Cover image for Special circumstances
Title:
Special circumstances
Author:
Siegel, Sheldon (Sheldon M.)
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
436 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780553801415
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Introducing an electrifying new voice in legal fiction--in a phenomenal thriller unlike anything you've read before...

Debut author Sheldon Siegel bursts into the legal arena with a riveting courtroom drama, exposing the world of big-time law firms and lawyers in a sharp-witted, wonderfully sardonic page-turner of a novel.

Meet Mike Daley. Ex-priest. Ex-public defender. Ex-husband. And as of yesterday, ex-partner at Simpson & Gates, one of San Francisco's most prominent law firms. Today he's out on his own, setting up a private practice on the wrong side of town. Then his best friend and former colleague is charged with a brutal double murder. Daley has his first client--and is instantly catapulted into a high-profile case involving the prestigious law firm that just booted him.

The victims are one of Simpson & Gates's most powerful partners and a beautiful young associate. There's a suicide note on the partner's computer, but neither the police nor the ambitious district attorney believe it's authentic--and they think the man they've arrested is the killer. It's up to Mike Daley to prove them wrong, but time is very short.

As Daley prepares his case, he begins to uncover the firm's dirtiest secrets--and dirty they are--but he also discovers that his friend, too, has a lot to hide. Even as the trial is under way, Daley and his investigators are still frantically digging for evidence that will clear their client. Against a chorus of morning press reports and nightly TV commentaries picking apart each day's session, Daley comes to realize that ambition, politics, greed, and long-standing grudges will play just as important a role in the outcome as truth and justice. This is the real world of law practice at work, and it's as ruthless as it is startling.

Brilliantly paced, witty, crackling with energy and suspense, Special Circumstances not only brings us to a stunning denouement; it zestfully reminds us why we love to hate lawyers--but can't get enough of courtroom drama when it's done this well.


In a stunning turn of events, Daley's best friend, an ex-colleague, is charged with the double murder of two lawyers at the old firm and asks Daley to defend him.  Cobbling together a defense team composed of himself, his ex-wife, and a onetime courtroom fixture named Mort Goldberg who's been wished on him against his better judgment, Daley finds he's got more to defend than his friend's innocence. The newly elected media-hungry District Attorn- ey, also a former colleague, will prosecute the case himself.  As court is called into session, it becomes clear that in this trial ambition, honor, friendship, greed, and longstanding grudges will play as important a role as truth and justice.

Rarely has a legal thriller debut so accurately depicted not only the inner workings of the legal system but the crack-ling energy it takes to build and defend a felony case. In SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES author Sheldon Siegel reminds us why we love to hate lawyers -- but can't get enough of courtroom drama when it's done this well. -->


Author Notes

Sheldon Siegel is an attorney in a San Francisco law firm. He lives in Marin County with his wife & twin sons.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This may be Siegel's first novel, but the quality of his writing proves that he has been working on his chops for a long time. All the hallmarks of a superb legal thriller are here: smart, nasty lawyers; a juicy sex scandal; a shocking double homicide; and nail-biting courtroom scenes. Siegel also infuses the novel with subtle humorous touches and wry observations on human nature. Protagonist Mike Daley has been fired from a huge corporate law firm, S & G, and is about to set up his own practice in one of San Francisco's not-so-nice neighborhoods. He quickly gets his first client when his best friend, Joel, is accused of murdering two attorneys at S & G. With friendly ex-wife and fellow lawyer Rosie helping, Mike sets out to prove Joel innocent and find the real killer. Readers may not especially care if Joel gets off for his own sake--he's a lying whiner--but Daley's integrity and his faith in his friend make us root strongly for him to win. Courtroom scenes in novels often lack the impact they possess on TV, but Siegel can match the best of Law and Order. On the basis of this stellar debut, it shouldn't take Siegel long to join the best-selling firm of Turow and Grisham. (Reviewed December 1, 1999)0553801414Jenny McLarin


