Monday, August 21, 2023
Although I taught a class called "Lawyers in Movies" for years the truth is that I don't really like the way our glamour profession is portrayed in film and on television all that much. We've been watching "Suits" lately, and I have to say I don't think I've ever seen anything ostensibly about lawyers that is so divorced from the law. Law is a handy narrative framing device, which is why there are so many lawyer films and lawyer shows, but "Suits" could have been about any other occupation in the world and lost nothing.
Central to the plot in Suits is that the young associate didn't go to law school, and isn't admitted to the bar- and several members of the firm know this. The lawyers never ask questions at depositions- they make speeches and threaten the witnesses. They routinely have direct contact with adverse parties without counsel present. One of the senior partners embezzled client funds. Legal disputes can be useful plot-framing devices, but if it's going to work the story needs to acknowledge that there are actual rules that shape the conduct of the lawyers- and that there are consequences for not following those rules. Everyone in the firm who knew about the embezzlement should have reported it, on peril of disbarment. The young associate is committing an actual crime, and everyone who knows it is likewise in legal peril. Ex parte contact with adverse parties is something I've blown people in for, and the lawyers were sanctioned for it. It's bad storytelling is what I'm saying. If you are writing a story about elves and hobbits there are ways that elves and hobbits behave that shape the story, and if you break those rules you wreak your narrative. If you chose lawyers then the lawyers should act like lawyers.
Also, Harvard is absolutely not sine qua non of law schools, no matter what Harvard thinks