In the Shadow of the Law

A Novel

Kermit Roosevelt


A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
Morgan Siler is one of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful K Street law firms, its roster of clients stocked with multi-billion-dollar corporations. Through the obsessive efforts of its founder's son, Peter Morgan, his father's old-fashioned business has been transformed into a veritable goliath, embracing bankruptcy and merger divisions that Archibald Morgan had deemed ungentlemanly. As Peter reaches the pinnacle of his career, his firm is embroiled in two difficult cases: a pro bono death-penalty case in Virginia, and a class-action lawsuit brought against Hubble Chemical of Texas after an on-site explosion killed dozens of workers.

Assigned to these cases is a group of young associates and seasoned partners struggling to make their way in the firm. Mark Clayton, fresh out of law school, is beginning to loathe his dull workload, and to be frightened by the downgrading of his personal life, when he is assigned to the pro bono case. Assisting him is the mercurial Walker Eliot, a brilliant third-year associate whose passion for the law is as great as his skill at unraveling its intricacies. The aggressive, profane, and wildly successful litigator Harold Fineman is leading the Hubble defense, assisted by first-year Katja Phillips, whose twin devotion to productivity and idealism intrigue him, and Ryan Grady, another first-year, whose quest to pick up girls is starting to interfere with his work.

In this complex, ambitious, and gripping first novel, Kermit Roosevelt vividly illustrates the subtle and stark effects of the law on the lives not only of a group of lawyers, but also on communities and private citizens. In the Shadow of the Law is a meditation about the life of the law, the organism that is a law firm, and its impact on those who come within its powerful orbit.


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In the Shadow of the Law
1 TIME AND MOTION STUDIESSeptember 18, 2000 Washington, 7:00 a.m. 
Every weekday morning at seven o'clock a powerful black car made its way through the Georgetown traffic to a redbrick house. For fifteen minutes it waited outside the door for the occupant of the house to emerge. Peter Morgan kept it waiting because he could, and he wanted the driver to know that. He did it for precisely fifteen minutes every day because, in addition, he wanted the driver to know that he knew.Peter Morgan's mornings did not dare to vary from his routine. The soft glow of a progressively


Praise for In the Shadow of the Law

"A thoroughly gripping debut novel . . . a major breakthrough."--Chicago Tribune

"A nifty legal thriller that relies less on creaky plotting and more on complex and believable characters. . . . Shadow masterfully captures the culture of a legal factory: the competitive atmosphere, the overwhelming workload, and the give-and-take between what is right and what is best for clients."--Entertainment Weekly (grade:   A-)

"Readable, informed, sophisticated, often devastating . . . [an] astute character study."--The Washington Post

"An impressive first novel--with emphasis on both adjectives . . . commendable in its perceptive and witty insights into the post-law-school life of big-firm associates . . . The redeeming quality of Roosevelt's utterly realistic characters is that they know exactly what they are doing. Unlike Faust, they are not tricked or even seduced by the princes of darkness in their gentlemanly garb and corner offices. They step onto the treadmill with their eyes wide open and their antennae firmly in place. They, like the author who created them, understand the world of backstabbing and sucking up they are entering. I recognize these characters. . . . I recommend this novel with real enthusiasm."--Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review

"A shrewd first novel . . . a graceful performance . . . hugely readable."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[A] complex, ambitious first novel."--News & Record (Greensboro)
"Shrewd."--The Charlotte Observer
"Perhaps only once a decade does a brilliant young lawyer write a terrific first novel that suddenly announces him as a first-rate storytelling talent while revealing anew the enormous drama hidden within the colossus that we call the American legal system. Kermit Rooselvelt is such a writer, and In the Shadow of the Law is such a book. A tremendous, satisfying read."--Colin Harrison, author of The Havana Room
"It wouldn't be wrong to call In the Shadow of the Law a legal thriller, but it would sell the book short. There are suspenseful, devious plots aplenty . . . but it's Shadow's cast of characters that will keep you up at night. Roosevelt writes about the law more passionately and entertainingly than anyone since Scott Turow."--Time
"This legal thriller combines satisfyingly intricate puzzles with plenty of bite . . . strong characterizations, and insider's knowledge."--The Christian Science Monitor
"In the Shadow of the Law offers that profoundly pleasurable experience, traveling a great distance with a writer who has smarts and heart."--The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
"The mysteries in each case unfold in clever ways, but the real fizz and pop in In the Shadow of the Law comes from the characters, a surprisingly vivid and idiosyncratic bunch. Roosevelt sketches them with such shrewd, witty aplomb that you feel impatient to get back to them whenever he turns to the plot."--Laura Miller, Salon.com
"Roosevelt has written--and written well--a thoughtful and disturbing legal thriller that is also a meditation on the law itself."--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"This tour of the professions dark side should not be missed."--The Week
"In this graceful performance, Roosevelt establishes himself as chronicler of the menagerie. . . . [A] hugely readable novel."--Knight Ridder newspapers
"Remarkable characters . . . he creates an expertly paced, well-written, readable story in which good and bad are nuanced and the law is shown in all its majesty and intricacy."--Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Fascinating . . . I could not put the book down."--The Roanoke Times
"A brilliantly funny, acidly accurate riff . . . coupled with a penetrating moral critique of the way we practice now . . . In the Shadow of the Law stands in the shadow of great realist novels like Stendhal's The Red and the Black and Dickens's Bleak House."--The American Lawyer
"If you recognize yourself in any of the moral-lacking or morale-lacking characters, seek immediate help."--The Legal Intelligencer
"This outstanding debut . . . offers a fascinating insider's look into the culture of a high-stakes firm, while also presenting a considered meditation on the law itself and its potential to compromise those driven to practice it. Most of all it's the vividness and complexity of the characters--drawn with the precision and authority of a winning legal argument--that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Kermit Roosevelt

  • Kermit Roosevelt is an assistant professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Having worked at law firms in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Roosevelt is a former clerk to a U.S. Supreme Court justice, a graduate of Yale Law School, and a member of the Human Rights Advisory Board of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Kermit Roosevelt Copyright Lee Wetterau



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In the Shadow of the Law

A Novel

Kermit Roosevelt