Bad Television to Come: “Dead Lawyers”

John Stamos is piloting a new television legal drama.  Get this: According to an August piece over at Deadline Hollywood, it’s called “Dead Lawyers.” (We’re not joking.)  The premise: Recently deceased attorneys try to make amends. (Again, we’re not joking.)  Think “Ghost Whisperer” meets “L.A. Law,” but with living dead lawyers, forced to face the error of their evil, evil ways and right their past wrongs in order to “pass over,” presumably into some generic unexplained legal afterlife.  Apparently, this show was previously pitched and failed to generate interest among the networks (shocking.)[1] However, the previously pitched version was to air on the SyFy network (whose audience is not into lawyers – duh) and didn’t star John Stamos (who everyone loves – duh.)  This time around, Sony TV is backing the show and they’ve got Stamos.  Hello?  Who doesn’t love Uncle Jessie?  And who doesn’t love lawyers?  Especially lawyers having to pay the ultimate price – forced pro bono work with an existential twist?

“Dead Lawyers” may be a new concept, but  legal shows are old hat.  Stamos isn’t the first in a long list of stars vying for television legal roles.  Think James Spader in “Boston Legal.” Think WILLIAM SHATNER in “Boston Legal.”  Think Zack Morris in the new hit (objection, speculative) show “Franklin & Bash.”  ”Ally McBeal.”  ”Law and Order.”  And the list goes on.

There seem to be a whole bunch of legal dramas these days.  And why not?

1.  It’s really HARD to come up with a new concept these days.  It’s much easier to recycle an old one.  I know.  I know.  This time we’ll make the lawyers dead.

and

2.  Think of the glamour of the legal world.  You live it.  You know it.  Oh, so glamorous.  We here at Abnormal Use, have always said that document review, when done properly, can be quite romantic.

One question: Have you ever seen a lawyer in any television legal drama actually draft anything?  Anything at all?  And I don’t mean a quick screen shot of them sitting at their desk before learning about some new scandal their husband has gotten wrapped up in (a la “The Good Wife.”)  No way.  TV lawyers don’t draft anything.  So, how do they make their billable goals?

These TV lawyers stomp around court rooms, pound their fists on desks, and, my personal favorite, make arguments during witness testimony.  Judges applaud, ladies swoon, and the episode ends with a witty remark by a dashing young lawyer (or fake lawyer per “Suits“) just like me.  I mean, John Stamos.

Who could ask for anything more?


[1] SURVEY.  What is more shocking?  (a) That DL failed on it’s first attempt;  (b) That they are trying again; or (c) That Stamos agreed to take part.  (Stamos haters need not participate in this survey.)

Lawyer Advertising Rules Update

Late last month, the South Carolina Supreme Court amended its Rules of Professional Conduct to address several lingering issues related to lawyer advertising. The amended Rules are meant to be consistent with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  You can read them here. The amendments delete the previous ban on testimonials, eliminate a mandatory solicitation filing requirement and fee, and add requirements for electronic solicitations.

Specifically, advertisements for legal services can now include testimonials IF the ad specifically identifies that the statement is a testimonial, discloses whether or not it was paid for by the lawyer or law firm, and if it was made by an actual client.  Most importantly,  the ad must “clearly and conspicuously” state that the any result achieved in one case “does not necessarily indicate similar results” in another.   Sounds like a really long commercial.  Right?

For a full summary of the new rules, check out blogger Greg Forman’s recent post on the subject here.  He does a great job of laying it out for us.

In the meantime, here is a brief update on what is happening in other states on similar issues:

Florida -  On May 27, 2011, the Florida Bar proposed new rules for attorney advertising which would also allow for the use of some testimonials. See here.

Virginia – Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics has issued proposed amendments to their Rules of Professional Conduct and seeks comments by September 14, 2011.  That’s next week! For a summary of those changes, click here.

Michigan – On July 19, 2011, the Michigan Supreme Court rescinded its previous order that amended that state’s Rules of Professional Conduct and proffered these new amendments. They also provide for a comment period which ends November 1, 2011.

Here’s the deal: the rules have not changed THAT much.  Things have just been clarified a little and updated to include web advertisements and electronic communication.  The same rules of thumb still hold true.  If a statement is a lie, or even stretching the truth, you probably shouldn’t put it in an advertisement pushing your legal services.  You also shouldn’t make any promises or guarantees.  Oh, and keep it classy.  Like this.

 

On South Carolina Tort Reform (Or How the Tortoise Finishes the Race)

As you may have heard, our own state of South Carolina finally passed a long awaited (or long dreaded depending on your side of the fence) tort reform act.  They call it . . . . . The South Carolina Fairness in Civil Justice Act of 2011, and the new law contains a punitive damages cap. Although it is most certainly a step in a direction, this blogger is still unsure which direction that is.

Here’s what the Punitive Damages section of the Act says with regard to caps:

Punitive damages will be capped at 3 times compensatory damages OR $500,000, whichever is greater.

UNLESS

1. The wrongful conduct was motivated by “unreasonable financial gain” and the person in charge knew of or approved the “unreasonably dangerous” nature of the conduct that was highly likely to result in injury;  (Ummmm.  What?)

OR

2.  The wrongful conduct COULD subject the Defendant to a felony conviction;

THEN

Punitive damage will be capped at 4 times compensatory damages OR $2 Million, whichever is greater.

UNLESS

1.  The Defendant  intended to harm;

OR

2.  The Defendant pled guilty to or was convicted of a felony arising out of the same act;

OR

3. The Defendant acted while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor;

THEN

No cap.  (Glue huffers be damned.)

So, when exactly are the punitive damages capped at at three times compensatory damages or $500,000? When exactly does the motive for financial gain become unreasonable?  When it motivates a tortious act?  We expect to see many a law dog sparring over what is reasonable or unreasonable financial gain. Ah, more issues to be heavily litigated.

Also interesting is the requirement, in the 4 times compensatory/$2 million category, that the person in charge knew OR approved “the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct,” which had (has?) a “high likelihood of (causing) injury.”  So, could he approve it but not know that it was unreasonably dangerous with a high likelihood of causing harm?

The new Act takes effect in January of 2012.  We’ll be certain to keep you posted.