Monday, December 7, 2009

Hollywood Glorifies the Legal Profession: Carlito's Way!!!! [Spoiler Alert!]

I don't much like rap music. I am definitely down with the beat.  I like most hooks and I sometimes get them stuck in my head.  But generally, I resent that rap music glorifies illegal drug dealing and the objectification of women.  Rap music will have our youth believe that drug dealing leads to lots of money and big butted women.  Generally, a drug dealing lifestyle will lead to a death by drive-by.  So, I think the  rap industry is irresponsible.  I like LL Cool J and Will Smith because they don't partake in that shit.  Of course, this is a huge red herring to my real point. Hollywood is irresponsible and dishonest in its portrayal of lawyers and I frown upon the inaccurate depiction of any group of people--drug dealers, ballers, corporate lawyers.

I can barely watch a movie or tv show about lawyers without cringing at the utter nonsense of it all. Damages, which was a show on FX, was a perfect example of that.  See below.  Bonus check for $2 million dollars, my ass.

It was that trailer alone that kept me from watching the show. I couldn't watch something that made lawyers appear so wealthy and glamorous.  There is NO WAY that a first year can earn a bonus check of $2 million.  Never, ever. So, they lost my business.

Last night, I was watching a movie called Carlito's Way and I got a familiar sick feeling in my stomach.  The movie is about a gangster named Carlito, played by Al Pacino.  But what bugged me out was Sean Penn's character, David Kleinfeld the attorney.  He was banging hot women in a club, doing coke off of every flat surface... he had a yacht and a beach mansion, a condo overlooking the triborough bridge.... and all the while being a solo attorney.  Kleinfeld had drug fueled orgies at his seaside estate. Actually, as an aside, I know for a fact that the beach house was the guest house of the mansion belonging to the owners of J&R Music World. It's in Kings Point, Long Island.  The yacht was owned by the same people as well.  At the time, Brian De Palma thought that the main mansion wouldn't realistically be owned by an attorney.  As it turns out, it's not realistic that the guest house would be owned by an attorney as well.  Most solos these days can't afford the primary domicile--let alone the beach front residence.

Even his office was awesome. The cherry wood panels and the opulent furniture. The secretary with the British Accent. Every solo office I ever went in looked like a cave, and not the bat cave either.... a dank and cold cave where things crawl in and die. Wild and crazy stuff.  Granted, Kleinfeld stole $1million from his client to bribe judges... but his wealth far exceeded that amount.  I have my doubts that an attorney in the late 70s could manage all of that... even though times were good back then.

My point, of course is that this is not real life.  Attorneys do coke, yes.  But it's not because they are party animals. It's usually to increase their productivity so they can bill more hours... fun times, right?
And if you're that rich of an attorney, you probably have no time to enjoy things like night clubs, yachts and ocean front property. It's a blatant lie.

The funniest part of the whole movie... to me... was the very realistic portrayal of Gail, Carlito's girlfriend.  She is a ballet dancer and can't find work in the city.  Why?  It's hard to break into the industry as a dancer or actress or otherwise... and that is certainly an accepted truth.  She ends up becoming a stripper.  How can Brian De Palma be so real about what happens to Thugs and Dancers in NYC, but portray lawyers as glamorous people who flirt with danger. 

Portraying lawyers in such an irresponsible manner is just as bad as having movie actors do smoking roles.  Both cause children buy into something dangerous.... going to law school and pulling out $100K+ in loans, and getting lung cancer. 

I'm pretty certain that every person who has every smiled at me when I said I was a lawyer has seen at least one film claiming that an attorney was rich. I wish that Hollywood would stop mass producing lies and bullshit.

That being said, the movie was excellent.  But I could have done without the rich lawyer. He would have been just as weaselly and complex as a broke solo.  I'm sure of it.


  1. Here is the experience of being a lawyer - even for partners at top firms. Angel I apologize in advance for it being slightly off color.

    Imagine a life where you are free during the day, but every night you need to check yourself into a prison cell, and you are required, in exchange for being free during the day, to either have anal sex or perform fellatio on your cellmate at your cellmate's option. Not only are you required to perform the act, but to squeal with delight and pretend to enjoy yourself. Either that or you are locked into solitary 24 hours a day.

    What's required of you every night would make you constantly anxious, nervous, and depressed. It would dominate your days even though you are nominally "free" during that time.

    If you want the experience of being a firm lawyer, there it is.

  2. Very off color, but I am sad to say that I know what you're saying EXACTLY. When I was duly employed, I would have such anxiety at night from my daytime job that I could hardly relax. Is that what you're saying? I'm not going to delete it.. cause everyone is entitled to an opinion.

  3. Right on.

    You're freely making the choice in the sense that you can opt for solitary.

    In the example, there's no physical violence involved, but what you are doing is not something most people enjoy with a random cellmate.

