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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Suits Goes Haywire on Switching Firms, Talking To Clients

In the "Undefeated" episode of USA's summer show Suits, the writers went way off track on some key points. I found it hard to enjoy the show even though it had the delicious Eric Close on as a guest star, playing a lawyer whose shady tactics keep our heroes busy. The show centered around a case involving a toxic chemical that exposed people who worked at and attended a school. They have cancer, and they're suing. In comes Close, playing a lawyer who brags he's never lost. That raises Harvey's hackles, because he is also undefeated. (I'll even let slide that all lawyers lose cases unless they settle them instead of taking them to trial).

There were key problems with this show. Here are the main ones:

Paralegal switching firms: A subplot involved a paralegal who had worked on the case being offered a job at Close's firm. She was angry and said she'd tell them all about the case. That's an instant disqualification for Close's firm. In fact, I was hoping that it was Harvey's sneaky tactic to do just that. Instead, there was much hand-wringing and they finally convinced her to come back. Paralegals and secretaries can't switch firms and give out client confidential information any more than lawyers can. It's a major amateur-hour mistake. The writers have been pretty good up to now, so I was surprised by this.

Talking to clients: The writers had Close sending representatives to talk to Harvey's clients. Hello? In what universe? Harvey would have run to the judge and the Bar so fast that Close wouldn't have had time to collect his toothbrush before he was thrown in jail for contempt or disbarred. Lawyers can't talk to someone they know is represented without their lawyer's permission. And they can't get a third party to do it either.

Calling a meeting with clients: Then the writers had Close use a third party to call all of Harvey's clients to a meeting in a hotel to hear a settlement offer. Harvey and our hero, Mike, talked about how, if Close spoke to their clients, they would be able to go to the judge. They rushed to the meeting. Then Close relayed the settlement offer - not to the clients, but to Harvey, loudly enough so the clients could hear. Oh no! The lawyers commence hand-wringing again. They've been outsmarted. Huh? They had Close dead to rights. Their clients should have been called to testify or provide affidavits about who contacted them about the meeting, and Harvey could have gone to the judge. Again, the third parties contacting the clients is as bad as the lawyer doing it himself.

This episode was a disappointment to me. So far, the writers had been pretty good. I had nits to pick, but nothing too awful. I have two more episodes to complain about in other posts. I'm worried about the show. If they can't be bothered to get the legal stuff right, they'll lose me as a fan, along with 1.1 million other lawyers who notice when they get it wrong.

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