Top Ten Reasons I’d Rather Be a TV Lawyer

I loved legal shows even before I knew I was going to be a lawyer.  Now, after more than a decade in the profession, I still enjoy legal shows, even as they drive me nuts with their inaccurate representations of a lawyer’s life.  Of course, the shows have to be inaccurate – nobody would voluntarily watch someone in drab business casual attire stare at a computer, type an email, or anxiously check their Blackberry during family dinners and vacations.   Most real attorneys have pretty dull jobs, punctuated by brief periods of intense stress and action (although said action isn’t very active either).  That’s why TV lawyers can’t be like real lawyers, of course, and it’s also why I’d rather be a TV lawyer.  Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 reasons I’d rather be a TV lawyer:

  1. The sex.  The hot, awesome, crazy sex they always seem to have time for – in a partner’s office, in a judge’s chambers, in a restaurant bathroom.  I’ve heard some stories of hanky panky in law firms, but the people involved usually aren’t very attractive and the stories are pretty infrequent.
  2. No document review!  Or, if there is document review, it only takes a few hours and then you find the most incriminating words ever written on paper.  Ever.  Then you get to run down the hall, waving the sheet above your head as you burst into the office where the senior partners were just about to give up on the case entirely.  I’ve done a lot of doc reviews and that’s never happened.
  3. Young associates are both seen and heard.  In big law, young associates are relegated to their offices, interacting primarily with paralegals and the mid-level or senior associates who assign them research projects and document review tasks.  On TV shows, baby attorneys who have never seen the inside of a courtroom are given the crucial task of crossing the opposition’s key witness or making closing arguments.
  4. Fabulous clothes.  Okay, it’s not Gossip Girl, but TV lawyers still have some pretty awesome suits and dresses.  And, if you’re a legal investigator, you get to wear leather coats and bad-ass boots.  (I’ve changed my mind – I don’t want to be a TV lawyer either – I want to be Kalinda.)
  5. Detective work.  Forget hours on Westlaw researching cases and legislative history and weeks writing research memos and briefs.  Instead, I’d be out on the streets, knocking on doors, spying on people, figuring out the shady dealings behind the opposing party’s case (although I’d need Kalinda if I really wanted to get it done right).
  6. No ethical concerns.  The Practice was the greatest abuser of legal ethics – I was taking my professional responsibility class when it was on and Bobby broke every rule I learned.  Of course, being a lawyer would be a lot more fun if you could break the professional responsibility rules (see Item #1 above).
  7. Right to a speedy trial.  I haven’t done a statistical analysis, but on TV there’s about 3-4 days between the time lawyers get the case and the time it has to go to trial.  I’ve known actual cases, on the other hand, that drag on for years.  In one case, it took nearly a year just to get to the temporary injunction hearing!  Most cases can get pretty old after a while, so knowing that your current case will be over in about a week would make it much easier to deal with difficult clients and obnoxious opposing counsel.
  8. They have trials!  Yes, they actually go to trial – a lot.  That’s something that doesn’t happen much anymore (at least in big law), which is a major bummer for all of us who dreamed of pounding on a table some day while cross examining a hostile witness.
  9. Theatrics.  It’s Hollywood, so it’s obvious that TV lawyers have to be theatrical and, apparently, the judges are pretty cool with it (although there are many threats of contempt that the lawyers bravely ignore).  In real life, even court’s pretty boring most of the time.
  10. The sex.  After trial is over and they’ve won the biggest judgment ever (or they’ve been unjustly robbed), they all have fabulous sex again.  It’s really awesome and completely unrealistic, but definitely worthy of two mentions.

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Jessica has been litigating business and IP disputes for the past decade. During that time, she’s dealt with clients, lawyers, and judges who have varying degrees of appreciation for the challenges of managing discovery in an electronic age. Until the fall of 2011, she was an attorney at a large, Texas-based law firm, where she represented clients in state and federal court nationwide. That fall, she made a long-desired move back to the Midwest and is now a partner at Hansen Reynolds Dickinson Crueger LLC, a litigation boutique based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she continues to litigate while also consulting with business and law firms on e-discovery issues (before, during, and after litigation arises).