Tortured Souls: Unhappy Lawyers Viewed Through the Medium of Film

Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law, Forthcoming

64 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2008 Last revised: 16 Aug 2008

See all articles by Lance McMillian

Lance McMillian

John Marshall Law School, Atlanta

Date Written: July 1, 2008


Lawyers are unhappy. So bad is the situation that scholars have even asked, "Can one be a lawyer and a happy human being at the same time?" Culturally, the existence of unhappy lawyers is not an unknown phenomenon. Case in point: the portrayal of tortured attorneys through the medium of film. This Article focuses on nine such lawyers: Ned Racine, Michael Clayton, Frank Galvin, Reggie Love, Paul Biegler, Sam Bowden, Arthur Kirkland, Jan Schlichtmann, and Atticus Finch. Similarities between lawyers in reel life and real life quickly emerge. The legal profession should pay attention to these common struggles. Attorneys in film have much to teach. Their most lasting lessons point the way for the modern lawyer to reclaim a satisfying and fulfilling legal career. Through the movies, lawyers old and new can freshly discover the secrets for lasting success: doing what one loves, devoting oneself to a noble end, and refusing to compromise ethically. That great cinema contains enduring truths and insights should not be surprising. The best films help us to learn something more about ourselves. Learning without action, however, soon melts away. When trapped in unhappiness, it is the individual who must act and make choices consistent with that person's core values. Movies can rekindle our ideals. But only we can make those ideals a reality.

Keywords: Legal Profession, Film, Lawyers, Legal Practice, Interdisciplinary, Movies, Happiness

Suggested Citation

McMillian, Lance, Tortured Souls: Unhappy Lawyers Viewed Through the Medium of Film (July 1, 2008). Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Lance McMillian (Contact Author)

John Marshall Law School, Atlanta ( email )

1422 W. Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30309
United States

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