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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Deep End Goes Off The Deep End, Legally Speaking

I watched the latest new legal drama, The Deep End, with the same trepidation that always precedes watching any legal show. I expect liberties to be taken. I understand the need to speed up the action for dramatic purposes. So I didn't expect much. But they have the luscious Billy Zane, so I had to watch.

On the upside, the settings were spot on. They got the big firm atmosphere down. And the way first years are treated at a big law firm wasn't far off from what I hear (having started at a midsize firm myself). The love/hate relationship lawyers have with legal practice was right. The characters were fun and likable. The emphasis on the bottom line at all costs was not contrary to what I know of some big firms.

The beginning wasn't bad, and I began to relax. Then they started doing things that really get my hackles up. Stuff so wrong, that so would never happen, that it took me right out of the story. Here's what they did, and how they could have fixed it easily.

Never, ever, have a lawyer work against their client. This irks me about as much as showing a lawyer switching sides midstream. One show lost me permanently with that big of a clunker. The big plot line in the pilot was a first year handling a pro bono case who was instructed by the big kahuna partner to work against his client. Why not have someone outside the firm pressure the kid? Or have the firm pressure him to drop the case because it's too expensive? If a lawyer works against the interest of the client, he will lose his license.

The lawyer can't meet with the judge alone. So the kid goes to the judge with a case he found and convinces the judge to enter an order reversing the case. Huh? Ex parte with the judge? Where was opposing counsel? Where was the court reporter? The writers weren't trying to save money by not casting opposing counsel - he shows up later. How hard would it have been to write the scene with opposing counsel present? It was a huge groaner that should never have happened.

Don't call an informal meeting a deposition. The lawyer says he's going to take a child's deposition. Number one, the child would probably have a guardian ad litem - someone the court appointed to represent his best interests. Number two, there would be a court reporter and the lawyer would be asking questions of the child. Number three, the child was six, so good luck deposing him. And where was opposing counsel? Doi. A real forehead-smacking moment. The lawyer probably could convince his client, the mom, to let him meet with the child. So why the heck did the writers call it a deposition? Using terminology incorrectly shows that the writer doesn't care enough to get it right.

The lawyer can't meet with the opposing party without opposing counsel's permission. So when grandma went to the big kahuna partner and told him he needed to get the firm to tank the case or she'd make sure the firm lost the business of all the companies on whose boards she served, the partner should have politely told the receptionist he couldn't meet with her. The conversation couldn't have taken place. If the conversation is key, why not have her approach him at a public event? Or have her come with her lawyer to meet him and make the threat? It was ridiculous.

Will I watch again? I really don't know. I usually give shows a second chance. First shows are tough, since you have to do all the character building. But, c'mon. Is it that hard to take the time to write the pilot so lawyers don't throw their remotes at the screen. I know one lawyer couple who are fellow TV watchers who said they will never watch again. I'll probably watch just to look at Billy Zane again. But a few more clunkers and I'll be gone too.

Get a legal consultant guys, before the 1.1 million lawyers in the country, many of whom would love to watch a good legal drama, write you off for good.

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