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Can They Do That? Legal Ethics in Popular Culture: Of Characters and Acts


Carrie Menkel-Meadow


Georgetown University Law Center; University of California Irvine, School of Law


Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 288803

Abstract:     
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 contexts 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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

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Date posted: November 4, 2001  

Suggested Citation

Menkel-Meadow, Carrie, Can They Do That? Legal Ethics in Popular Culture: Of Characters and Acts. UCLA Law Review, Volume 48, August 2001. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=288803 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.288803

Contact Information

Carrie J. Menkel-Meadow (Contact Author)
Georgetown University Law Center ( email )
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9379 (Phone)
202-662-9412 (Fax)
University of California Irvine, School of Law ( email )
401 E. Peltason Drive
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-1987 (Phone)
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