The Lawyers: Class of '69

book cover

They came together as law students, in the last class of the '60s, at U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall Law School: Rose, the daughter of farm workers and one of the few "girls" in the class; Leon, the Marxist son of a union organizer, seeking a legal education to deconstruct society; Brian, the upstate New Yorker, whose admiration for John F. Kennedy took him to the South and into a confrontation with racism; Michael, the often-ridiculed, conservative Republican; and, Jackson, a person of East Coast pedigree who forever regretted not going to Stanford. What began in the classroom altered each of their lives.

They return now, to the 30th Reunion of the Class of '69 held at the exclusive Clarion Country Club high in the Berkeley Hills. Justice Michael Cassidy is there, despite having quietly resigned his membership years before when the club's discriminatory practices were called into question. He enters at the same time as his nemesis, Professor Ernesto "Zapata" Reynoso. It was Cassidy, Reynoso believes, who counseled president-elect Ronald Reagan to withdraw Reynoso's nomination to the federal bench. Both look toward Rose Contreras, who was number one in the class, and, with surprise, at her guest.

Jackson Bridgeport III is his arrogant self: "A legal education doesn't necessarily make you a better person." He savors the Reunion as an opportunity to put Rose in her place.

Brian Jacobs, the prominent "movement lawyer" is there, although no one recognizes him. Years ago, he walked away from the law. Yet, he returns tonight, bringing with him his young daughter.

Leon Goldman sends regrets. He and Angela Africa — "a couple in politics known by their first names, like Bill and Hillary, Ted and Jane" — are out of the country. Leon's enormous wealth from class action litigation — including his recent Holocaust lawsuit — is the topic of conversation. But to Leon's father, his wealth is a measure of his son's failure.

For Rose, the Reunion is not a triumphant return but a painful reminder. As a woman, she has traveled a very different path even as she has bested the men — in law school and in litigation. It remains for Rose and her guest to sum up the practice of law in a final salutation.Graduation

From divorce court to the Supreme Court, from public street demonstrations to private White House conferences, the lawyers of the '60s battle in the legal system — and sometimes each other — and with the questions raised at the 30th Reunion: "Did we make a goddamn bit of difference? Did we change the law? Society? Anything? Or were we changed?"


What can we say? This book clearly has touched a broad spectrum of people who have enthusiastically embraced it. Perhaps it's because it is, in many ways, a history of our tumultuous times as told through fictional but very real characters. Or because it reflects the idealism of a generation at a time that idealism seems to be in short supply. Or maybe it is the struggle of one women that so epitomizes what so many women have endured in our society. Or it is the story of battling lawyers using, and abusing, the legal system. Or, maybe, it's just a damn good read?

The Sacramento Bee kicked off the print media reception, on October 27, 2003, with a full front page, Scene Section, article entitled "Letter of the Law" calling John a "crusading lawyer" who drew on his life in the law for his first novel. Next, the progressive paper Because People Matter said this in its book review:

Within densely detailed Northern California settings, these characters create and are created by the large social forces of the era, bringing vividly alive the context of that time of political turmoil. The characters' histories and personalities engage the reader and Poswall's insight shine through the pages...THE LAWYERS is a slice-of-life novel with a vivid surface richness. Its subject however, how individuals, the law, and the social currents of the times intersect and change -- is a deep and complex one, and Poswall does it justice!

Sacramento Magazine featured the book under the title, "Literary Lawyer" and asked the author's question of his 60's generation -- "Did we make a difference?" The prestigious national lawyers' magazine Voire Dire, for the first time in its history, ran a book excerpt -- a full chapter of the book -- with an interview entitled: "A tale of law and life."

Sacramento News and Review ran a full page interview and review wherein writer Amy Yannello described the novel this way: "About as far away from a John Grisham legal thriller as one could get and infinitely more intriguing...."

The Midwestern Book Review, from Oregon, called the book "original" and "deftly written" describing it as:

A complex tapestry of intertwining stories ranging from dashed hopes to life-changing close calls to public demonstrations and private White House conferences, THE LAWYERS: Class of '69 is a highly recommended and thoroughly engrossing read.

From New York, The Daily Record, in a long review, said "the story was captivating from beginning to end." And from Kerala, India, legal thriller web reviewer for gave the book all "four cups of tea" and compared Poswall to Scott Turow and said of his own jaded idealism: "The novel enabled me to confront some questions, which I have until now, been afraid to ask myself...disturbingly enjoyed" the novel.

In the meantime, the William Morris Agency of New York was asked by a certain major production company person to provide a "coverage" -- to review the book for a possible movie. The verdict: Recommended for a TV/Cable movie or series!

San Francisco's KGO talk show host, Christine Craft marveled that "such a talented lawyer would also be one hell of a writer" and broke with tradition and invited an author on her show. From Arizona a women lawyer wrote that John's description of the experience of a women lawyer was "so accurate I was sure a women must have written it." Guy Saperstein, on of the nation's leading civil rights lawyers -- and the author of Civil Warrior was "intrigued to watch how people use the same law school experience for widely varying purposes, as well as how careers often get shaped by unexpected events." A communications professor, and child of the 60s, called the book Paper Chase meets The Big Chill, from those movies of the times, saying "Poswall brings it all back with great skill, intelligence and insight...our hopes and professed values and the lives we actually ended up leading." A librarian in Pennsylvania commented on the "original approach of individual stories along with the social issues that determined a nation's character." And, a judge in Hays, Kansas ironically made the connection to Lescroart: "Poswall compares favorably with those legal novelists such as Martini and Lescroart."

But it was the combined corporate efforts of Tower Books and Borders Books that conspired to convince New York Times best selling author John Lescroart to read the book. Here is how he, a New York Times best-selling author, describes what happened:

December, I helped open a new Borders Store in Carson City, NV and the Community Relations Person there told me I had to read a self-published book called The Lawyers: Class of '69, by John Poswall....I took home the copy she gave me, then put it in my bookshelf and basically forgot about it. Last month, Russ Solomon of Tower Books & Records had lunch with me and told me I had to read this great book called The Lawyers: Class of '69. Okay, so I pulled it down and thought I'd read a page or two. Three days later, I had tears in my eyes as I finished this really remarkable book...It's a beautiful book...There is a wonderful sense of purpose and idealism, and an awesome sense of lost innocence coupled with painful growth (hence the tears at the end). But there is also suspense, humor, excellent characterization. You need to read this book. I believe it will knock you out...It could become required reading for the next generation.

For all of the reviews of this Five Star evaluated book, go to