Book Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

By | April 10, 2020
Rogue Lawyer written by John Grisham

Rogue Lawyer written by John Grisham is a legal thriller where the protagonist deals with five cases. The background is that the protagonist is a criminal lawyer who represents the people whose case nobody else would touch. That is why he calls himself a rogue lawyer. This book consists of different courtrooms scenes, where the odds are against him and where the odds are for him, he comes out victorious every time.

I. Introduction – Book Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Rogue Lawyer is a legal thriller written by John Grisham. Grisham is known was his legal thrillers, he attended law school at the University of Mississippi. The book was originally published in 2015 in the U.S.A.

II. A summary: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham 

The story revolves around Sebastian Rudd, he is a well-known street lawyer. His clientele consists of people who carry guns and wouldn’t mind using them. He also carries a gun, legally. He has been threatened multiple times. He works alone and doesn’t care for the company. His office is an armoured van, with a mini-fridge, mini bar, a table and some fine leather chairs. His previous office was blown up, he suspects by unhappy clients or cops.

He has a son, Starcher, who in his opinion is a mistake. He was married for a about 2 years to his ex-wife Judith, she is also a lawyer. Judith has the custody of their sun and lives with her girlfriend Ava. Sebastian is allowed 36 hours with his son once per month.

In the book, Sebastian deals with five cases involving – a drug-dazed 18-year-old with an IQ of no more than 70 accused of murdering and molesting two little girls. A ruthless mobster who is sentenced to capital punishment is not willing to accept it and escapes before Sebastian’s eyes. An innocent homeowner arrested for shooting at cops, though the cops were at fault and did not follow procedure and (the cops) also killed his wife, and dogs in the process. A mixed martial arts cage fighter who beat his referee to death after he lost a match.

And finally, a suspected sociopath and psychopath responsible for killings and kidnappings.

These cases somehow seem to get intertwined with the characters involved in different cases. Among all of this, Sebastian’s son is abducted by the assistant chief of police and/or his people. The ransom is information regarding the daughter of the assistant chief of police, who has been abducted and missing for the past few months. This is connected to his last case, the suspected sociopath and psychopath kidnapped her and she was hooked to cocaine and sold to sex traffickers.

Sebastian saves his son, rescues the daughter of the assistant chief of police. But the sociopath and psychopath is still watching him.

III. Character Analysis of Sebastian Rudd [protagonist]

The plot revolves around the life of Sebastian Rudd, an unconventional street lawyer. He calls himself a rogue lawyer. This means that he is self-aware. He is mindful of who he is and what people think about him.

Sebastian Rudd is complex. He is not afraid to fight. He spits in the face of the system. He punches mobsters and threatens killers. He fights tooth and nail in court. He works very hard and barely gets any sleep.

He believes that the system is rigged and his fight is against the system. The system is the cops, the judges and the bureaucrats who are willing to overlook any misgiving or wrong committed by them to secure position and curry favour.

At the beginning of the book, Sebastian can be seen as a lowly criminal lawyer, who makes a living defending those (mainly criminals) who have nowhere to turn to. In the first case, he is defending a drug-dazed 18-year-old with an IQ of no more than 70 accused of murdering and molesting two little girls. In this case, he seems to believe that his client did no wrong. The prosecution, in this case, is pinning the crime on the wrong person – his client.

The prosecution keeps tampering with evidence and producing false evidence. Sebastian knows this. He tries to counter-argue every argument the prosecution presents as bogus. But the jury, the judge and the prosecution have already made up their mind. Yet, in the face of adversity, he fights tooth and nail to ensure justice is done. He ensures his clients’ acquittal.

Later on, in the book, Sebastian is depicted as a resourceful lawyer. With enough resources to fund a mixed martial art fighter for cage fights.

Slowly unravelling his character, it is certain that he is an opportunist. In the next case, he seeks justice for an elderly person whose wife and dogs were murdered by the cops in an attempt to expose a cyber-narc ring. The law protects the cops from being prosecuted, that doesn’t stop him from annihilating them on the stand. Sebastian views all of this is very unjust. He again ensures that justice is served, although he does this by extorting the office of the prosecutor and the police department. He is dauntless in the face of adversity.

