Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Loopy Lawyers on TV

Prof. Thane Rosenbaum has an interesting piece in the WSJ on the changed depiction of lawyers on TV:
In these new shows [Harry's Law, Franklin &Bash, and Suits], ambulance chasers mainly chase skirts, and the street-smart lawyer is more like a street performer. Even the book-lined law office has become optional. The firm in "Harry's Law" also sells fine shoes. And the titular lawyers in "Franklin & Bash" initially practice out of a home office that is more "Animal House" than "The Paper Chase." In the recent film "The Lincoln Lawyer," the character played by Matthew McConaughey conducts business from the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car.

It wasn't always this way. In the 1960s, attorneys were portrayed in movies and on TV as austere and serious men who practiced law with great moral conviction. Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck in the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird," remains the paradigm of that lawyerly vision, taking on an unwinnable case in a courtroom contaminated by prejudice.

He makes several good points so read the piece in full. Two omissions in the article:
1. The growth in the number of TV shows devoted to legal "analysis" - like the unbearable Nancy Grace - featuring a bevy of lawyers, former judges, jurors etc., dishing out sanctimonious opinions about the latest high profile case. It has been virtually impossible to find anything on the news channels in the US other than interminable analysis of the Casey Anthony trial for the last 10 days.
2. The rise of a special species of "celebrity" lawyers - think of the Anna Nicole Smith custody battle - who seem to be lifestyle coaches/personal managers/shrinks/pastors all rolled into one. They shed copious tears at the drop of a hat and behave more like reality TV actors than lawyers. They qualify as loopy lawyers?