Kirkus for Asshole Attorney

Posted June 26, 2018

A lawyer recounts his eventful professional exploits.

Wood (Presidential Intentions, 2014) was a peripatetic army brat who grew up in eight different houses over the course of his childhood. His father, he says, was a highly decorated soldier whose intemperate drinking devolved into alcoholism after a tragic accident left Wood’s mother a quadriplegic. The author writes that he was a shiftless student, but he made it into the first freshman class of the new Franklin Pierce Law Center (now part of the University of New Hampshire), founded in 1973, and subsequently earned a law degree from New York University in 1977. He worked for more than 30 years as an attorney in the advertising and entertainment industries, running his own firm at one point. He also worked as the “chief negotiator for the advertising industry,” he says, overseeing its collective bargaining arrangements with the Screen Actors Guild. This memoir is more of an impressionistic collage of vignettes than a thorough autobiography, although it generally unfolds in a chronological, linear fashion. Many of Wood’s remembrances are intimately revealing; for example, he reflects poignantly on the deaths of his mother and father, and lovingly relates the courtship of his wife of 35 years, whom he met in fifth grade. The focus of his reminiscences, though, is his legal career, which had its share of drama. The book’s longest memory reads like a comic tale of espionage, in which he’s exposed to danger in Poland and Cuba while representing the Phillips Beverage Company. Wood’s prose is crisp and anecdotal, and he’s refreshingly unafraid to poke fun at his misadventures. Not all his stories are equally gripping, but many are lighthearted and amusing; for example, he tells of unintentionally paying $14,000 at auction for a cigar humidor signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wood often draws lessons from his experiences, summarized in the concluding chapter, which seems infused with a misanthropic cynicism similar to his father’s, who said, “Remember this. People are no damn good.” However, contradictorily, Wood also imparts several tales of astonishingly good people, including a law school dean who volunteered to pay the author’s tuition.

An insightful and entertaining, if philosophically uneven, memoir.

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