If like me you fancy becoming a lawyer when you grow up you've no doubt seen a few TV shows or films over the years which have made it all look like great fun. It's hard to deny the appeal of being a lawyer like the ones on the telly, especially the fun ones like Denny Crane or Allan Shore from 'Boston Legal'. I do however sometimes wonder if there's any value in having a fictional lawyer as a role model? The more I learn about the law, both academically and from a practical point of view, the further away those fictional lawyers seem.
I'm sure that's due in no small part to geography and status. The life of a senior partner in a fictional American law firm like 'Crane, Pool and Schmidt' is no doubt very different to the life of a partner in a real world Scottish firm.That gap widens even further when looking at the life of a newly qualified lawyer or trainee. The TV shows are cool, sexy, funny, edgy and even a little political from time to time but do they have anything to offer over and above pure entertainment?
I think there are a few things to be taken from the fictional lawyers out there. Lets start with the TV show Boston Legal. Who wouldn't want to have at least some of the attributes of Denny Crane, the septuagenarian senior partner of a law firm who has been massively successful in business and has never personally lost a case? OK maybe a little far fetched and too much to hope for. I very much doubt that there are any lawyers out there who've had fifty years of practising law, during which they've never lost a case, but surely it's something to aspire to as a lawyer working in an adversarial system? Personally, my favourite fictional lawyer is Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mocking Bird. Intelligent, hard working, honest to a fault, full of integrity and compassion, a man of high moral standards who is unwilling to break the rules while being faultlessly professional.
I may an idealistic law student and somewhat naive but I often find something of interest in the fictional lawyers I encounter. The legal tales they populate may not always give a solid reflection of how the law works, what's likely to happen in real life, or even what's possible within the bounds of the law, however these characters often have some attributes which I feel I could learn from.