The Firm


The Firm

Sydney Pollack’s film The Firm is a drama based on an desire to escape from the law firm (Berndini, Lambert, and Lock) from which he was hired. The relatively small but wealthy firm wines and dines the ambitious Harvard Law Graduate’s (played by Tom Cruise) with money and gifts in order to make him part of their team. Overwhelmed by the gracious treatment and substantial offer Mitch McDeere takes the offer to be part of the Firm. The firm gets them caught up in a affluent lifestyle that they never thought they could live. Once involved n the day to day workings of the firm McDeere began to get subtle hints of a corruption with a Mafia mob client. McDeere gets a hold of some information that he shouldn’t have had access to that supports his suspicions. When an FBI agent confronts him with evidence of corruption and murder within the firm, Mitch forms a plan to indite the partners of the firm by gathering information on overbilling of the firms clients. The firms clients files contained information that could destroy both the firm and most of their mob clients. Berndini, Lambert, and Lock had a past history of spending large sums of money on their new lawyers then once they got used to the good life the firm would let them in on the corruption that when on. The firm had a tight control over their partners. They knew everything about their personal life as well as their work life. All their homes were wired and their phones tapped. They also had access to information on their partners family and friends. With such tight controls over their lives they had a power to control their every move. Temptations of escape were smothered by threats of harm. In two cases the threats of harm led to murder.
A reoccurring theme of politics and power emerged throughout the film. For this reason it seems most logical to analyze The Firm based on chapter twelve of Stephen Robbins’ book Organizational Behavior. Power is defined as A capacity that A has to influence the behavior of B so that B does things he or she would not otherwise do. The focus of this paper is going to based on the power that the firm had over its employees. In order to better understand the concept of power and where it comes from two published researchers named J.R.P. French Jr. and B. Raven came up with a five-category classification. The five categories are as follows; coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power. The firm practiced all five of these categories to gain control over their employees actions. The top partners of the firm possessed a great coercive power over their subordinates. Coercive power is defined as a power based on fear. The lead character Mitch McDeere was in fear of his life and his family’s life if he failed to comply to the firms demands. The foundation of coercive behavior
“...rests on the application, or the threat of application, of physical sanctions such as the infliction of pain, the generation of frustration through restriction of movement, or the controlling by force of basic physiological or safety needs.”
Throughout the film there were many implications a negative outcome to certain actions that the head partners felt were contrary to the success of the firm.
Another classification of power, reward power, is based on compliance achieved based on the ability to distribute rewards that others view as valuable. As stated in the chapter coercive and reward behavior are counterparts of each other. In the movie they were used together. The book describes coercive power as the power to take away something of positive value or to give something of negative value. It goes further to explain reward power as the power to give something of positive value or to take something away of negative value. Under this view one could assume that the firm took away Mitch McDeeres’ value of freedom. During the last few scenes of the movie the FBI agent asked Mitch why he went to all the trouble to do what he did. His reply was “...now I have a life. A life of my