48 UCLA L. Rev. 1305 (2000-2001)
Can They Do That - Legal Ethics in Popular Culture: Of Characters and Acts

handle is hein.journals/uclalr48 and id is 1321 raw text is: CAN THEY Do THAT? LEGAL ETHICS IN POPULAR
CULTURE: OF CHARACTERS AND ACTS
Carrie Menkel-Meadow
This Essay describes the depiction of modern lawyers' professional ethics in
literature, films, and television, and distinguishes between personal and
professional character and specific acts.  Depictions of lawyers in modern
popular culture are more complex and nuanced than older treatments and allow
law students, lawyers, and legal academics an opportunity to examine both
ethical rule violations and micro behavioral choices, as well as character and
more macro professional career choices and philosophies in a variety of con-
texts and serialized plot, treatments. Treatments of professional ethics in more
recent popular culture are also contrasted to more literary examinations of both
lawyers' and other professionals' moral choices. Whether modern popular
depictions of lawyers reveal more villains than heroes remains an interesting, if
unanswerable question. Lawyers are more diverse in their demography and
work settings, and the complexity of the sociology of ethical choices is now more
often depicted than it was in the golden age of popular lawyer heroes.
IN TRO DU CTIO N  ........................................................................................................... 1305
I.  O F C HARACTERS  AND  A CTS  ............................................................................... 1312
II. LEGAL ETHICS CHARACTERS IN POPULAR CULTURE .......................................... 1315
III. THE ETHICS OF ACTS IN POPULAR CULTURE ...................................................... 1325
IV. PROFESSIONAL ETHICS IN POPULAR CULTURE .................................................... 1333
INTRODUCTION
Consider these two thought experiments: First, what was your first
image of a lawyer and where did it come from? Was the lawyer a good
lawyer? A good person? Did the lawyer do good deeds or commit bad
*    Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Visiting Professor of Law,
Harvard Law School, Spring 2001; Chair, Georgetown-CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution
Commission on Ethics and Standards in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Thanks to my research
assistants, I. Glenn Cohen at Harvard and Meredith Weinberg at Georgetown, for excellent
research assistance and up-to-date cultural criticism. Thanks to Michael Asimow, my former col-
league and continuing friend, for organizing this symposium and providing many opportunities for
conversations and scholarship about lawyers and law in popular culture. And special thanks to
Robert Meadow, my partner in crime-watching (and lawyerly activities) and my lay-legal ethics
expert who often asks, Can they do that?

1305

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