Cover image for The color of law
The color of law
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, c2005.
Physical Description:
401 p. ; 25 cm.
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A poor-boy college football hero turned successful partner at a prominent Dallas firm--who long ago checked his conscience at the door--catches a case that forces him to choose between his enviable lifestyle and doing the right thing in this masterful debut legal thriller. Clark McCall, ne'er-do-well son of Texas millionaire senator and presidential hopeful Mack McCall, puts a major crimp in his father's election plans when he winds up murdered--apparently by Shawanda Jones, a heroin-addicted hooker--after a tawdry night of booze, drugs, and rough sex. Scott Fenney, who's worked his way to being a partner at an elite Dallas law firm, is assigned to provide Shawanda's pro bono defense after the federal judge on the case hears him deliver an inspiring, altruistic--and completely insincere--speech to the local bar association. Scott plans to farm the case out to an old law school buddy, do-good-attorney Bobby Herrin. But his plans go awry when Shawanda puts her foot down in court and refuses to be passed off to the lawyer she considers the lesser attorney. As the case unfolds, pressure is exerted on Scott to deter him from being too aggressive in his defense of Shawanda. That pressure becomes palpable as Scott is slowly stripped of the things he's come to care for most. Will he do the right thing--at a terrible cost--or the easy thing and keep his hard-earned fabulous life? With echoes of early John Grisham, THE COLOR OF LAW is a provocative page-turner that marks the stunning debut of a major new talent.

Author Notes

Mark Gimenez is the bestselling author of the Scott Fenny Series. He attended Southwest Texas State University and earned a B.A. in Political Science with honors. Gimenez earned a J.D. degree magna cum laude from Notre Dame Law School.

Gimenez became a partner in a large Dallas law firm but after ten years he left to practice solo and to write. In addition to the Scott Fenny Series, some of Mark's titles are Con Law, Parts and Labor and The Common Lawyer.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

A. Scott Fenney, the hotshot young Dallas attorney of Gimenez's debut, has a beautiful house, an idle, social-climbing wife and a spoiled daughter; his most lucrative client is local magnate Tom Dibrell, whom he regularly rescues from sexual harassment suits. When Clark McCall, the no-account son of Texas' senior senator (and presidential hopeful), is murdered, Fenney is forced by his firm to pro bono the suspect, heroin-addicted prostitute Shawanda Jones. Jones claims innocence, and refuses to plead out to avoid the death penalty--giving Fenney fits." With Jones's life on the line, Fenney agonizes about whether he can do the trial, losing wife, job, and country club membership as he slowly uncovers the truth about McCall. Along the way, Fenney takes custody of Jones's precocious daughter, Pajamae, in a cross-cultural subplot with more cliché than life-lesson. A former Dallas attorney, Gimenez offers an entertaining window onto the city's legal world, but he telegraphs most of the story, and his attempts at negotiating Dallas's race and class conflicts fall flat; whether platitudinous or wise-cracking, the minor characters unintentionally reinforce the stereotypes the book works so hard to combat. (On sale Oct. 18 (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Did someone pass John Grisham's Law when we weren't looking: Only survivors of law firms can write legal thrillers. Gimenez, former partner at a major Dallas law firm and current lone-wolf attorney in a single practice, not only boasts all the right credentials but also delivers an authentically creepy debut novel. A big part of this thriller's appeal is its moral backbone. The hero, former college-football legend and current corporate lawyer Scott Fenney, has struck a Faustian bargain--his whole life for billable hours--the cost of which is encapsulated when he signs an agreement to terminate the tenure of a friend in the firm who has lost his worth by losing a big client. Fenney's own fate turns when he makes a speech praising Atticus Finch, and a federal judge takes him at his word, ordering him to defend a black prostitute accused of murdering the ne'er-do-well son of a Texas senator and presidential candidate. The judge's whim is bad for the firm, bad for the senator, and bad for Scott, whose fortunes start to take a dive. This is a well-calibrated contemporary morality play, set in get-rich-quick Dallas, with tours of country clubs and gated communities, and knowledgeable forays into Darwinian legal tactics. Gimenez also gives us a hateful character who becomes more sympathetic the more he fails. Fast-paced and thought-provoking fare. --Connie Fletcher Copyright 2005 Booklist

