Friday, October 27, 2006

Rapoport on How Lawyers Behave: the Hollywood Effect

Speaking of Nancy Rapoport (Univ. of Houston, going to UNLV), as Jeff just did on their B-School posts, she has now posted on SSRN's Law & Soc'y: Legal Profession her 2000 article, published in Notre Dame's legal ethics journal.   The title is "Dressed for Excess: How Hollywood Affects the Professional Behavior of Lawyers," and the abstract is:

This article discusses two related points: first, that the way in which movies portray lawyers shapes how clients view effective/ineffective lawyer behavior, and second, that the portrayal also helps lawyers to forget appropriate professional behavior.

Later in the paper Rapoport describes such inappropriateness as including unethical behavior learned from movies, coldness and assertiveness, and a rule-boxed lack of emotional growth (despite the title I did not find a discussion about dressing appropriately).  She particularly discusses The Verdict, The Devil's Advocate, and My Cousin Vinnie, and seems to treat the latter as a guilty pleasure. 'The two youths....'   [Alan Childress]

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But there are always Atticus Finch, Henry Drummond, and my favorite, Assistant U.S. Attorney General James Wells (Wilford Brimley in the last few minutes of Absence of Malice).

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Oct 27, 2006 6:37:46 PM

Right, and Nancy mentions those too (well not the Quaker Oats and medicade supplement guy) but rightly worries that these are not the images of lawyers our current students and young lawyers are seeing. They see Keanu Reeves as satan's spawn.

"It is illegal, and real wrong, ..." Yes, Brimley is fantastic, and you can see even Paul Newman appreciating his acting and his character right at that moment.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Oct 28, 2006 6:19:35 AM

The movie lawyer who made the most lasting impression on me was not Atticus Finch or the Jimmy Stewart character in Anatomy of a Murder. The prize must go to "Whiplash Willie" Gingrich in the Fortune Cookie. Watch his client interview style (couldn't you drag yourself down to the May Company? to a slip and fall client) and peerless negotiating technique (you should remember the case--you lost it--you guys should bone up on negligence law). Lots to learn from this Oscar winning performane (not as Oscar) from Walter Matthau!

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Oct 30, 2006 1:55:35 PM

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