    But even though you are able to get away during the day, it follows you constantly and dominates your every thought.

    Much like the practice of law.

  4. Ok,

    First off all, LL Cool is no stranger to objectifying women, it's just that the ratio of the word "bitch" to other words is lower in his songs than in those of most other rappers. For the love of God; his NAME is an acronym describing what a player he is and one of his classic hits is titled "Big Ole Butt."

    Anyway, it's been a while since I've seen Carlito's Way, but if I recall correctly you are being disingenuous. Doesn't Sean Penn play a crooked mob lawyer who slowly cracks up under the pressure and dies a violent death?

    If you want a realistic portrayal of a lawyer's life, watch ...And Justice for All, which also stars Al Pacino. I think Presumed Innocent is pretty realistic as well, as far as portraying the lifestyle of an attorney.

    Personally, I embrace the portrayal of attorneys and the law in Pop culture to mock the ignorance of people outside the profession who think all lawyers are as you described. To wit:

    When I was contemplating attending law school, I would answer the question "Why do you want to be a lawyer?" with "I want to become this century's Abraham Lincoln."

    During school, whenever someone ask me what kind of law I wanted to practice I would respond, "I want to defend child know, because they've given me so much..." Ridiculous awkward conversation over. Every time. Guaranteed. (I don't want to defend child pornographers and have never consumed any child porn, just so we're clear.)

    I currently work as a prosecutor and whenever someone asks what I do, I say sheepishly (as though I'm referencing some obscure literature I'm half-way embarrassed to know about) "you ever see that one show Law & Order?" 99% of the time the person says "Of course I love that show", to which I coyly reply..."it's just like that." And then I change my underwear.

    Seriously, I love everything about my job and being a lawyer. I guess I'm really really lucky. If I could do it over again though, merchant marine. I know guys that make $120k working six months a year and have girlfriends on three continents.

  5. I'm happy someone that reads this blog is happy with his profession. I wasn't disingenuous. I did say that he stole $1 mill from his client. I don't even think a mob lawyer would be as wealthy as Sean Penn. If you disagree, then let me know.
    When are you going to be the next Abe Lincoln?

  6. Angel - I agree.

    Who hasnt been persuaded by the likes of LA Law, Ally McBeal etc, lets be honest, we all thought lawyers were successful and well dressed powerful people strutting around dispensing justice with exciting lives and good careers, what a joke! I submit that it is ego which drives most people to law school, a desire to impress and the misguided notion that they are entering a secure, well respected and well paid profession.

    Lets ban all lawyer programs from the TV.

  7. "She is a ballet dancer and can't find work in the city. Why? It's hard to break into the industry as a dancer or actress or otherwise... and that is certainly an accepted truth."

    It's so funny that you say that, because I was just talking to a lawyer friend of mine yesterday about HIS lawyer friend -- "The Stripper" -- who staying in his apartment right now. She was stuck doing doc review a few years ago, went to LA to try to be an actress, ending up stripping in Vegas. Then she decides to try doc review again to save some money, moves back to New York (staying with my friend for now), finds out how much doc review is going for these days... and is back to stripping.

  8. I work in the business & I take offense at the comment about actors doing smoking scenes. It's not the job of creative people to be "role models" or "teach the children" and I find statements like that to be an implicit support for censorship. What's next? Whining about characters who don't go to church every Sunday or who take drugs? I don't like the path that statement suggests we go down.

    However, I do agree w/how lawyers are glamorized. Never influenced my choice to go to law school & I figured I'd be stripping as a law student since no one was going to dare keep me down in an area I hated due to mere finances but I haven't since I'm not at that level of desperation. When you've not had much in life, your mindset is very different than that of most lawyers I know or read remarks from.

  9. Hey AngryRedHeadedLawyer... I stand by what I said. I don't think Hollywood has an obligation to portray people as clean living church goers... and I don't care that they have actors that smoke. But one must acknowledge that it influences people. I guess it was a bad analogy.... what I'm saying is that Hollywood, in attempting to portray realistic characters, glamorizes being a lawyer. Most lawyers don't have exciting and rich lives. I don't think my mindset is much different that most lawyers I speak to. Maybe yours, but if you continue to read my blog, you will see that people agree with much of what I say... not all, but most. The general principle I espouse is that law school is a bullshit, degree churning enterprise that doesn't give a shit about it's graduates except insomuch as they affect their USN&WR stats. I find it hard to believe that ANYONE would disagree with that statement that went to law school.

  10. Damages is actually a really good show. Very well-written, and a nail-biter. Believe me, the lawyers don't appear wealthy or glamorous. They mostly appear neurotic, manipulative, obsessive, selfish, one step away from evil... it's not pretty. Don't base your opinion solely on a trailer!

    As for the bonus... (SPOILER)...

    when your boss tries to have you killed, and feels guilt, that's when they hand you the big bucks. :p



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