LAWYERS AND THE AMERICAN DREAM by Stuart M. Speiser

LAWYERS AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In this age of lawyer-bashing, attorney/novelist Speiser (Superstock, 1982) offers an unusual--and shameless--paean to the plaintiff's bar--those lawyers who, in the author's view, fulfill the American Dream of righting wrongs while making themselves rich. Speiser begins by analyzing the law firm featured on L.A. Law, characterizing its attorneys as ``Equalizers''--lawyers who enrich themselves by representing underdog clients (Speiser draws a contrast between these entrepreneurs of equal justice and other types of attorneys, like civil-rights and some criminal-defense lawyers, who may do worthwhile public service but typically don't make a lot of money in the process). The author uses this pop paradigm as a framework for a series of fascinating stories- -dramatic tort cases in which individual victims of modest means achieved stunning victories against tycoons and huge corporations. He proudly recounts his own role as an Equalizer (many of the cases cited are his own), extolling punitive damages and other weapons of the plaintiff's lawyer and arguing that civil litigation enhances democracy, corporate responsibility, and even the economy. Speiser goes on to outline plans to make the civil-litigation system bigger, more accessible, and more lucrative. Predictably, he argues that Dan Quayle's plan to institute the English rule in American courts--the rule that the loser in a lawsuit pays for all costs (a regulation intended to deter litigation)--would be counterproductive and possibly even anti-American. Speiser concludes that democratic, market-oriented societies need a thriving plaintiff's bar, and he urges the development of this institution in other countries as well. Speiser tells some absorbing tales of success in court, but his reduction of the American Dream to a quest for riches is unworthy, and his self-serving tribute to the plaintiff's bar will have readers shaking their heads and smiling.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87131-724-9
Page count: 430pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993