How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Bill Childs

Interesting review. Most law shows make me shriek in agony and so I avoid them (L&O excepted, sometimes).

One note, though: The Practice was not an Ally McBeal spinoff. In fact, the first episode of The Practice aired in March of 1997, and Ally McBeal debuted in September of that year. The latter did have an execrable "repurposing" spinoff, Ally, which happily died a quick death.

(And no, I don't have those dates memorized; it just seemed wrong so I did quick episode guide searches...)


Thanks for the correction. I may have to hang up my tv geek credentials for not verifying the dates and lineage!


When I was in law school, L.A. Law was all the rage. It was so popular that it was blamed for a big increase in law-school applicants, all of whom went on to graduate about the time of the recession in the early 1990s.

Here's another L.A. Law website. It was a pretty good show.


In an effort to atone for my gaff, I've compiled this history of the shows in question. Everything you wish you didn't know about David E. Kelley and his legal shows.


As a second-year night school student, what do you know about litigation problems?


Tanizaki: Why, do you have one?


Evan: Do I have one what? Litigation problem? Yes, I have them all the time. I can't get a process server to serve a corporation properly to save my life.


You should hire a law student to be your process server. I'm sure he or she would get the job done right.


I don't have "a" process server. We send a summons off to Joe Blow Process Servers and pray they don't foul it up. Then I get the affidavit of service and have to explain to those clowns that no, service was not proper, so do it again.

Things like whether or not service is good or if a court has personal jurisdiction are litigation problems, not a shifting bullet inside a client's body.

A client who goes cavorting off to Sudan is a "realistic ethical dilemma and litigation problem"? Is that a joke?


Tanizaki, why did you assume that the fictitious client was cavorting in Sudan? The visits to family in that country was a hint as to how the attorney approached the problem presented. She looked at the issue from a torts perspective, and asked if he had ever directly seen any atrocities himself, which might put him in the zone of danger and give him a cause of action. Turns out he had witnessed his uncle being tortured and burned alive. They didn't feel they had any kind of shot at ultimately winning the case, but felt that they at least came up with grounds sufficient to file, which was all the client was seeking.

These are all simply exercises in creative thinking that are presented by a creative and entertaining show. You might want to check it out - if nothing else, you can locate all the flaws, and it might even make you smile.


I was the only person at my college who got into Yale Law, and I strongly suspect it was because my personal essay was about how I wasn't sure if I was qualified to be a lawyer because I'd never seen an episode of LA Law.


Ted: Yale rejected me. I didn't see LA Law until I was a 2L, but I didn't think to put that in my essay. Damn.


I assumed nothing. You said that he "travels back there [Sudan] regularly". Maybe I should have said, "gallivanting". At any rate, I am amazed to learn that Massachusetts tort law extends to Sudan. I hope your tax code does not extend to Florida.

Like I said, these things don't happen. Clients want me to enforce a contract or get personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, not pretend that Florida's tort laws apply to acts committed in Africa. Maybe the next realistic litigation problem of "Boston Legal" will be a gay couple who wants to enforce _Goodridge_ in South Korea.

I'm sure the show is great, but to say that the scenarios of the show are realistic ethical dilemmas and litigation problems is just silly. Opposing counsel who makes speaking objections is a realistic litigation problem. A shifting bullet is not.

Anonymous 2L

Uhm, yeah, except that it is a realistic litigation problem because it actually happened. The episode was based on Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753 (1985) where that exact scenario occurred.

And the whole point of the Sudan episode was that it was a stretch: how could you generate publicity from a suit while surviving a 12(b)(6) motion for what is not a conventionally actionable claim? The theory they came up with was pretty interesting (and they were suing the U.S. government, not the Sudan or Florida. The problem was not choice of law, but sovereign immunity, which was addressed). It's an absurd show (cases go to trial a few hours after the client comes in) but it clearly has a lawyer or two on staff to come up with the topics and make sure the procedure is as correct as practicable given the constraints of creating a watchable show.


Interestingly a real life link to the shifting bullet episode has recently come up - Aussie police want an Australian-first court order to force a murder suspect to submit to surgery to remove a bullet from his back - see the full story here.


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