The Portrayal of Lawyers in the Media

"The Portrayal of Lawyers in the Media"

Monday, November 3, 2003
6pm to 8pm
Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, Room 103

From The Firm to "Law and Order" to "Legally Blonde," lawyers play a prominent role in the print and audiovisual media today—that of featured character. Television programs, such as "Law and Order," and "The Practice," and televised trials on Court TV, offer conflicting images of lawyers to audiences who may be uninformed as to whether these portrayals of lawyers are accurate depictions. Similarly, "legal thrillers" and non-fiction books featuring lawyers (such as A Civil Action) continue to capture readers' attention. What images of lawyers do fiction and non-fiction media convey? How close to — or far from — reality are these presentations? What are the consequences to the profession of the depiction of lawyers in television and books?

This panel will address the fictional and non-fictional portrayal of lawyers in both media (television and books). The panel will discuss how and why the media depict atttorneys as they do—their ethics (or lack thereof), their demeanor in the courtroom and in the boardroom, their interaction with clients, and their roles as advocate, adversary and negotiator— and will speculate as to how these portrayals impact the viewer/reader's impression of lawyers in today's society.

Panelists will include:

  • Rene Balcer, screenwriter and Executive Producer of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent"
  • Bill Fordes, screenwriter, "Law and Order"
  • Richard Sweren, screenwriter, "Law and Order"
  • Cheryl Mendelson, author of Morningside Heights: A Novel
  • David Margolick, author of numerous books and articles including At the Bar: the Passions and Peccadiloes of American Lawyers, and Undue Influence: the Epic Battle for the Johnson and Johnson Fortune