Kirkus Review

A high-dollar Dallas attorney appointed to the pro bono defense of a murder suspect must choose between his perfect life and his long-betrayed ideals. In this astringent legal thriller, former college football star A. Scott Fenney has muscled his way out of the working class and into a gleaming office tower in Dallas, where he bills $350 an hour to help make his rich clients richer. His perfect life--multimillion-dollar house in exclusive Highland Park, beautiful wife, club memberships, Italian sports car--disintegrates when his defense of heroin-addicted streetwalker Shawanda Jones gets him crossways with his firm's senior partner and a mendacious U.S. senator--and presumed next president--who's also the father of Jones's alleged victim. Soon Fenney is out of a job, the notes on the house and cars are called in and his wife has left him for a local golf pro. Fenney's fall is reminiscent of Sherman McCoy's in The Bonfire of the Vanities, but the obvious template is To Kill a Mockingbird: Fenney has a precious daughter named Boo; the self-loathing Fenney tells people that his middle initial, "A," stands for nothing, but the reader can guess. Gimenez, himself a former partner at a major Dallas firm, has a palpable disgust for lawyers who play dirty, pad their billable hours and live in casually racist enclaves. When Fenney moves Jones's daughter out of the projects and into his home, it's a stretch. But both girls are wise beyond their years and come to realize, as young Pajame Jones observes, that both her mother and Boo's father do unseemly things for hundreds of dollars an hour. Fenney, meanwhile, scrapes and claws for redemption and broods over whether he's doing it for himself or for his client. At stake is Jones's life and Fenney's soul. Gimenez's debut has plenty of twists and flashes of humor. A promising, distinctive new voice. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Wildly successful Dallas attorney A. Scott Fenney is on top of the world, using his creative legal skills to score verdict after verdict for his corporate clients and a trophy lifestyle for himself and his family. After emphatically espousing the all-American legal ideal of safeguarding the rights of the innocent in a speech before the state bar association, he's assigned by a prominent judge to defend Shawanda Jones, a prostitute accused of murdering the troubled son of a Texas senator with his eye on the White House. Forced to reconcile his words with his actions, Fenney must confront his long-held assumptions about what's fair and what's right. First novelist Gimenez draws on his experience as an attorney in this taut legal thriller that echoes To Kill a Mockingbird. With fast-paced and edgy prose, dramatic tete-a-tetes between attorneys, and an explosive courtroom conclusion, Gimenez effectively weaves elements of race, class, and justice into a story of a lawyer who rediscovers the difference between doing good and doing well. Strongly recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/05.]-Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



ONE What's the difference between a rattlesnake lying dead in the middle of a highway and a lawyer lying dead in the middle of a highway?" He paused. "There are skid marks in front of the snake." His bar association audience responded with polite laughter and diplomatic smiles. "Why did New Jersey get all the toxic waste dumps and California get all the lawyers?" He paused again. "Because New Jersey had first choice." Less laughter, fewer smiles, a scattering of nervous coughs: diplomacy was failing fast. "What do lawyers and sperm have in common?" He did not pause this time. "Both have a one-in-a-million chance of turning out human." All efforts at diplomacy had ended. His audience had fallen deathly silent; a sea of stone faces stared back at him. The lawyers on the dais focused on their lunches, embarrassed by their guest speaker's ill-advised attempt at humor. He looked around the crowded room, as if stunned. He turned his palms up. "Why aren't you laughing? Aren't those jokes funny? The public sure thinks those jokes are funny, damn funny. I can't go to a cocktail party or the country club without someone telling me a stupid lawyer joke. My friends, we are the butt of America's favorite jokes!" He adjusted the microphone so his deep sigh was audible, but he maintained steady eye contact with the audience. "I don't think those jokes are funny, either. I didn't go to law school to be the butt of cruel jokes. I went to law school to be another Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird was my mother's favorite book and my bedtime story. She'd read a chapter each night, and when we came to the end, she'd go back to the beginning and start over. 