Publisher's Weekly Review

San Francisco attorney Siegel's debut pits a likable lead against a giant law firm run by villains and fools; the result is a well-made courtroom page-turner, skillful and taut right up through the surprise ending. Siegel's hero and narrator is the competent, low-key Mike Daley, former priest and onetime public defender, now a 45-year-old partner at San Francisco's glossy Simpson and Gates. Daley hasn't brought enough business to the criminal department, and the senior partners have asked that he resign. Also leaving the firm is Prentice Marshall "Skipper" Gates III, son of the firm's founding partner: Skipper has just been elected district attorney. "My partners are thrilled," says Daley of Skipper's departure. "They have never complained about his arrogance, sloppy work and condescending attitude.... What they can live without is his $400,000 draw..." On New Year's Eve at Simpson and Gates, Daley is packing up his office, Skipper is enjoying a glitzy farewell party and other lawyers are working to close a lucrative property deal. But when the deal falls apart, two of those lawyers--a slimy master litigator and an ambitious young female partner--are found shot to death. At first it seems to be a murder-suicide brought on by greed, sex and depression. Then one of Daley's few friends at the firm, the son of a prominent rabbi, is charged with the murders. Daley and Skipper clash in a high-profile court case with echoes of several recent real-life media circuses. If the trial itself takes up too many pages, Siegel redeems himself elsewhere by focusing on the flawed, often-desperate Daley: Siegel humanizes his hero by depicting Daley's charged, still-sexual relationship with his ex-wife, a tough lawyer who retains custody of their six-year-old daughter. With a winning protagonist and a gripping plot, Siegel's debut is sure to make partner at its first-choice firm: the expanding empire of Turow, Grisham, Lescroart, Wilhelm, Margolin and Baldacci. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Ever met a lawyer you actually liked? You'll like Mike Daley. He has a sense of humor, a human-sized ego, and he's tenacious as a bulldog. He's also not afraid to mix it up with the big boys, frequently coercing cooperation with the phrase, "I'll be happy to come back with a subpoena." He represents his best friend, Joel Friedman, an accused double murderer facing the death penalty. His opponents are savage, archetypal lawyers sleazy, greedy, and overinflated to the point of caricature. Siegel's novel is a highly entertaining, dead-on account of the trial process and life in a big law firm, comparable to John Grisham's work. The meaty, blow-by-blow narrative of Joel's trial is enhanced by an unusually twisted finale. Audie Award winner Frank Muller does an outstanding job of making this procedural jump; highly recommended. Douglas C. Lord, Hartford P.L., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

