John Grisham takes on for-profit law schools in latest thriller

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With his novels, John Grisham has prosecuted racial injustice, greed and corruption. His Latest book, “The Rooster Bar,” takes aim at unscrupulous for-profit law schools.

In the novel, readers follow three third-year law students at the fictional Foggy Bottom Law School — a for-profit law school with extremely poor bar passage and employment rates. Halfway though their last year, the students discover Foggy Bottom is one of several law schools owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator, who also happens to own a collection agency specializing in student loans. Facing a mountain of student loan debt and dismal post-grad prospects, the students drop out. 

The novel took inspiration from law professor Paul Campos’s 2014 essay, “The Law School Scam,” which condemned deceitful student recruitment practices. 

“I was not familiar with for-profit law schools and I was not really familiar with the student debt crisis,” Grisham told CBS News. “And the article really opened my eyes. It was a great piece but also a troubling issue and I started researching and the novel was quickly born from that."

Grisham seems to point directly to Infilaw, Inc., which owns three for profit law schools, including the now-defunct Charlotte School of Law. A whistle-blower lawsuit against Charlotte Law alleges that the law school conspired with Infilaw to inflate enrollment and maximize profits by lowering admissions standards and misrepresenting bar passage and employment rates.

Infilaw also owns Arizona Summit Law School, which was placed on probation by the ABA earlier this year, and Florida Coastal School of Law, which was warned by the Department of Education for not meeting the agency’s gainful employment standard. 

The ABA Journal reached out to Don Lively, president of Arizona Summit, who said he had not read the book.

“The only comment I can think of is that knowing Grisham’s work it should be entertaining and riveting, but I see it as fiction,“ he said.

You can read the first four chapters of The Rooster Bar for free here.