What TV or movie lawyer is the most realistic?
While there are some larger than life personalities in the actual practice of law, they consist mostly of the clown/peacock exceptions that prove the rule.
And the rule is: A) the real-life practice of law is—with the exception of the occasional sensational murder and/or celebrity trial—mundane, and B) most lawyers aren’t that brilliant and thus not that enthralling.
This is why Court TV folded and why no “reality TV” lawyer shows get off the ground.
This is why Dateline NBC must wring the truth out of their tabloid legal “exposés” to make them interesting.
When fiction is so much easier to present, no one is willing to make the substantial effort needed to make real life lawyers and legal matters compelling programming.
I wish I could answer the TV question better, but I don’t watch much TV and don’t regularly watch any lawyer shows on TV (they are so vulgar now). I liked the original Law & Order during its run. Some of the acting on the original Law & Order was, in my opinion, very good and a good reason to watch the show.
And the way Law & Order presented some legal principles and procedures was realistic for TV lawyer shows then. But the overall level of verisimilitude was still fantastically low (and that’s not Law & Order’s fault; only the dull-witted and unemployed could stomach watching real criminal law proceedings for an hour every week).
To make law consistently exciting for TV and movie viewers one has to present law and lawyers as something they are not, i.e., as a fantasy. This fact is a bit disturbing because the public has come to believe that real-life law and lawyers are as TV and movies portray them. Not even close.
In all seriousness, the most realistically portrayed lawyer in popular movies is usually played by an extra. If the star of the movie is playing a lawyer, it’s not realistic. If the comic relief is playing a lawyer, that’s not realistic either.
Frankly, few lawyers in real life are realistic. With rare exception, the more you get to know a lawyer the more you come to see that the face most lawyers advertise to the public is not they way they really are, not the way they really feel or think. Why? Two main reasons.
#1. Because few legal professionals (that includes judges, as well as lawyers) are a combination of honesty, intelligence, good character, and industriousness.
That’s why Atticus Finch, one of the most venerated “lawyers”, is a fictional character. When a lawyer has so little going for his/her “true self,” the lawyer has two choices: repent and improve or baffle with B.S. The lying, lazy, stupid, and morally bankrupt lawyer will take the path of least resistance.
#2. When people are looking to hire a lawyer, they can’t believe how expensive good lawyers are and how little relief even the best lawyers can provide. Lawyers know this better than you do. Most lawyers are afraid to admit this.
Most lawyers would thus never acknowledge this in their advertising. So those lawyers do what everybody else does with their advertising: lie. Lie shamelessly, albeit with plausible deniability.
Lying advertising works. And it’s easier to sell with lies than with facts and honesty. Even though you know most advertising consists of blatant lies, most of us kind of like it when marketers lie to us, even after we realize we’ve been lied to.
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