Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Biglaw

By Denise Keliuotis

Sometimes, we connect with a book because we relate to the main character. Sometimes, it’s the plot that hooks us. Other times, the setting feels so familiar, we cannot help but become drawn in. If we are lucky, we relate in more than one way. I was quite fortunate here: BIGLAW ticked off all the boxes for me.

The heroine, Mackenzie Corbett, attended a top-tier law school. So did I. After graduation, Mackenzie began practicing at a large, international law firm (commonly referred to as “Biglaw”). I did the same. Mackenzie worked ridiculously long billable hours surrounded by worn-out, neurotic associates and seemingly sociopathic partners, all in the name of securing a partnership of her own. Me, too! Mackenzie regularly, and with good reason, questioned her own sanity and the sanity of those around her. Also true for me. And then Mackenzie reached a point in her career where she needed to decide how much of her life she was willing to sacrifice in the name of success, a question I also asked and one many of us face as we climb the corporate ladder, only to find that the view from the top might not be what we’d long imagined.

BIGLAW is funny, compelling, and genuine – so much so, I experienced some PTSD-like symptoms while reading the novel. I unconsciously tugged at the skirt of the ubiquitous suit I wore back in my own “biglaw” days; I laughed out loud when Mackenzie explained that she had never, ever used the “f” word until she joined the firm. (I’ve long blamed my ugly tendency to curse on my choice of career.) I was not surprised to learn that author Lindsay Cameron spent six years at a large law firm. Her descriptions were spot on. I could feel Mackenzie’s angst oozing from the pages.

You certainly don’t have to be an attorney to enjoy BIGLAW, nor must you have worked in a large law firm. Cameron’s characters are well developed, and her dialogue feels real. I’ve no doubt that, regardless of your choice of career, you will identify with someone or some situation painted by Cameron. More than once, I found myself thinking, “Oh, I worked with a guy like that!” It wasn’t necessarily a happy memory, but it sure felt real.

BIGLAW is a light mystery, and Mackenzie spends some of the story unraveling a puzzle that affects both her personal and professional lives. I figured out the answer fairly early on, as it was somewhat predictable, but that in to way detracted from the novel, as the beauty of BIGLAW lies not in this curious subplot but instead in the greater mystery that is human behavior. Again and again, as I read, I asked myself: Why do people behave like this? And why do other people put up with it? I never once doubted Cameron’s character and behavior descriptions, even at their most absurd. Verbal abuse? A regular occurrence, in my experience. A partner who throws office supplies? In my world, we call that Wednesday. And much like Mackenzie, I almost always win the “most shocking company holiday party story” contest. (Thus, the PTSD.)

BIGLAW held my attention from start to finish. Entertaining and light on the surface, BIGLAW touches on themes that run through every professional woman’s life: what success means, how it feels, what it looks like, what it costs – and whether biggest and shiniest always really means best.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their 2015 Fall Reading Challenge.


Janine said...

When I can relate to a book, that books becomes one of my favorites.

susieqlaw said...

I love this review. I am reading this book right now.