An Eye for an Eye or a Life for a Life

The Neon Lawyer by Victor Methos. Book Review for NetGalley.

This book is claimed to be based on a real incident, possibly in the life of the author – or a merging of several incidents. So we must consider it an autobiography with flourishes for the purpose of making a good tale.

Now I know that competition for the best and brightest graduates of the top law schools is fierce amongst the top law firms. And I also know that in the US if you are not top of the class you will not be offered a place in these really prestigious firms – the lower your class ranking and the lower ranked your university or law school is, the lower ranked the firm will be and the salary attached to the job will also be lower and so it goes…and as I understand it from American TV, – whether or not true I have no idea – but the aspiring lawyers may also watch the same TV programmes as me – the top graduates or indeed nearly all graduates from law school, want to be trial lawyers.

In the UK we have a very different system. Yet with even fewer lawyers who go to major trials – you need to belong to a ‘set’ which is a loose partnership of lawyers involved in trial law in various forms. You are all self-employed – no salaries – and pay and agent known as the ‘Clerk of the Set’ to find you work with solicitors, who are the people you go to when you have a legal problem. Most solicitors do not go to trials although recently this has begun to change. However, they will only be involved in less complex cases. There are very few sets and competition to be asked to join one is fierce, especially as you start as a ‘pupil’ or dogsbody, to a partner of the firm and are paid no salary at all, not even expenses. It is therefore really very rare that someone who doesn’t come from a fairly that can support them through this stage makes it through to becoming a trial lawyer. If you want to know more about how to become a trial lawyer then you need to read Wikipedia and to be prepared for a long period of study – around 7 years in average before you get your first job.

In the US, if you fail to make the grade where do you go? This book suggests that you become somewhat of a bottom feeder, scrabbling around for any case and unofficially linked (which was illegal in Utah at any rate) to bail bondsmen etc – another thing that we don’t have in the UK.

As for the story itself about the murder as revenge, well to me it resonates as something that very well could have happened. And the trial outcome, well that too. After all, if a Gran Jury finds that there is no case to answer when a police officer shoots an unarmed black teenager, I can believe anything of an American Jury. And in Salt Lake City where they are very religious on the whole and many believe in the Bible as a true text, well there is always an Eye for an Eye to fall back on.

So what I think in terms of stars? Well generally 4 as it was a rollicking good read -but if it is purporting to be the truth or near to it, I would reduce that to 3, as truthful it wasn’t- the author came out to be such a hero – well he would wouldn’t he? No point in writing the book otherwise!


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