Big Law was written by a lawyer. A lawyer who tried his hand at writing. And failed. Ok, maybe “failed” is a bit strong. It’s not that Big Law is unreadable or anything, but at times it comes close.
Carney Blake is a newly minted partner at Dunn & Sullivan, an appropriately fancy-sounding law firm that makes oodles and oodles of money for themselves through the important people that they represent. Blake tends to turn a blind eye when it comes to the moral aspects of the position, allowing him to maintain his focus on climbing the corporate ladder. Predictably, he finds himself entangled in a sticky lawsuit that could cost him his career and his life as he knows it. Throw into the mix a new relationship, drama with his immediate family, corporate creed and an over-dependence on cliches, and you have Big Law.
While the legal aspects of Big Law are manageable, they have a tendency to range from somewhat dense to flat-out boring. A lot of this has to do with Carney’s character. He’s kindof hard to care about. I mean, he’s interesting I guess? He has this black girlfriend that he likes to remind readers about every ten pages or so, at which time he reminds us that race is not an issue to him, so he’s a hero. His brother has a big drug problem and his dad is just an alcoholic jerk. Sure, he has problems, but his inner dialogue is so atrocious that I often found myself wanting him to fail.
For instance, he is constantly using phrases like “Okay, roll the tape.” Usually with italics. He’s real big on italics. That’s not the worst of it, though. The novel is littered with inner monologues lacking the wit that Liebman clearly imagines is there. “A blind man could have seen that I was down on myself.” Ugh. Really?
The absolute most painful aspects of Big Law are Carney’s commentary regarding anyone in any way different from himself. There’s the aforementioned African American girlfriend, but he additionally insults homosexuals, the obese, and really women in general. Other than Diane, the women are all described as being nice in spite of having unattractive features. This is primarily visible in the character of Anka Stankowsi. Carney describes her as follows:
Anka Stankowski was known in the firm’s hallways as “Jaba the Hutt.” She weighed in somewhere seriously north of two-fifty. As, by the way, did her husband, a partner in another big law firm in the city. They were his-and-her sumo wrestlers in lawyer’s clothing. I remembered seeing them dancing together at last year’s Christmas gala. They were surprisingly light on their toes, even though they looked like a couple of hippos in an animated Disney film.
Yes, that is a legit description from Big Law. Paragraphs later, we learn that she is fiercely intelligent and a force to be reckoned with both in an out of the courtroom. But no no, first we need an insulting description of her physical appearance.
My final issue with the novel was the fact that the jacket flap led me to believe that the plot would primarily deal with Carney’s trial, which actually factored only briefly into the plot. Mostly we are left with a convoluted plot that is at times hard to follow and and other times just plain insulting.
*A special thanks to Blue Rider Press and Penguin for sending me this book!