Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 647
THE FIRM begins with the recruitment of Mitchell McDeere, a Harvard Law School graduate, by a small firm in Memphis, Tennessee. McDeere has offers from some very prestigious law firms, but the Memphis tax firm offers him $80,000 a year and a BMW, so he accepts. The workload at the firm is arduous, but that is no different than other firms. There is an important difference, however; this firm bugs the members’ offices and homes, and it is controlled by the Mafia.
Mitchell is approached by an FBI agent who tells him about how the firm is operating and asks him to help the agency make a case against the corrupt firm. Mitchell resists but must acknowledge that the charges against the firm are accurate.
Mitchell agrees to turn over documents to the FBI, but he needs a suitable reward. They agree on two million dollars and the release of Mitchell’s brother, Ray, from prison. Yet Mitchell has reservations about the FBI’s protection and makes his own plans.
At the climax, the McDeeres are pursued by both the FBI and the Mafia and gather in a Florida motel. They have enough money, but will the Mafia or the FBI get them first? The rescue of the McDeeres only comes at the very end of the novel. A friend takes them from a pier to asylum in Little Cayman at the last minute. In the final scene, the McDeeres are at home in a tropical paradise; the members of the firm are all sent to prison.
The strengths of Grisham’s novel are the depiction of a high-pressure law firm, the gradual discovery of its corruption, and the suspenseful ending. The main characters are very appealing, and the reader is drawn into the McDeeres’ plight and their dramatic rescue.
Grisham, John. “The Rise of the Legal Thriller: Why Lawyers Are Throwing the Books at Us.” The New York Times Book Review 97 (October 18, 1992): 33. Grisham analyzes the rise of the “lawyer novel,” a phenomenon to which he has contributed as much as any author. He discusses the abiding fascination with the law of the reading public and how lawyers have turned to fiction in order to satisfy this interest. In addition to his own work, he considers that of other lawyers turned writers and their varying approaches.
Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Law’s Labors Lost.” New Republic 210 (March 14, 1994): 32-38. Klinkenborg reviews five books that deal with legal themes. In the latter part of the essay, Klinkenborg focuses on The Firm, citing it as a “notorious” example of portraying the culture of lawyers as opposed to the “nature of the law.”
Landner, M. “An Overnight Success—After Six Years.” Business Week (April 19, 1992): 52. That a magazine such as Business Week, aimed at the commercial community, should include an article on an adventure novelist indicates clearly the extent to which Grisham has been a financial success and how that success has drawn the attention of people other than his readers. Landner traces Grisham’s remarkable career as a writer who struggled for years to write a successful book.
Matthews, Thomas. “Book ’em.” Newsweek 121 (March 15, 1993): 78-81. A review of Grisham’s fourth novel. The Client (1993), which, like the two before it, The Firm and The Pelican Brief, immediately appeared on best-seller lists. Matthews considers this work and those that preceded it in relation to the genre of the “lawyer novel.” He also analyzes the phenomenal success that made Grisham one of the most widely read American authors in the space of only three years.
Pringle, Mary Beth. John Grisham: A Critical Companion. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997. Pringle explains the genre of the legal thriller, tracing its evolution from the thriller tradition and detective fiction, as well as the romance, gothic, and crime novels. Following a biographical chapter on Grisham, she devotes a chapter to each of his novels, including a penetrating study on The Firm.