ABC has made a seven-figure put pilot commitment to Touchstone Television for an hourlong drama project based author John Grisham’s bestselling novel “The Street Lawyer.”
Scribes Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who wrote and directed the upcoming Vin Diesel feature “Knockaround Guys,” will write the pilot and serve as exec producers. Grisham will also exec produce, as will rep David Gernert.
Like the book, pilot will revolve around a rising young corporate attorney — named Michael Brock in the novel — who quits his job at a big firm to work for a legal aid clinic that takes cases other lawyers reject and handles clients who can barely afford to pay.
First episode will set up a premise where Brock ends up battling his old law firm, and as part of a settlement, the firm is forced to work with the legal aid clinic.
“It’s basically a story about a guy who, through a near-death experience, finds there’s more to life than hourly billing,” said Levien.
Touchstone topper Stephen McPherson welcomed the “amazing opportunity to be in business with a talent like John Grisham.”
“And the addition of Brian Koppelman and David Levien couldn’t be a better fit,” he said.
ABC drama chief Tom Sherman describes “The Street Lawyer” as “a broad-based legal franchise” where the dynamic between Brock and his former colleagues will supply plenty of personal tension. What’s more, the head of the legal aid clinic will sometimes clash with Brock — despite their alliance — providing further dramatic grist for the skein’s story mill.
“The show is filled with these uneasy partnerships, both economic and cultural,” said Koppelman.
What’s more, the title is already a presold commodity.
“John Grisham’s name is going to bring an audience to this project,” Sherman said. “He’s set the standard for legal franchises in print.”
Koppelman and Levien first got to know Grisham when the duo worked on a draft of the upcoming feature adaptation of Grisham’s novel “The Runaway Jury.” They were asked to develop a small screen take on “Street Lawyer,” and jumped at the chance.
“What’s so great about the book is that it not only gives us the lion’s share of the pilot, but there enough left over to supply the threads of many episodes for one or two seasons,” Koppelman said. “It’s incredibly fertile material.”
Grisham’s novels have been translated to numerous features, including “The Pelican Brief,” “A Time to Kill,” “The Rainmaker,” “The Client” and “The Chamber.”
In addition to “Knockaround Guys,” Koppelman and Levien paired for the 1998 Matt Damon starrer “Rounders.” They are repped by Endeavor, which packaged the project.