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Sure, the law’s a decent living. But wouldn’t it be great to rake in countless millions pounding out formulaic legal thrillers like former practicing attorney John Grisham? Wouldn’t it be fun to see your absurdly plotted novels, full of lame clich�s and endless padding, topping the best-seller lists and being made into big-budget movies starring Tom Cruise, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts? Well, now you can! Just mix-and-match the following Grishamesque ingredients, and get ready to talk back-end points with your agent by the guesthouse pool! Your protagonist is a freshly minted lawyer who grew up psychologically tough because he: a) worked after school on the sorting line at a lobster-bib recycling plant; b) played catch every evening with his strong-armed, cross-eyed older brother; c) raised five siblings after Dad — a good-hearted but dull-witted trucker whose only wish was that his children be better off than he was — was killed in a bizarre mud-flap accident. Your hero’s motivation to be a big-shot lawyer was born of his desire to: a) prove to his old-money in-laws that being raised in Johnmellencamptown, Ind., doesn’t make him less worthy of their debutante daughter; b) get back at his law school classmates, who mocked his nervous habit of blurting out the word “uvula”; c) fight for his granddad, imprisoned for life after mistakenly putting nuclear secrets inside specially marked boxes of Cracklin’ Oat Bran. Your setting is: a) Memphis b) Memphis c) Memphis Your legal research offers an eye-opening look at how the law is actually practiced. Readers learn that lawyers: a) can get really, really busy (a state that insiders refer to as “really, really busy”); b) make money by a mystical process known as “billable hours”; c) scribble notes on special paper known as “legal pads.” Your plot holds that your just-passed-the-bar hero suddenly finds himself cutting his teeth on a simple matter like: a) retrying the Microsoft antitrust case; b) arguing the first extraterrestrial immigration case: INS v. E.T.; c) pursuing Job’s civil suit against God. Your filler material consumes 500-plus pages, with such essential pieces of information as: a) “Dashing up the courthouse steps, Biff paused to examine the weathered marble, which had been blasted in 1937 from the same Vermont quarry that would, a half-century later, provide the stone for Ivana Trump’s Fifth Avenue bidet;” b) “Rising to cross-examine a key witness, Toby marveled at the gentle give of his pants’ elastic waistband, which had been installed in Malaysia, a major exporter of palm oil;” c) “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” Your ham-handed recapitulations of the plot include such helpful reminders as: a) “For the first time in several pages, Manny mulled how 12 of his firm’s partners had been killed in suspicious escalator accidents, all in first-name alphabetical order. With L. Larry Lumpkin dead, could he be next?”; b) “Forty-eight hours ago, if you had told Jimmy he’d be skipping his bar-review class to take on OPEC before an international tribunal at The Hague, he’d have been skeptical. Forty-eight hours! Why, it seemed like only the day before yesterday!”; c) “For a complete plot summary, see page 599.” Your ending dictates that your triumphant but disillusioned young hero leave his soulless big-bucks corporate law firm to: a) craft pro bono prenuptial agreements for alcohol-impaired lovebirds in a Las Vegas wedding chapel; b) spend more time with his long-neglected and intelligent-but-nevertheless-nonworking wife; c) make big bucks pounding out formulaic legal thrillers. This article originally appeared in the May 2001 issue of JD Jungle.

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