This paints a picture of a tough guy, who’ll do whatever it takes to do the right thing. This is the first case in the book, this in the mind of the reader creates the character of Sebastian Rudd. However, this is not it.

A contrast in his character can be identified as it seems like he wants justice and wants to serve justice but will take up cases of mobsters, killers and kidnappers so long as they are willing and capable of paying his fee. He doesn’t appreciate it when others colour outside the lines but when it comes to him, he is willing to do it without much hesitation. Even after obtaining information regarding the abduction and forced involvement in a sex trafficking racket of the daughter of the assistant chief of police he didn’t reveal it to her father, instead, he started thinking of the consequences he would have to face himself. All this changed when his son was abducted for the information, he sang like canary thinking that whatever would happen, he just wanted his boy safe. He lacks empathy or sympathy.

He thinks that he doesn’t need anyone, he thinks that doesn’t have much in the way of friends and doesn’t care for it as his line of work keeps him so busy. A contrast to this can also be witnessed towards the end of the book, he returns to his house from the court and wants to meet his son’s teacher (Naomi) whom he is dating because he wants to be loved but knows she is working. This can also be categorized as character development.

More about his character can be learnt from his interaction with his ex-wife Judith. It seems as though he is still attracted to her. Both of them are bitter towards each other and they keep sniping at each other. Judith keeps filing motions for sole custody, without visitation and Sebastian keeps fighting them. Sebastian wants to spend time with his son, wants to stay relevant to him and be a part of his life, he hopes that someday his son will come and live with him. Yet, he knows that he is a pathetic father and his son is better off with his mother.

IV. Writing appraisal 

John Grisham has chosen words with care and writes with depth and insight. His text is very structured revealing things one by one while keeping the reader hooked. He has written each of his characters with depth.

For example – Miss Luella, there is very little mention of her, she is the mother of Sebastian’s only employee and she works as his receptionist. She identifies the prospective clients on the phone and whenever she feels someone has the potential to pay, she promises them a callback, others she simply dismisses. Though this is quite subtle, on close inspection many hidden skills can be identified like – confidence, communication skill, patience, empathy, deductive skills, etc.

He has an epigrammatic style and at some places a rhetoric undertone. 

As he has been to law school his most captivating elements is to make a logical and persuasive argument. Structuring arguments and delivering them is the craft any successful lawyer needs to master. The writing in the book is well crafted and well delivered. How he has described Sebastian’s behaviour and conduct makes it he is a serious criminal lawyer who knows what he is doing and what is happening around him.

The content is well thought, and legal elements well researched. When it comes to the main character Sebastian Rudd his style is evaluative as Sebastian in his role of a lawyer is often evaluating different consequences and actions.

“The law is my life, always consuming and occasionally fulfilling. I wouldn’t call it a jealous mistress as some forgotten person once so famously did. It’s more like an overbearing wife who controls the chequebook there’s no way out.”

His writing in this book can also be considered critical. He is disapproving of the processes involved in a trial. He is also discerned with the system of governance.

 “They are now convicted felon, a branding they will never be able to shake. The odds were stacked against them, to begin with, and now they’re tagged as a felon, life in the free world is somehow supposed to improve?” 

“He’s still in denial, still in that fog where he’s sorry it happened, can’t explain it, but still believing that a good lawyer can pull some strings and get him off.” 

In some places, he is also seen mocking the judicial system

“Do we really want fair trials? No, we do not. We want justice, and quickly. And justice is whatever we deem it to be on a case-by-case basis.” 

“Like so many, this trial is not about the truth, it’s about winning.” 

V. Concluding Remarks: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham 

This book is captivating. Grisham has done a quality job of making the law, as used in the book, simple and understandable. The book has a realistic basis rather than a speculative one. Some of the sentences and phrases are brilliantly crafted. Some of these phrases are more suiting to people in the legal field.

“It’s not that I don’t like attention. I’m a lawyer it’s in my genes.”

The book unwinds the dangerous world of criminal law and the perils attached to dealing with all the parties involved in the transaction. The complexity and depth of character makes a reader want to stop and think.


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Author: Kanishta Naithani

Kanishta is a student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has published research papers, participated and placed National Essay Writing competition(s) and also presented a paper in a national seminar. She enjoys writing and researching, she aims to be a professional writer.

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