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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 500

Rudy's adventures in the legal world of Memphis inevitably bring him to ethical questions. In court during the trial, Rudy is an ethical paragon, but he is less morally secure during the ambulance chasing episodes. In A Time to Kill, Jake Brigance debates what actions he can ethically take to get Carl Lee back as a client, and decides that he has to cross the ethical boundaries. Grisham bestows similar quandaries on Rudy. Rudy uses the prospective lawsuit for the Blacks as a lure to get firms to employ him, and then he plots when he will pounce on the Blacks with papers to sign so that he can take on their suit. Although aware that he operates in a gray area with the Blacks, he recoils from the methods of Deck Shifflet, who barges into the hospital rooms of the newly injured to hawk his legal services. Deck figures that if he did not invade the sick room, some other lawyer surely would, so Deck might as well have the business as anyone. He summarizes his standards as, "I mean, I believe a lawyer should fight for his client, refrain from stealing money, try not to lie, you know, the basics." Yet he speaks of clients in terms of their monetary value, bemoaning that his firm once lost a client who eventually won a two million dollar settlement. The accident victims he visits surely need help, as do the Blacks. Yet Grisham suggests that lawyers fight for their needful clients chiefly in the hope of monetary reward.

Whether earning these financial rewards will bring personal success is yet another question. Rudy is open in his admission that behind much of the nobility of which law students speak is the desire for "big money and success on a high level." A local model of lawyerly success is Jonathan Lake, who as a new attorney took on the case of a burned biker injured when struck by a wealthy drunk driver. Lake won a huge settlement, quenching both his moral and his financial thirsts. Rudy envies such success (and almost gets it with the Blacks's case). He thinks of his best friend from the undergraduate days, who is now happy despite his modest salary because he likes teaching school. Rudy considers, "Craig's job is immensely rewarding because he's affecting young minds. He can envision the results of his labors. I, on the other hand, will go to the office tomorrow in hopes that by hook or crook I'll seize some unsuspecting client wallowing in some degree of misery," The theme that the drive for money leads to unhappiness is hardly new; what freshens it here is Grisham's focus on a character who has chosen his career path rather naively, who wants to be idealistic, but who really needs to make money. The charge that lawyers can be greedy is hardly new; what freshens it here is Grisham's probing of how the quests for clients, jobs, and courtroom victories necessitate considerable greed.

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