This is the story of not so much the stereotypical lawyer as it is the prototypical, the one who showed them all how to do it. At one time Fred Levin held the records for money awarded for the wrongful death of a housewife, wrongful death of a wage earner, wrongful death of a child, wrongful death of an African American, and the highest personal injury verdict in Florida, most of these verdicts in one of the most conservative areas of the country. Not only does he come off as a hero in this book, there’s also a piece that says all the bad press lawyers have received as sharks and ambulance chasers are propaganda of big business, the ones who have to pay out big when there’s a win like these. While there’s some truth to needing to keep corporations accountable, and those large conglomerates are usually behind propositions to limit huge awards, it comes off as self-serving here, which limits the believability. There is a telling line: “When he inadvertently does good for others, he does very well for himself.” So yes, getting a portion of the money awarded certainly made him rich.
The best stories are about the cases won against corporations, even if they weren’t Fred’s; Pinto and Silkwood are the most significant, and set the stage for Fred’s later “heroics.” The best note on his legal strategies is about destroying the entire defense case with the opening statement. He also pioneered the use of structured settlements.
But he wasn’t just a lawyer; the biggest laugh in the book is when he’s a manager for a boxer, whose father says there’s no person in the boxing world more ethical than Fred, “which, in retrospect, probably didn’t say much.”
The stories told make this book enjoyable, but what makes it effective is the subject’s willingness to admit his mistakes, especially in his relationships, including his family. It’s incredibly fascinating despite itself. . .