The Basics: Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada's Legal Profession, Philip Slayton, 2007, 294 pages, hardcover
How I found it: This book was in the Canadian news a lot in the summer of 2007 when it came out. Most notably, it inspired a Maclean's Magazine cover story entitled "Lawyers are Rats" that inflamed the Canadian legal community (see here for a summary). In the fall, I went (out of curiosity) to a talk that Slayton gave about his opinions on the reform of regulation of the legal profession. As a result, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.
What's it about?: Each of this book's chapters details the crimes and indiscretions of a particular lawyer gone bad. The wrongs committed by these people include money laundering, stealing money, sex with clients, and all kinds of other dirty dealings. Slayton asserts that these cases are special because they often were committed by lawyers who were otherwise successful in the profession. At the end of the book, Slatyon closes with a few pages containing his thoughts on how the legal profession might be reformed, including the problems with the self-governance system.
Did I like it?: This book was interesting in the same way Jerry Springer or a highway car wreck is interesting: other people's problems are on full display in all their sensationalistic glory. Overall, I didn't really like the book that much. Slayton was mostly into criticizing the people he profiled for how they had royally screwed up. However, the real problem with the legal profession, in my opinion, is that lawyers don't screw up royally very often - instead they just pad their billings here and there, fail to report things to the law society - minor stuff. When I saw Slayton speak he emphasized these little screw ups as the real problem, and spoke at length about how he left the self-governing provincial bar societies were at the root of the problem. However, that argument is barely a footnote in his book, probably because if it were more prominent, he never would have got the media coverage he did.
Will you like it?: If you are truly looking for some sensational stories about 'lawyers gone bad' then you might find this book entertaining as you make yourself feel better by reading about someone who really screwed up. However, if you just read this book to see what all the hype was about, you might be a bit disappointed. And if you are involved in the legal profession, it is likely that you are boycotting this book altogether due to the media backlash against lawyers that it generated.
But don't take my word for it: The usual publisher-approved blurbs from Amazon, a review from Vancouver's alternative weekly newspaper, The Georgia Strait, one from The Toronto Star, and a collection of positive reviews from the author's web page.