Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about In the Shadow of
are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups
who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this
guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of
perspectives from which you might approach In the Shadow of the Law.
About the Book
Morgan Siler is one of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful K Street law firms, its
roster of clients stocked with multibillion-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 Corporation 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
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.
- Why do you think Kermit Roosevelt ends each part of the prologue with
outside characters' approach to the law?
- The tone of each characters'
introduction is one of examination. Why do you believe the author chooses to
being their stories this way?
- What role does the history of the Morgan
Siler firm play in the lives of the lawyers who now work for the company? Is
the transformation of the firm representative of other changes?
question of capital-C character: Aside from narrative action, how do
characters reveal their true "characters"? Consider their physical, material
worlds, the way they speak to others, the way they regard their personal
- The "shadow" of the title implies critique, yet
paradoxically, the responsibility that comes with the law's practice and
interpretation. Is the book about interpretation in its many forms?
- Discuss the author's choice to create/include court documents.
writes on page 129, "What's the matter with law?" How and why is her
- Harold Fineman says, "Act and it will produce belief.
That's what litigation is all about." Do you agree with this statement? How
might it be altered or elaborated upon?
- How is the firm Morgan Siler like
- Think about the characters: Mark, Katja, Harold, Walker,
etc. What toll does their profession take on them? How might they be
rewarded or revitalized by the practice of law?
- What are your thoughts
on the outcomes of the two cases?
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