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Think back for a moment. Can you recollect your first encounter with the term “lawyer”? For many of us, it was more than likely in a television series or film. Maybe you can vaguely picture your parents watching shows like Matlock, or possibly you remember reading or watching To Kill a Mockingbird in school, cheering on Atticus Finch. But honestly, what is the attraction of films depicting law? Could it be the desire to have justice served? The hope that we can depend on the legal system to repair the fallible, and create the integrity amongst society that we deserve? Whatever it may be, Hollywood has long used the cinematic courtroom as a method to make social and political statements or manipulate public perception, and oftentimes lawyers are  portrayed in an unrealistic light.

Is the public perception of lawyers truly jaded by the big screen? For this segment, Werewolf Media has reached out to some of the nation’s most decorated, and respected attorneys and law firms on their opinions about the portrayal of lawyers in Hollywood.

  1. Ashley Black, founder of The Black Firm LLC, focuses her practice on business law and estate planning. Black says that Hollywood mostly highlights lawyers who practice criminal law, and don’t give as much attention to attorneys who practice other forms of law. “ Hollywood rarely portrays lawyers in the lesser known practice areas. Business and estate planning lawyers are very important and rarely do we act as those lawyers that are being portrayed in Hollywood.”
  2. Ronald Frey, founder of The Frey Law Firm, LLC, practices criminal law, and represents individuals and corporations who are under investigation federally or by the state of Florida. Frey states that Hollywood can skew the public’s perception of the justice system and how things tend to take place. “For better or worse, Hollywood’s portrayal of lawyers certainly influences the public’s perception of the profession and the justice system. If you find yourself on a movie set, go ahead and call Saul. In real life, you are better served with trusted counsel. Be prepared for the case to take many months, not an hour” 
  3. Darcell Walker, Attorney at Law, has 29 years of experience in intellectual property law, and provides representation to individuals and businesses who are seeking out assistance with patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Walker says that Hollywood has shown the glitz and glamour of the legal profession for many years, along with some common discrepancies also portrayed by the media. “I do believe these portrayals influence people’s perception of lawyers. I think back to the TV series “LA Law” in the 1980s showing lawyers wearing expensive suits with offices in high-rise buildings. Some of these shows also portray lawyers as manipulative and intimidating.”
  4. Anthony S. “Tony” Barilari, founder of Barilari & Williams, LLP, Barilari’s firm handles estate planning, probate and trust administration, and estate litigation. Barilari states in his experience, Hollywood has swayed the opinion of the majority of his first time clients, and he goes the extra mile to reassure his clients that not all lawyers behave in the same manner as on TV series or movies. “I’m often the first contact with an attorney my clients have ever had. Some definitely come in with preconceptions about lawyers based on Hollywood’s images of our profession, assuming that we’re all greedy or crooked, or both. I counter those stereotypes by spending time with my clients to demystify various aspects of the law, and it doesn’t take more than a phone conversation or two for them to realize that I’m just a person like everyone else, even if I do have a ‘particular set of skills.’” Barilari says that there are more accurate representations of common day lawyers in series that have recently come out. “I actually think some of the more recent Hollywood productions like Better Call Saul portray lawyers in a more familiar light, as people with relationships and family struggles that are the focus of their lives, even if they do dramatize less scrupulous attorney behavior.”

Although 2020 does appear to be something out of a movie, this is the real world – not a fictitious film set.  Despite the often wrong portrayal of lawyers in Hollywood, as a society we have confided in the council and opinions of trusted attorneys since the dawn of this country. Lawmen in almost every area of practice have always played a key role in making sense of unsettling times, and this won’t be changing in the foreseeable future.

Werewolf Media is a Miami based Public Relations agency. 

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Kotton Grammer

Kotton Grammer is the founder of several Agencies that specializes in Public Relations and Digital Marketing. Headquartered in Miami, FL.