'Scotty,' she'd say, 'be like Atticus. Be a lawyer. Do good.' "And that, my fellow members of the bar, is the fundamental question we must ask ourselves: Are we really doing good, or are we just doing really well? Are we noble guardians of the rule of law fighting for justice in America, or are we just greedy parasites using the law to suck every last dollar from society like leeches on a dying man? Are we making the world a better place, or are we just making ourselves filthy rich? "We must ask ourselves these questions, my friends, because the public is asking the same questions of us. They're questioning us, they're pointing their fingers at us, they're blaming us. Well, I've asked myself these questions, and I have answers, for myself, for you, and for the public: Yes, we are doing good! Yes, we are fighting for justice! Yes, we are making the world a better place! "And ladies and gentlemen, if you elect me the next president of the state bar of Texas, I will tell the people exactly that! I will remind them that we wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, that we fought for civil rights, that we protect the poor, defend the innocent, free the oppressed. That we stand up for their inalienable rights. That we are all that stands between freedom and oppression, right and wrong, innocence and guilt, life and death. And I will tell the people that I am proud, damn proud , to be a lawyer . . . because lawyers--do--good!" Now, some might blame the Texas summer heat, but the audience, lawyers all--lawyers who had never protected the poor or defended the innocent or freed the oppressed, lawyers who stood up for the rights of multinational corporations-- believed his words, like children who were old enough to know the truth about Santa Claus but who clung desperately to the myth anyway. They rose as one from their seats in the main dining room of the Belo Mansion in downtown Dallas and, with great enthusiasm, applauded the tall thirty-six-year-old speaker, who removed his tortoise-shell glasses, pushed his thick blond hair off his tanned face, and flashed his movie-star smile. He took his seat on the dais behind a nameplate that read A. Scott Fenney, ESQ., Ford Stevens LLP. As the applause grew louder, the corporate tax lawyer whom Scott was campaigning to succeed as the next state bar president leaned in close and whispered, "You know, Scotty, you've got an impressive line of bullshit. Now I see why half the coeds at SMU dropped their drawers for you." Scott squeezed the knot of his silk tie, smoothed his $2,000 suit, and whispered back through brilliant white teeth, "Henry, you don't get laid or elected telling the truth." He then turned and again acknowledged his fellow members of the bar, all standing and applauding him. Except for one lawyer. Sitting alone in the back of the dining room, at his usual table, was an older gentleman. His thick white hair fell onto his forehead. His bright eyes remained sharp at long distances, but he wore the black reading glasses to eat. He was not a tall man, and his slightly hunched posture made him appear almost short. Even so, he was a lawyer the other lawyers either avoided outright or approached with great caution, like vassals to their lordship, waiting patiently for him to look up from his chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie and acknowledge them with a nod or, on the best of days, a brief handshake. But never did he stand. Come hell or high water, United States District Court Judge Samuel Buford remained seated until he was through eating. Today, though, as he dwelled on the young lawyer's speech, a slight smile crossed his face. A. Scott Fenney, Esq., had just made a tough judicial decision easy. TWO The Ford Stevens Law firm occupied floors fifty-five through sixty-three in Dibrell Tower in downtown Dallas. The firm's remarkable financial success was predicated on its two hundred lawyers billing an average of two hundred hours a month at an average of $250 an hour, grossing an average of $120 million a year, and racking up average profits per partner of $1.5 million, putting the Dallas firm on a par with Wall Street firms. Scott Fenney had been a partner for four