The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

The Memorandum

Book Reviews

Photo of The Memorandum book coverIn his thrilling courtroom drama, The Memorandum, attorney Robert W. Kelley shares his real-life tale of death, greed, perjury, and triumph. The pages crackle with suspense as Kelley, an accomplished trial lawyer, expertly employs simple but forceful prose to treat the reader to the harrowing twists and turns as one legal team seeking truth battles another fighting to hide it.

The book opens with what seems to be a typical fender bender — until a family watches in horror as the unthinkable happens, and a young child is engulfed in flames. The boy’s parents hire Kelley to sue the driver who caused the crash — and then the case truly explodes. One serendipitous night while Kelley is making dinner for his kids, he overhears a news segment about a case just like his. Bells go off, and Kelley realizes an important angle may have been missed. With the pedal to the metal and a full tank of gas, the reader is off to the races as Kelley’s courtroom adventures begin.

Right then, I loved this book. A trial lawyer willing to admit he may have overlooked a potential angle in the case, and then finding it by total happenstance? It makes me admire Bob Kelley even more than I have all these years.

But now, as you read further, you enter the hell of the American civil litigation system, with a small law firm pitted against what Kelley describes as the endless resources of a corporation desperate to keep its secrets hidden. The reader gets a first-hand view of Kelley and his co-counsel exemplifying the best of the American justice system, just as their adversaries seem to reflect the worst.

To say Kelley and his legal team worked hard would be a gross understatement: we are talking thousands of hours combing through truckloads of documents, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to pay for experts and trips across the country for weeks of witness interviews. They give everything they have in the pursuit of justice — and I mean everything, and then some.

(Note: Bob Kelley’s quest was not about money or fame, it was about learning and exposing the truth. I won’t spoil this part by revealing why I know that — you will have to read the book to find out.)

The Memorandum reminds me of Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action, another true tale in which a lawyer fights beyond obsession for his clients, but loses big, goes broke, and almost goes crazy. But not Bob Kelley. He crushes his opponents, wins big, gets worldwide headlines, and earns peace and closure for his clients.

The real suspense — and the true agita of this book — is Kelley’s description of his struggle to prove the vast amount of obfuscation, lying, deceit, and fraud one company was willing to commit for pecuniary gain. It’s hard to stomach, but by giving us a glimpse behind the curtain, Kelley proves justice is possible. (And you’ll be elated when justice is finally achieved.)

In Bob Kelley’s The Memorandum, you will learn how the system really works, what to expect if you take on the big corporations, and how to do it — and you’ll learn some invaluable lessons in trial work and life along the way. I ordered copies for all our firm’s lawyers and paralegals. It’s that good.

Philip Frieden is a member of The Florida Bar.