earnest, rumpled first-year associate Mark Clayton, who wonders, as he struggles with sleep deprivation and trying to reach his billable-hours target, if he hasn't made a terrible career choice. Also on the case is the brilliant, cocksure young lawyer Walker Eliot. Leading the Hubble Chemical defense is the ferocious litigator Harold Fineman, and lording over them all is Peter Morgan, the supremely confident, never-satisfied managing partner of the firm. Though the novel features plenty of satisfying twists and turns, the book transcends the legal thriller genre. Roosevelt, who practiced and teaches law and who once clerked for Justice Souter, offers a fascinating insider's look into the culture of a high-stakes firm, while also presenting a considered meditation on the law itself and its potential to compromise those driven to practice it. Most of all it's the vividness and complexity of the characters—drawn with the precision and authority of a winning legal argument—that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice. Agent, Tina Bennett. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

If the first few pages of Roosevelt's debut call to mind John Grisham, don't be fooled. This isn't a plot-driven legal thriller of the sort Grisham writes. The protagonist is Law, with a capital L, and Roosevelt, who has both taught and practiced law, creates his story with full attention to his subject's multidimensional personality. Law is greedy, amoral, ruthless, and all-consuming; yet, in its own way, it is elegant, even beautiful, and fair, when practiced by lawyers with conscience. Law thoroughly overshadows the human characters: Wayne Harper, awaiting execution on Virginia's death row; the victims of an explosion in a Texas chemical factory; even a group of legal associates learning the ropes at Morgan Siler, a top D.C. law firm. "If you give yourself to the [law], it will give you something in return," one of the partners tells a puzzled associate. He's right, but the gift isn't always what's expected. Legal terms and concepts abound so this isn't breezy reading; thought-provoking is a much more accurate description. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (June 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374261873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374261870
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,236,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Joseph VINE VOICE on July 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If "In the Shadow of the Law" is to be categorized as a legal thriller, emphasis must be added to the word "legal." This is not a book for those seeking a light-hearted romp through the legal justice system or a romanticized view of the high-powered attorney lifestyle. Rather, it's a scathing portrayal of the pressures and absurdities that confront the legions of young associates who are forced to bill like the wind to pay back their law school loans through indentured servitude in today's mega-firms as well as the mid-life crises engulfing the partners who have sacrificed their personal lives in pursuit of ever-loftier partnership profits.

That's not to say that this novel isn't an entertaining read. Told from the perspective of half a dozen comically-stereotypical attorneys in a Washington law firm who are involved in a prono bono death penalty case and defense of a mass tort suit, Roosevelt hooks you by building a foreboding sense of suspense in the early chapters and then keeps you guessing with some nifty plot twists in the later stages.

But unless you have a legal background, you may not appreciate the real genius of this book. As the title aptly conveys, the characters and plot of this novel are ultimately overshadowed by the law itself, which serves in equal shrift as villain and protagonist. The law operates as the villain in the hands of the greedy partners who have abandoned the role of lawyer as counselor in favor of lawyer as crass profiteer and mouthpiece for unsavory clients. Yet the law also acts as the protagonist when wielded by Mark and Katja, two neophyte associates who have still retained their youthful ideals and sense of justice.
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Format: Hardcover
`In the Shadow of the Law' is a great first novel by Kermit Roosevelt. What I enjoyed most about this book was that even though it is written entirely about the law, you don't need a J.D to understand what is going on. Roosevelt breaks things down enough to make it easy to understand and enjoyable for readers of a myriad of backgrounds. `In The Shadow of the Law' is a wonderful book for fans of legal thrillers and summer beach readers alike. Even though the basis of the novel is the law, it is also touches upon our own personal motivations, morals, and values. He shows the unforgiving and almost brutal world of law, and exposes the not so glamorous reality of being a first year associate at a huge, well known law firm. Roosevelt also on occasion adds a witty humor to characters' situations and you may just find yourself laughing out loud like I did. The slight use of humor in this book also makes it less sterile and more relatable and realistic than similar books in the genre.

Just a tip- 'In the Shadow of the Law' doesn't take well to a passive reading style, I suggest that you read it all in one sitting. Otherwise, you'll find yourself paging back a few chapters to reacquaint yourself with what is happening in the book. So kick off your sandals, lay down your beach towel, break open the book and prepare to be entertained for the entire day. Also- if you aren't a lawyer, I can almost guarantee by page 50 you'll stop regretting the fact that you never took the LSATs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All set for a thriller of a courtroom novel where the brilliant defense attorney defends a man against an unjust charge of murder, and where a surprise witness enters the scene in the final 20 pages? I'd suggest you look elsewhere. How about this case in In The Shadow Of The Law? Our hard working lawyers take on a case that involves the securitization of assets, a fiduciary duty suit, and some convertible stock.

This is a novel that studies the character of the law, and the characters of lawyers in a very large law firm. A lawyer in the book reflects on the Penn law school motto: "Laws without morals are useless." The book goes on to prove that such is perhaps not the case. One lawyer reflects that we become what we choose to become. He then wonders about what he has become in the last 25 years. A man without a soul perhaps? Someone who has no life other than the firm? Arriving early to work one associate looks up at the wall of glass which is the firm's headquarters and sees faint forms moving about like insects pushing up against the glass.

The preceding paragraph pretty much sums up the author's philosophy. Brief snippets of actual cases appear from time to time, but a lot of the book is taken up with the musings of those insects trapped behind the glass. There is one case thread that wanders through the book that deals with a rather hopeless(?) pro bono case of appealing the death sentence of a murderer, but the rest of the cases deal with civil litigation such as defending a client whose manufacturing plant blew up killing several employees.

I enjoyed this book first of all because it is uniquely different from other novels involving the law. It is about the lawyers, and the profession that they have chosen.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As previous reviewers have noted, John Grisham this is not. There are a lot more subtleties and intricacies involved in the reading of "In the Shadow of the Law"; if you do not have the patience to appreciate these subtleties and are merely looking to figure out "whodunnit", then you are overlooking one of the more unique aspects of this novel. Mr. Roosevelt's sense of humor is exquisitely astute and laugh-out-loud enjoyable. But you might miss it if you're simply looking for the next big plot development. His meticulous appreciation for "The Law" as entity, profession, and dogma give his novel a depth lacking in most legal thrillers. Yes, this novel is probably biased towards the legal community. But as a layperson, I honestly enjoyed it thoroughly and went so far as to buy it for two equally lay friends. I look forward to reading future works by Mr. Roosevelt.
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