years now; he pulled down $750,000 a year. He was shooting to double that by the time he was forty. One of fifty partners, his perks were many: a personal secretary, two paralegals, and four associates working under him; reserved parking in the underground garage; dining, athletic, and country club memberships; and an enormous corner office on the sixty-second floor facing due north--the only direction worth facing in downtown Dallas. He especially loved his office, the wood-paneled walls, the mahogany desk, the leather furniture, the genuine Persian rug imported from Iran on the hardwood floor, and on the wall, the five-foot-square framed field-level blowup of himself, number 22 on the SMU Mustangs, running for 193 yards against the Texas Longhorns the day Scott Fenney became a local football legend. Keeping all these coveted perks required only that Scott serve the firm's corporate clients with the same devotion the disciples showed Jesus Christ. It was an hour after his bar association speech, and Scott was standing on his Persian rug and admiring Missy, a twenty-seven-year-old ex-Dallas Cowboy cheerleader who ran the firm's summer clerkship program. In the fall of each year, Ford Stevens lawyers fanned out across the country to interview the best second-year students at the best law schools in the nation. The firm hired forty of the top candidates and brought them to Dallas the following summer to work as summer clerks for $2,500 a week plus room and board, parties, alcohol, and at some firms, women. Most partners in large law firms had been frat rats in college, so most summer clerkship programs had all the markings of fraternity rush. Ford Stevens's program was no exception. Thus the first Monday of June brought the invasion of forty summer clerks, like Bob here, each trying to catch the eye of powerful partners, the partners in turn trying to divine if these budding legal eagles were the Ford Stevens type. Bob was. From the look on the face of the law student standing next to Missy, he was dreaming of having just such an office one day. Which meant he would bill two hundred hours a month for the next eight years without complaint or contempt, at which time the firm would show him the door--the odds of a new associate making partner at Ford Stevens being one in twenty. But the ambitious students still signed on because, as Scott himself told them, "You want odds, go to Vegas. You want a chance to get filthy rich by the time you're forty, hire on with Ford Stevens." "Mr. Fenney?" Scott pulled his eyes off Missy and turned to his frumpy middle-aged secretary standing in the door. "Yes, Sue?" "Four calls are holding--your wife, Stan Taylor, George Parker, and Tom Dibrell." Scott turned back to Missy and the student and shrugged. "Duty calls." He shook hands with the pale, homely, top-of-his-class student and slapped him on the shoulder. "Bob--" "Rob." "Oh, I'm sorry. Now, Rob, my Fourth of July bash, that's mandatory attendance." "Yes, sir, I've already heard about it." To Missy: "You bringing some girls over this year?" "Ten." " Ten? " Scott whistled. "Ten ex-Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders." The firm paid each girl $500 to spend a few hours in bikinis acting interested in law students. "Bob--" "Rob." "Right. You'd better work on your tan, Rob, if you want to snare one of those cheerleaders." Rob grinned even though he had about as much chance of getting a date with an ex-Dallas Cowboy cheerleader as a one-legged man had winning a butt-kicking contest. "Mr. Fenney," Rob said, "your speech at the bar luncheon, it was truly inspiring." First day on the job and the boy was already brownnosing like an experienced associate. Could he possibly be sincere? "Thanks, Bob." Missy winked. Scott didn't know if the wink was because she knew his speech was bullshit or if she was flirting again. Like all good-looking single girls in Dallas, Missy had made flirting an art form, always managing to catch his eye when crossing her long lean legs or brush against him in the elevator or just look at him in a way that made him feel as if they were on the brink of an affair. Of course, every male at the firm felt that way about Missy, but Scott was annually voted the best-looking male lawyer at Ford Stevens by the firm's female support staff, not that it was much of a contest. Scott had been a star football player in college; most lawyers were star chess players. Like Bob here. "Rob." "Right." Missy and Bob departed, and Scott went around behind his desk and sat in his high-backed leather chair. His eyes found the phone; four lines were blinking. Without conscious