Misrepresented: What television and film get wrong about lawyers

  • August 23, 2018

The law provides great fodder for drama, particularly with the artistic licence that frees storytellers from the constraints – the mundane and the complex – of real-world practice. Below, OBA members share some of the more blatant inaccuracies about their profession’s on-screen depiction.

 

Turbo-charged and Tried!

"That it is remotely possible in a million years for a new matter to be at trial later that week. Or anytime without the major players turning grey for that matter."  

R. Brendan Bissell, Goldman, Sloan, Nash and Haber LLP

 

Low-tech? More Like No-tech!

"That none of the lawyers has a computer or laptop in their office. (On this point, I find Australian TV shows much more realistic in their depiction of a lawyer’s office, but my sample size is limited.)"

Janet N. Chong, SOCAN

 

Law and Order: SOW

"Not one show or movie depicts the daily grind – like a customer (US-based, I should add) refusing to sign a Statement of Work because authorized was spelled with a 'z' instead of an 's'."  

Adrian Ishak, Global Labour & Employment

 

Service, Single File

"Lawyers are nearly always depicted as completely dedicated to one case at a time – expectations might not be so high if media showed how many files we have to balance every day!"

Ivan Mitchell Merrow, Miller Thomson LLP

 

Something up your Sleeve?

"An interesting and slightly annoying TV fallout is when clients ask me to use my 'lawyers’ tricks' to win their case. While I enjoy magic just like the next person, I try not to compare what I do to 'tricks'."

Christine Vanderschoot, Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm

 

Not Your Average Client

"That practising law is all about huge clients, million dollar deals and glamour (Suits, The Good Wife and other shows of the same ilk), or about hardened criminals being put away (the rest of the shows on TV, such as Law and Order)." 

Esther Nwator, College of Nurses of Ontario

     

The Gotcha! Moment

"TV shows regularly misrepresent the rules of evidence when portraying courtroom battles. For example, the last-minute “surprise witness” will typically show up at trial with the key damaging evidence for the other party. In reality, the rules of evidence would inform to what extent this type of evidence would be permissible (e.g., whether the trial is adjourned to permit the other side time to respond to the new evidence)."

Daniel Daniele, Norton Rose Fulbright

 

The Convenient Confession

"I admit it! I’m Guilty! Of being really annoyed with how 'TV clients' always seem to crack at the last minute and provide the exact evidence required to prove (or disprove) the case."

Annie Kenet, Goldhart & Associates

 

The Big-Shot Attorney
"Every lawyer has a full and deep grasp of every area of the law (see Suits); lawyers get driven around in limos (again, see Suits); and corporate deals all get done within a day or two and the lawyers are the most important people in the room – that’s often not the case in the real world."

Imran Ahmad, Miller Thomson LLP

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