Just as a sidekick can bolster a detective in a mystery, so can a sidekick bolster a lawyer in a legal thriller. For every Sherlock Holmes there is a Dr. Watson.
For example, in Steve Martini’s ongoing series of legal thrillers, criminal defense attorney Paul Madriani is aided by his law partner and friend Harry Hinds. Hinds is consistently compelling; he says the things Madriani would like to say, while maintaining an attitude all his own. He’s witty and clever and every bit the lawyer Madriani is. But Harry’s quick temper and constant cynicism make him better suited for the role of sidekick than hero. And as far as sidekicks go, Harry is one of the best in the business.
But a sidekick doesn’t have to be every bit as skilled or intelligent as the protagonist lawyer. Look, for example, at John Grisham’s THE RAINMAKER. Young attorney Rudy Baylor doesn’t have a Harry Hinds to help him out. He has a Deck Shifflet. What the hell is a Deck Shifflet, you might ask? Deck Shifflet is an ambulance-chasing “paralawyer” who has failed the bar exam a half dozen times. Deck Shifflet, played beautifully by Danny DeVito in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation, is as shifty as his boss Bruiser Stone, only with none of the smarts. But Deck Shifflet adds needed comic relief to a rather grim story of an insurance company allowing a sick teenager to die in order to save money.
As for the sidekick in Douglas Corleone’s legal thriller series, attorney Jake Harper is a combination of the above two. Though thirty years older than his law partner Kevin Corvelli, Jake freely admits that Kevin (the protagonist) is the better litigator of the two. Jake’s heading fast for 70, and he gladly steps aside for Kevin, a brash young lawyer who moved to Hawaii from New York to escape his past. Jake himself hails from Houston, where he spent three decades battling the “death machine” commissioned by the state of Texas. Jake is tired, but he wants to stay in the game, and through Kevin Corvelli, he can do that. And Jake’s no slouch either: he can hold his own in the courtroom. But most of his advice for Kevin is not about the law but about life. Of course, ol’ Jake’s not opposed to offering us some comic relief either.
Who’s your favorite sidekick in the courtroom? If you’re a writer, how important is your sidekick to your story?