thought, his trained mind instantly prioritized the calls: Tom, Stan, George, wife. Tom had paid the firm $3 million last year, Stan $150,000, George $50,000, and his wife nothing. Scott picked up the phone and punched Tom's line. "Mr. Fenney!" Scott was waiting impatiently for the elevator in the lobby of the sixty-second floor, on his way to see Tom Dibrell on the sixty-ninth floor. He could not restrain a smile. He was blessed with the kind of rich client lawyers dream about: a real-estate developer addicted to the deal; a client who habitually borrowed, bought, built, leased, sold, sued, and got sued, and, most important, who possessed an uncanny knack for getting himself into one precarious legal predicament after another, extrication from which always requiring the very expensive legal services of A. Scott Fenney, Esq. Sue arrived, her face flushed from running after him. "Mr. Fenney, you have the partnership meeting at two." Scott checked his watch: 1:45. "I can't make it. Tom needs me. What's on the agenda?" Sue handed him the partnership meeting agenda. Only one item required his vote: the termination of John Walker as a partner in the firm. Unlike Scott, John was no longer a blessed lawyer. His rich client had just been bought out by a New York company, which meant his client would no longer be paying legal fees to Ford Stevens; and which now meant John Walker would no longer be employed at Ford Stevens. His $800,000 salary had just become an unnecessary expense to the firm. John was a brilliant lawyer, and he and Scott played hoops together twice a week, but this was business: brilliant lawyers without rich clients were worthless to a large law firm. The elevator doors opened just as Scott reached into his coat for his pen. He stepped inside and Sue followed. Attached to the agenda was a partnership ballot: TERMINATION OF JOHN WALKER. The only partner in the firm who didn't know John Walker would be fired today was John Walker. Dan Ford believed surprise was critical when firing a partner; otherwise that partner might walk out the door with a few of the firm's clients. So in fifteen minutes John Walker would walk into Dan's office, be unceremoniously fired after twelve years with the firm, and then be escorted from the building by security guards. The firm had never lost a single client to a terminated lawyer. Sue turned and offered her back; Scott put the ballot against her back and his pen to the ballot and started to sign A. Scott Fenney--but he froze. He felt guilty, even though his vote was a mere formality, a nod to the illusion that the Ford Stevens law firm was a partnership of equal lawyers. In fact, Dan Ford owned the firm and every lawyer, office, desk, and book in the firm; and Dan had already decided to fire John Walker. Scott could either rubber-stamp Dan's decision or refuse and . . . what? . . . join John in the unemployment line? He sighed and signed the ballot in the for column, then handed the ballot back to Sue and said, "Give that to Dan." She stared at the ballot like it was a death warrant and then said, almost in a whisper: "His wife has breast cancer." " Dan's? " "No. John Walker's wife. His secretary said it's in her lymph nodes." "You're kidding? Jesus, she's young." Scott's mother had been young, too, only forty-three, when the same cancer had killed her. Scott had watched helplessly as she lost her breasts, her hair, and her life. He now thought of John's wife and of John, who would soon be standing on the street outside this building, coat and career in hand, cursing his partners for abandoning him and God for abandoning his wife, just as Scott had cursed God as the cancer consumed his mother's body ounce by ounce until she felt like a feather pillow when he lifted her from the bed and carried her to the bathroom. "Damn." He could do no more for John's wife than he could for his mother, and no more for John than all the other lawyers Dan Ford had fired without warning . . . but still. Scott stared at himself in the mirrored wall until the elevator eased to a smooth stop and the doors opened on the sixty-ninth floor. The elevator chime snapped him out of his thoughts like a referee's whistle after an injury time-out. He stepped out. The elevator doors closed behind him, and he entered the domain of Dibrell Property Company, the firm's landlord and his most important client, accounting for over ninety percent of the legal fees he generated each year, fees that had bought everything Scott Fenney owned in life, from the bed he slept in to the shoes on his feet. Excerpted from The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.