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Literature / The Lincoln Lawyer

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The Lincoln Lawyer is a 2005 Law Procedural novel by Michael Connelly, the first in a series featuring Mickey Haller.

Mickey Haller is a comfortably Amoral Attorney, gladly defending his lawless clientele even when he knows they're guilty. He is also extremely competent, and his services command substantial fees. His trademark: the beaten-up old Lincoln he rides around in. His willingness to defend known criminals has given him a reputation, and that reputation is about to get him tangled up in some serious trouble...

Enter Louis Roulet, a rich trust fund kid accused of attempting to rape and murder a young woman he met at a bar. With his wealthy parents' money, Roulet retains Haller as a lawyer. Roulet insists that he is absolutely innocent, but the young lady tells a different story. Within a few days revelations from both sides of the case send things spiraling out of control, and Mickey Haller finds himself and his loved ones in serious danger but struggling to defend them due to the machinations of a dangerous psychopath. But perhaps the would-be mastermind has underestimated the cunning of the Lincoln Lawyer...


In 2011 The Lincoln Lawyer was adapted as a film directed by Brad Furman, starring Matthew McConaughey as Haller.

The Lincoln Lawyer provides examples of:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Attorney Mickey Haller's client Jesus Menendez/Martinez spends several years in San Quentin for a murder he didn't commit. In the book he's HIV+ due to Prison Rape.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The Film of the Book leaves out the downside of the novel's Bittersweet Ending. In the book, while Mickey Haller gets Martinez exonerated, he ends up disbarred for several months for breach of professional ethics and is sued for malpractice by Martinez for originally convincing him to plead guilty. Additionally Martinez is now HIV-positive due to Prison Rape.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Investigator Raul Levin becomes Frank Levin, judge Connie Fullbright becomes Jameson Fullbright, and Jesus Menendez becomes Jesus Martinez.
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  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Some of Haller's repeat customers are the members of a motorcycle gang that makes its money running drugs.
  • The Alleged Car: Haller's Lincoln in the book was an up-to-date model he replaced every three years. In the movie it was a 1980's model that would be an overheating, unreliable beast under the kind of use he puts it through.
  • Amicably Divorced: Haller and his ex-wife, a prosecutor for the DA's office. Also, Haller and his second ex-wife, who works as his secretary.
  • Amoral Attorney: An interesting exploration of the concept. Defense attorney Mickey Haller is seen by prosecutors (including his ex-wife) as one. Haller points out that all too often, the prosecution tries to pin unsolved crimes on defendants and pull other questionable legal maneuvers. The prosecutor who took over Roulet's case after Haller's ex-wife left to avoid conflict of interest provided an example. Mickey himself makes his living using whatever technicalities or loopholes he can find to help his clients, who are usually guilty as sin. However, Mickey is horrified to learn that Menendez/Martinez, a prior client he advised to plead guilty to the rape and murder of a prostitute was actually innocent, and that his current client Roulet was the real killer. True to his professional obligations, Mickey defends Roulet to the point that the DA drops charges with prejudice, then promptly burns him for the greater charge of murder to get Menendez exonerated.
  • And This Is for...: After Mickey Haller exposes Louis Roulet as the real culprit of a murder another client of his was wrongfully convicted for, he told Louis it was for Raul Levin, an investigator killed while looking for evidence.
  • Anti-Hero: Haller is an Amoral Attorney but he's also a good father, a good boss and he will burn you if cross a line.
  • Artistic License – Law: A Downplayed example, since Haller is in a pretty unusual situation and might not have thought of this- not to mention his primary concern is not simply his job but the physical safety of his family-, but the "attorney-client privilege" aspect that Roulet is counting on doesn't necessarily apply to this case, since a) Haller is free to report to the police that his client broke into his home and threatened his family, which would put Roulet in jail by itself, b) Californian lawyers are legally required to disclose information that might result in the "grevious bodily harm" of a third party, which would apply to Martinez who is wrongfully imprisoned and in fear of his life inside (in fact in the novel he has even contracted HIV from prison rape), and c) in any event he is free to simply talk to the judge in private, let him know in sufficiently vague terms that he has found himself in a compromising situation, and try and work something out without breaching his legal ethics.
  • The Atoner: Mickey Haller becomes driven to make amends after he finds out he once strong-armed an innocent client into pleading guilty.
  • Batman Gambit: Haller knew that the DA would be so eager to pounce on DJ Curliss, that he wouldn't look into his past and learn about his history of being a jailhouse snitch and his record of lying. Not only did this put the final nail in Roulet's case, but it caused the DA's office to take another look at the Menendez case. Which is what Haller wanted all along.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the book. Menendez is freed and Roulet goes down for the rape and murder that Menendez was convicted of, but Mickey is penalized with temporary disbarment for breach of professional ethics and gets sued for malpractice by Menendez. The "but" is left out of the movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the movie, Roulet mentions that the only criminal records against him are parking tickets. It turns out a certain parking ticket he received links him to the murder of the hooker Roulet killed and pinned on Menendez.
    • A literal gun in the case of the one Haller gets from his driver (at his request). It looks like he's going to use it on Roulet, but he only uses it to ward Roulet off until the bikers arrive. He actually uses it on Mrs. Roulet, who shot him after confessing that she killed Frank.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Roulet vs. the aforementioned biker gang. It is glorious to behold.
    Haller: Hospital, not the morgue.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Haller one-upping Roulet,a petty and privileged sadist with the motorcycle gang. It is awesome and hilarious.
