Book Review: Unbillable Hours, by Ian Graham





Book Review: Unbillable Hours, by Ian Graham


Unbillable Hours is a story written relating the day-to-day occurrences of a lawyer in a plot that depicts the real-life situation making it much more relatable and intriguing. The tale shows how Graham realized that the corporate big law firms are not for him as he discovers other passions (Graham 23). However, the system that is designed to break him first tortures him before getting an opportunity at a prestigious firm and hence the onset of his good life. The story goes on to introduce Rocha, the accused who is being freed from prison and is innocent of a matter he supposedly committed at the age of sixteen. A number of reactions and feelings towards the work that Graham does at the work place shows that he feels like there is uncertainty on whether it profits him as a person (Graham 47). This drama is written with the intent to appeal to most of the people in the legal field, those that wish to understand the field better, and the various implications that are expected in this system.

Elements Most Fascinating In the Book

The most intriguing element in this book is the rawness and the real-life aspect that the author exposes in the corporate law field. This is in relation to evaluating the firms showing how difficult it is to gain employment but so much easier to land an attachment or internship. For instance, Graham was a good student and by his second year, the law firm, in this case Latham & Watkins went out of their way to convince him to join them. Likewise, the salary in this time is very good contrary to the later years when it reaches to a point that social justice is not what is sought anymore but money.

In addition, Graham addresses the long hours and boredom that comes with his work as well as the disinterest especially when working with Rocha. “The shock initially felt at the long hours and boredom of the work had subsided a bit and replaced mostly by apathy,” Graham writes of his job (Graham 71). He also claims that working the long hours makes him realize just how much many people do not enjoy the work they do and yet they are not paid as much as the lawyers. This highlights the benefits or rather the kind of indirect extortion that is experienced in the law firms while other company’s, jobs or employment working equally as much do not get to earn as much. “Still, while I figured a lot of people worked at jobs they didn’t like, most didn’t make nearly as much money as I did” he writes.

The law firm and career in general is portrayed as a soul less endeavors because it is all about advancing the firm and the amount of money made other than working to better the society. With regard to handling the Rocha pro bono case, he writes, “In terms of career advancement at the firm, taking on the pro bono case wasn’t a good decision.” This is because; most cases that are represented here are not entirely for boosting justice in the community but the name of the firm or cleaning up the messes of those that can afford (Graham 77). “This job has no soul, I do not do anything. I do not make anything. I clean up other people’s messes and write memos about it. I don’t admire any of the people I work for or want to be like them in any way.” He writes.

The reason as to why this element is fascinating is that law schools and other professions do not prepare most of the fresh graduates for what is waiting for them once they finish school. Thanks to Graham’s story, many readers can relate to the current age of the legal profession and the expectations or rather the needed efforts and expected returns that the firms require to maintain both the firm and their jobs. Likewise, those outside the legal profession, much is explained on the workings of the lawyers and other features in the field such as the pro bono services (Graham 90) Overall, the story has an educative edge that is relatable to a wide range of the public and the readers involved in this.

Analysis of the Book

Despite the target market of the book, being mainly centered to those in the legal field, the use of nonprofessional’s tongue by Graham is a very important consideration made. This is because an average reader may find it troubling to understand the book had he focused solely on the language that is mainly used in the courts or the law firms (Graham 26). Unfortunately, however, there is an instance where the said consideration is slightly forgotten where he writes, “It is clear no witness exists who could have proven Petitioner’s innocence as he claimed. The testimony failed to raise credible evidence of Petitioner’s innocence by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is because, despite this having been a report from a court document, the language may be translated to use simpler words for an everyday reader’s sake.

The writing of the book in terms of approach and the varying dramatic effects also draws the readers in. In the beginning, the book seems rather ordinary but as it goes back, the characters are tossed into the unending walls of legal battles and the constant personal frustrations that come with them (Graham 77). The author ventures into a more detailed exposition with the dedication towards Rocha being the key detail that keeps him going. The most interesting part of his way of writing is that Graham did not let his background contort the main essence of the story and so the theme remained unbiased towards Rocha. He demonstrated his participation in the ghetto adventure with Mario Rocha without essentially bringing in the typical upper class tendencies in how he portrayed the story.

Analysis of the Characters

The two main characters in this story are woven into one and yet they are from two very different backgrounds and livelihoods. In the first instance, there is Graham who is from a wealthy and stable family background starting of a legal career in one of the most prestigious law firms yet (Graham 88). At first, he is excited about getting into the legal field and the corporate culture but unfortunately, he discovers that worming at a law firm is not all he expected. Despite earning a coveted six-figure salary, most of his workmates are a bunch of well-dressed, greedy, and egocentric individuals whose main goal is to profit from the clients the firm had. He begins to realize that he does not love his career path anymore, relating to the many other people, he has found in the same situation before. Graham describes a life of extravagance, and deception in the legal field and expresses his disappointment in being part of it.

The other main character is Mario Rocha has been depicted as the complete opposite of that of Graham. The huge difference comes in when the privileges of wealth and a good family of Graham are compared to the life of his immigrant mother in the ghetto. He is a smart and reasonable man, but crime is prevalent within his friendship and family circle making him a great target of the police (Graham 95). The homicide he is charged with has no evidence placing Rocha in the scene or the act of murder but due to his place of resident and affiliations, he is arrested anyway. The conviction of Rocha is blamed on the defense attorney and the prosecution by the district attorney leading to the start of his life sentence. Graham however comes in to help gain freedom for Rocha by representing him in court.

Analysis of the Themes

In my opinion, the author has used two themes in detail, which is the theme of facing reality and that of an Individual Verses the Society. This is concerning the real life narration on the working of the legal fields that in reality is as explained in his daily experiences. Graham is not satisfied with the work he does but regardless; he took upon himself to address the issue with Mario Rocha and the court to secure his freedom. This theme has been prevalent since the beginning of the book because he explained his life from how he attended law school, applied for jobs, worked hard before gaining recognition among others that are all relatable scenarios in the daily life.

In the theme of Individual Verses society, the story of Mario Macho who was arrested and charged with a homicide he did not commit merely because of where he came from is a good example of the perception of the society today. In addition, the legal professions is crowded by people that are eager to exploit others and however much Graham does not agree with this, he may not have the ability to transform the egocentric managers or the greedy work associates. These two themes best befits the storyline of the book and the depiction by Graham in most of the scenarios are indeed on point.


It is most certain that the book has appealed to many readers mainly due to the relatable issues that the author Graham used to explain his own non-fictional life. In addition, there are too many injustice occurrences in the justice system and the attempt by Graham to raise concern in the book using an actual unjust sentencing has further attracted the audience of this book. The wide range of details concerning the legal system addressed therefore draws attention to people in all areas of life that are interested in finding out more about the workings of the justice system. This reason makes the book widely recommendable to all readers and the nonprofessional language that has diffused some of the legal terms has made it understandable and self-explanatory. Generally, before reading the book, one can explain the injustice sin the legal system and the greedy behavior in most lawyers. After reading the book, there is great relief that there exist people within the same profession that also recognize the negative state of the few and others that fight for social justice.


Works cited

Graham, Ian. Unbillable Hours:-the Turbulent True Story of a Young Lawyer and the Pro Bono Case That Saved a Life. S.l: Kaplan Pub, 1-200, 2010 Print.

Graham, Ian. Unbillable Hours: A True Story. New York, N.Y: Kaplan Pub, 11-78, 2010. Print.

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