Think back for a moment. Can you recollect your first encounter with the term “lawyer”? For many of us, it was more than likely in a television series or film. Maybe you can vaguely picture your parents watching shows like Matlock, or possibly you remember reading or watching To Kill a Mockingbird in school, cheering on Atticus Finch. But honestly, what is the attraction of films depicting law? Could it be the desire to have justice served? The hope that we can depend on the legal system to repair the fallible, and create the integrity amongst society that we deserve? Whatever it may be, Hollywood has long used the cinematic courtroom as a method to make social and political statements or manipulate public perception, and oftentimes lawyers are portrayed in an unrealistic light.
Is the public perception of lawyers truly jaded by the big screen? For this segment, Werewolf Media has reached out to some of the nation’s most decorated, and respected attorneys and law firms on their opinions about the portrayal of lawyers in Hollywood.
- Chris Hanslik, Firm Chairman of BoyarMiller, is a Houston-based law firm that serves as a strategic partner for organizations across the country and around the globe. Since 1990, BoyarMiller has been providing practical and smart business solutions from their business and litigation practice groups. Hanslik points out what the big screen tends to miss when portraying attorneys. “Hollywood lawyers are often incorrectly portrayed as overly contentious courtroom lawyers or as someone covering up a wrong doing to protect their client. What the big screens miss is how we help protect and grow your business and partner with you to think strategically about ways to proactively prepare your business for opportunity. It also glosses over the hard work that it takes to truly deliver exceptional results for a client. In the movies, the first scene is uncovering a problem, usually followed by being in trial minutes later. In the real world it takes much more time and diligence to get to the outcomes.”
- B. Zachary Bennett, President/CEO of Reformation Productions, focuses on brand development and marketing communications for law firms and many other industries. Bennett says that throughout the years, he believes the media has done a relatively good job portraying the business side of law. Attorneys are small business owners, just like many Americans. “While a very respected professional in our country, lawyers must still operate their business. Which includes branding, marketing (business communications), customer service, etc. Watching Richard Fish pay for payroll out of his own pocket after losing a client in Ally McBeal shows how much he cares about his business and his employees.” Bennett also touches on how these portrayals often show the human side of attorneys. “Watching Jimmy figure out his positioning and practice area in Better Call Saul shows the struggles that lawyers often go through when launching a successful practice. I think it makes the profession more relatable to people while also showcasing their passion for what they do and their clients.”
- Carlo Rossi, cofounder of Rossi & Rossi S. Law Firm, which is based in Central Italy, specialises and focuses on providing legal services to foreign investors, rather private individuals or corporate entities. Rossi states that in his own experiences as a long committed attorney, his clients don’t often focus on the media’s portrayal of attorneys across the globe. Rossi says that movies, and the law practice are each their own entities with little real correlation to one another. “As far as our clients are concerned, in 25 years we have never noticed them making any parallels or comparisons like that. Movies are movies, but the legal profession is the legal profession. In our opinion, when a client comes to a professional the last thing they are thinking about is the Hollywood image of a lawyer, doctor, or other important professional occupation.”
- Jeanne Hipes, founder of Hipes Law LLC, specializes in top of the line education and experience in employment law, dealing with discrimination cases in those such as high-level executives from large or mid-size companies. Hipes states that she does believe the media can change or skew people’s perceptions of attorneys and the law practice, more often than not. “I think the media influences how people think about a great many things, including the legal profession. I do not watch that much TV (so little time, so much to do!), but I am always excited to see a lawyer show that is at least somewhat realistic.”
Although 2020 does appear to be something out of a movie, this is the real world - not a fictitious film set. Despite the often wrong portrayal of lawyers in Hollywood, as a society, we have confided in the council and opinions of trusted attorneys since the dawn of this country. Lawmen in almost every area of practice have always played a key role in making sense of unsettling times, and this won’t be changing in the foreseeable future.
Werewolf Media is a Miami based Public Relations agency.