Lawyers as Criminals

Lethal Lawyers is described by author Dale E. Manolakas as a legal thriller and that is a true claim but much more so for aspiring lawyers and paralegals than for the general public. The story bogs down early because of the great number of characters introduced. It takes reading through a few subplots to get the relationships of the characters straight. With the word “lethal” in the title, a reader can expect a few killings. Several deaths occur so we have a built-in mystery as readers look for the identity of the killer. I knew very early in the novel that it was one of two possible characters, so I felt a need to read through the slow-moving novel to find out if it was one of my two suspects. I was not surprised. For me, this was an “OK” novel, three Amazon stars. Perhaps those with a strong interest in adventures involving lawyers would give this novel a higher rating.

Sophia Christopoulos is a recent law school graduate. She has a job as an intern in a respectable law firm but the pay was not the best. Sophia needed a high-paying yet intensely demanding position at a law firm that would pay big bucks. She had lots of student loans and a job that paid for every billed minute would enable her to repay loans much more quickly. Thorne & Chase did more than that. There were cute terms such as “value billing” and hourly billing for parts of an hour. Fifteen minutes in consultation with a company colleague could count as an hour. It just required that both lawyers filed billings for the same time and date claimed. The system was an obvious target for exploitation by agreeable corrupt employees and partners.

According to lower level associates and junior partners, there were no more corrupt people than the senior partners, five of whom were on the Management Committee. As they worked as mentors to junior partners and associates they determined billing rates and time spent on each case. It was in their interest to rack up as many meetings and consultations as possible. Senior partners would split billings with subordinates. This was where the first problem came in. If a senior partner deemed the subordinates work less than perfect, the senior partner would reallocate the subordinate’s fees to him or herself. This happened a lot at Thorne and Chase.

The firm liked to recruit lawyers that already had a client portfolio. The new recruits arrived at the firm and brought billable hours with them. This brought up the second problem. If the subordinate’s client was sufficiently attractive as far as high fees charged, the senior five partners stole the clients from the associates or junior partners. Sophia learned all of this a few days after signing her contract and began to have serious doubts about her move. As an intern in her first job with another firm, she hadn’t brought a client book. She didn’t even officially have her license. Thorne and Chase were so impressed by her skills at the hiring interview that they were willing to employ her in a consultation role until she received her license. Meanwhile, she would learn much more than she wanted to know about Thorne and Chase.

There was a movement among the junior partners to stop the Management Committee members practice of stealing clients and reallocating fees to themselves. That is when the deaths began. Senior partners from the Management Committee were dropping like flies, soon there were only two very scared senior partners left. All the deaths were accidental, of course. Steve Rutger, a police detective who hoped to become a Sophia’s latest romantic interest, didn’t believe the deaths accidental. The amazingly naïve Sophia continued to believe that almost regularly scheduled deaths in the Senior Management Committee population was just happenstance. While Sophia was attracted to Steve, she also resisted his investigative measures about the murders. She had just gotten hired by the firm and didn’t want to kill the cash cow. Also, Taylor, one of the junior partners, one of four in a cabal to upset the status quo, was bedding Sophia regularly. Sophia thought she was in love with Taylor and felt disloyal about her lustful thoughts toward Detective Steve.

There is no offensive sexual or violent language in this novel. Readers will have to exercise their imagination to fill in details of suggested murders and romantic encounters. The novel moves slowly and almost predictably. As I read, I was waiting for words that would signal the awakening of Sophia to reality. I felt the novel was too long and populated by too many characters to engage me in the pursuit of such a trivial point. This novel is available on Kindle Unlimited.

 

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