  • For the Evulz: Why Roulet picked a low-rent attorney like Haller, when he had the resources to hire a bigger name. He knew Haller had represented a man he'd framed for an earlier murder, knew Haller would figure it out, and knew Haller couldn't do a damn thing about it without sacrificing his career. Or so he thought.
  • Gender Flip: Judge Fullbright is a woman in the book and a man in the film.
  • Gray and Black Morality: Haller might be an Amoral Attorney who knowingly defends guilty clients, but he's up against much worse. Still and all, don't be surprised if you spend half of the film wondering about who you want to win...
  • Good Parents: Haller and his prosecutor ex-wife are loving parents to their daughter Hayley.
  • GPS Evidence: The parking tickets that Roulet accumulated were able to show where he was on the night of the murders he's indicted for.
  • Guile Hero: Haller excels at setting up situations in advance to benefit himself.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Gloria, who has a friendly relationship with Haller, her lawyer, and helps Haller find out about DJ Curliss.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: In the novel, a detective is warning Haller.
    “So get out there and enjoy yourself while you can. But don’t leave town.”
    He laughed, almost giddy with himself.
    “Man, I thought they only said that in movies. But there, I just said it! I wish my partner had been here."
  • It Was a Gift: Haller's rare model of gun, which was handed down to him by his attorney father, who received it from an acquitted mobster client.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Haller may be a sleazy lawyer but he is also a caring friend, loving father and generous boss. He is clearly appalled at Louis' viciousness.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Mrs. Windsor goes as far as murdering lawyers to prevent her son, Roulet, from paying for his sadistic hobby.
  • Land Poor: In the book, it's revealed that Mickey Haller bought his home ignoring maintenance costs. He believes bail bondsman Fernando Valenzuela wouldn't accept it as collateral for a five-thousand-dollar debt.
  • Meaningful Name: Haller's client has the surname Roulet, "like a roulette wheel" according to Haller's friend. Roulet's mother, a rich and overbearing woman, remarried and is now Mrs. Windsor.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: A prostitute was raped and killed and a client she had recently met was wrongly arrested for that.
  • Naughty by Night: Roulet, such a nice boy, playing golf during daylight, killing prostitutes at night.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Haller is a great boss and friend to his driver Earl, even keeping him on long after he no longer needs him.
  • Off on a Technicality: Some of Haller's clients benefit of his legalese in the following manner. One such case is an officer in a motorcycle gang busted for growing pot. Mickey gets the charge thrown out on account of the flyover to confirm the pot having been at a low enough altitude to be considered unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Minton, the prosecutor for the Roulet case, has this look when Roulet reveals his reasons for always carrying the weapon with which he was accused of assaulting the victim, thus blowing a huge hole in Minton's case.
    • A big shock happens when Roulet's mother tells him that she was found raped by her son. Josh Lucas is handling it.
  • On the Rebound: It's revealed in the book that Mickey's second failed marriage started fresh of the first failure.
  • Papa Wolf: There's a scene where Haller stakes out in front of his ex-wife's house to protect his daughter from someone who declared himself to be a threat.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: An early hint to Louis's true nature is his grievous lack of tact. He says "I woke up with two faggots on top of me", refusing to tone down his language for the court.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: Kinda lampshade-hung, when Haller sets Roulet up by making Corliss swear they talked about his killings, with details, though it never happened.
  • Serial Killer: Louis Roulet likes killing and raping prostitutes because he knows he'll get away with it even if he's taken to court over it.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Roulet makes a veiled threat to Haller about Haller's daughter Hayley. Haller initially gives him a brief "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how he's not the first client to threaten him or his family. When Roulet tries to follow through after Haller burns him for murder to free Menendez, Haller is waiting for him with a gun and some of his other clients... a motorcycle gang.
  • Straight Gay: Frank is gay but this doesn't show in his behavior. He basically just doesn't like it when people like him are called "faggots".
  • Stupid Evil: Roulet choosing Haller was really just a sadistic ploy on his part, since had he chosen any other lawyer not only could he have been given as good or better representation, but no lawyer but Haller was likely to have even made the connection between the two crimes in the first place. It could also be a case of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good—Roulet may think that Haller will fight extra-hard for him with his career on the line, not realizing that he'll just try extra-hard to find a way to screw Roulet over and make sure he is sent to jail. Ultimately Roulet seems simply to think that in choosing Haller he is being diabolically clever and showing that he, a rich kid with no career or real qualifications to speak of, is smarter than a lower-middle class professional lawyer (especially if Haller didn't make the connection), not to mention he probably just wanted someone to brag his crimes to safely.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Roulet, upon seeing an entire biker gang busting up his car, walks up to them and demands to know what the hell they think they're doing. They then proceed to brutally show him exactly what the hell they think they're doing. It's very plain that if Haller had not been there to keep them on a leash, it would have been the morgue and not the hospital.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Most of the trailers make no effort to hide that Roulet is very guilty of what he's being accused of; those that don't show it outright heavily imply it.
  • Vanity License Plate: Haller's plate, NTGUILTY.
  • Work Off the Debt: Half of Haller's driver's wages are to pay for his fees.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Roulet shows no problems with making threats against a ten-year-old.


Example of: