July 28, 2015

Annual ABA Journal Feature This Year Focuses On One Hundred Years of Lawyers In the Movies

The ABA Journal's annual issue devoted to law and popular culture is out. This year, because the ABA Journal is celebrating its 100th anniversary, the editors of the Journal decided to devote their cover story to a celebration of lawyers in film.

Thane Rosenbaum discusses the role of law and lawyers in film generally, noting that "[f]ootball is America’s game, but movies are its favorite form of entertainment. And movies about the law are as essential to Hollywood history as cowboy Westerns or romantic comedies. Heroism that acquits the falsely accused will hold its own against any nonstop action flick." Further,  the law offers both dramatic interest and thrills. "From Sophocles to Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky to Dickens, John Grisham to Scott Turow, the world’s great poets and dramatists, novelists and film directors have been enamored of the legal system for its plotlines and morality tales. Artists, in fact, are equal opportunity borrowers of justice both delivered and denied. Injustice can ruin a happy ending, but it can also open up possibilities for personal redemption. The literature of law values the object lesson over the cheap thrill. Audiences crave universal truths, and by the time the closing credits roll, movies about the law have left behind wisdom to live by."

The cover story focuses on lawyers in film, but of course we have an additional supporting cast of stories. One involves the ABA Journal's now-traditional vote on the best: in this case, the best of 100 years of films starring lawyer characters, classified by decade.

The jury includes Taunya Banks, Richard Brust, James M. Dedman IV, Bonnie Eskenazi, Daniel Kimmel, Philip Meyer, David Papke, Allen Pusey, Thane Rosenbaum, Diane Waldman, and, oh yes, me, using criteria slightly modified from those I developed for a list of must-see films for law students.

Another interesting piece discusses the influence these films have had on the U.S. public. 
It also mentions other films that did not make the "final cut" for the jury's ballot.  Also included: A gallery of the films mentioned.

Readers can also fill in their own ballots here and/or pitch an idea for a future ABA Journal law and popular feature at the same link.

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