A LICENSE TO PRINT MONEY "Founded in 1929 and headquartered in San Francisco, Simpson and Gates is the largest full-service law firm based west of the Mississippi. With over nine hundred attorneys in eighteen offices on four continents, Simpson and Gates is recognized as an international leader in the legal profession." --Simpson and Gates attorney recruiting brochure. "For three hundred and fifty dollars an hour, I'd bite the heads off live chickens." --J. Robert Holmes Jr., chairman, Simpson and Gates corporate department. Welcoming remarks to new attorneys. For the last twenty years or so, being a partner in a big corporate law firm has been like having a license to print money. At my firm, Simpson and Gates, we've had a license to print a lot of money. At six-fifteen in the evening of Tuesday, December 30, the printing press is running at full speed forty-eight floors above California Street in downtown San Francisco in what our executive committee modestly likes to call our world headquarters. Our 320 attorneys are housed in opulent offices on eight floors at the top of the Bank of America Building, a fifty-two-story bronze edifice that takes up almost an entire city block and is the tallest and ugliest testimonial to unimaginative architecture in the city skyline. Our two-story rosewood-paneled reception area is about the size of a basketball court. A reception desk that is longer than a city bus sits at the south end of the forty-eighth floor, and I can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Sausalito through the glass-enclosed conference room on the north wall. The gray carpet, overstuffed leather chairs and antique coffee tables create the ambiance of a classic men's club, which is entirely appropriate since most of our attorneys and clients are white, male and Republican. Even in the evening of the customarily quiet week between Christmas and New Year's, our reception area is buzzing with a higher level of activity than most businesses see in the middle of the day. Then again, most businesses aren't the largest and most profitable law firm on the West Coast. Tomorrow is my last day with the firm and I am trying to shove my way through three hundred attorneys, clients, politicians and other hangers-on who have gathered for one of our insufferable cocktail parties. I hate this stuff. I guess it's appropriate I have to walk the gauntlet one last time. In the spirit of the holiday season, everybody is dressed in festive dark gray business suits, starched monogrammed white shirts and red power ties. A string quartet plays classical music in front of the blinking lights of our tired-looking twenty-foot Christmas tree. The suits have gathered to drink chardonnay, eat hors d'oeuvres and pay tribute to my soon-to-be ex-partner, Prentice Marshall Gates III, the son of our late founding partner Prentice Marshall Gates II. Prentice III, one of many lawyers in our firm with Roman numerals behind his name, is known as Skipper. He is also sailing out of the firm tomorrow. The circumstances of our respective departures are, shall I say, somewhat different. After my five years as an underproductive partner in our white-collar criminal defense department, our executive committee asked me to leave. I was, in short, fired. Although the request was polite, I was told that if I didn't leave voluntarily, they would invoke Article Seven of our partnership agreement, which states, and I quote, that "a Partner of the Firm may be terminated by the Firm upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the Partners of the Firm, at a duly called and held meeting of the Partners of the Firm." In the last three years, fourteen of my partners have been Article Sevened. I have graciously agreed to resign. On Monday, I'll open the law offices of Michael J. Daley, criminal defense attorney, in a subleased office in a walk-up building in the not-so-trendy part of San Francisco's South of Market area. Welcome to the modern practice of law. Skipper's story is a little different. After thirty years as an underproductive partner in our real estate department, he spent three million dollars of the money he inherited from his father to win a mean-spirited race for district attorney of San Francisco, even though he hasn't set foot in a courtroom in over twenty years. My partners are thrilled. They have never complained about his arrogance, sloppy work and condescending attitude. Hell, the same could be said about most of my partners. What they can't live with is his four-hundred-thousand-dollar draw. He has been living off his father's reputation for years. That's why all the power partners are here. They want to give him a big send-off. More importantly, they want to be sure he doesn't change his mind. The temperature is about ninety degrees and it smells more like a locker room than a law firm. I nod to the mayor, shake hands with two of my former colleagues from the San Francisco Public Defender's Office and carefully avoid eye contact with Skipper, who is working the room. I overhear him say the DA's office is his first step toward becoming attorney general and, ultimately, governor. In your dreams, Skipper. I'm trying to get to our reception desk to pick up a settlement agreement. Ordinarily, such a document would be brought to me by one of our many in-house messengers. Tonight, I'm on my own because the kids who work in our mailroom aren't allowed to come to the front desk when the VIPs are around. I sample skewered shrimp provided by a tuxedoed waiter and elbow my way to the desk, where four evening-shift receptionists operate telephone consoles that have more buttons than a 747. I lean over the polished counter and politely ask Cindi Harris if she has an envelope for me. "Let me look, Mr. Daley," she replies. She's a twenty-two-year-old part-time art student from Modesto with long black hair, a prim nose and a radiant smile. She has confided to me that she would like to become an artist, a stock-car driver or the wife of a rich attorney. I have it on good authority that a couple of my partners have already taken her out for a test drive. A few years ago, our executive committee hired a consultant to spruce up our image. It's hard to believe, but many people seem to perceive our firm as stuffy. For a hundred thousand dollars, our consultant expressed concern that our middle-aged receptionists did not look "perky" enough to convey the appropriate image of a law firm of our stature. In addition, he was mortified that we had two receptionists who were members of the male gender. At a meeting that everyone adamantly denies ever took place, our executive committee concluded that our clients--the white, middle-aged men who run the banks, insurance companies, defense contractors and conglomerates that we represent--would be more comfortable if our receptionists were younger, female, attractive and, above all, perkier. As a result, our middle-aged female and male receptionists were reassigned to less-visible duties. We hired Cindi because she fit the profile recommended by our consultant. Although she's incapable of taking a phone message, she looks like a model for Victoria's Secret. S&G isn't known as a hotbed of progressive thinking. Don't get me wrong. As a divorced forty-five-year-old, I have nothing against attractive young women. I do have a problem when a firm adopts a policy of reassigning older women and men to less-visible positions just because they aren't attractive enough. For one thing, it's illegal. For another thing, it's wrong. That's another reason I got fired. Getting a reputation as the "house liberal" at S&G isn't great for your career. Cindi's search turns up empty. "I'm sorry, Mr. Daley," she says, batting her eyes. She flashes an uncomfortable smile and looks like she's afraid I may yell at her. While such wariness is generally advisable at S&G, it shows she doesn't know me very well. Jimmy Carter was in the White House the last time I yelled at anybody. "Let me look again," she says. I spy a manila envelope with my name on it sitting in front of her. "I think that may be it." Big smile. "Oh, good," she says. Success. I take the envelope. "By the way, have you seen my secretary?" Deer in the headlights. "What's her name again?" "Doris." "Ah, yes." Long pause. "Dooooris." Longer pause. "What does she look like?" I opt for the path of least resistance. "It's okay, Cindi. I'll find her." I start to walk away. She grabs my arm. I turn and look into her perplexed eyes. "Mr. Daley," she says, "are you really leaving? I mean, well, you're one of the nice guys. I mean, for a lawyer. I thought partners never leave." Cindi, I'm leaving because I have more in common with the kids who push the mail carts than I do with my partners. I was fired because my piddly book of business isn't big enough. I summon my best sincere face, look her right in her puppy eyes and make believe I am pouring out my heart. "I've been here for five years. I'm getting too old for a big firm. I've decided to try it on my own. Besides, I want more time for Grace." My ex-wife has custody of our six-year-old daughter, but we get along pretty well and Grace stays with me every other weekend. Her eyes get larger. "Somebody said you might go back to the public defender's office." I frown. I worked as a San Francisco PD for seven years before I joined S&G. The State Bar Journal once proclaimed I was the best PD in Northern California. Before I went to law school, I was a priest for three years. "Actually, I'm going to share office space with another attorney." Without an ounce of conviction, I add, "It'll be fun." I leave out the fact I'm subleasing from my ex-wife. "Good luck, Mr. Daley." "Thanks, Cindi." It's a little scary when you talk to people at work in the same tone of voice you use with your first-grade daughter. It's even scarier to think I'll probably miss Cindi more than I'll miss any of my partners. Then again, she didn't fire me. I know one thing for certain. I'll sure miss the regular paychecks. Excerpted from Special Circumstances by Sheldon Siegel 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.