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THE GOLDEN AGE

In the 1930s, at the height of America's difficult struggle with the transformation of the marketplace, satirists William Cropper and Jack Levine transformed Depression-era liberalism into an attack on lawyers, who are seen as unduly beholden to the very powerful. In one comic rendering after another, the profession of law was incessantly poked fun at and lawyers reviled as being manipulative, self-serving, insensitive, capricious, excessively materialistic, and overly accommodating to clients without regard to right and wrong.

The so-called golden age of the legal profession, roughly stretching from the end of World War II to the end of the 1960s, stands in sharp contrast not only to the earlier, turn-of-the-century popular disdain for the profession, but to the all-time low estimation that would come to characterize the last two decades of the century. Over a century after Washington Irving wrote his great staples of American literature, Harper Lee left law school early to focus on a career in literature. Lee went on to write one of the twentieth-century's most moving and enduring American novels, the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel tells the powerful story of a girl and her attorney father who successfully defends an innocent black man against a rape charge in small-town America of the 1930s. Lee's novel depicts the law and the lawyer at their best, as ultimately agents of social justice in the hands of an honorable member of the legal profession—Atticus Finch.

The history of American film and television is replete with images of lawyers and the legal system. Twentieth-century fictional cinema, including that based on true life stories, and even documentaries that explore the life and workings of the lawyer in the United States, echo, as did the written and drawn images of the past, the history of American popular culture. In earlier generations of film, as with literature, lawyers' images held a more favorable position than in the waning years of the last century, perhaps in response to clearly defined contemporary moral issues. In the American mind, World War II was the ultimate victory of good over bad. During the postwar years, the all-American family became the centerpiece of popular film. Is there any story in the archives of American film that better reflects how important the law is to the endurance of American culture than the film that affirmed the existence of Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Even the most confirmed cynic had to be charmed by every character, from Kris Kringle himself to the young girl who believed, her skeptical mother, and the handsome lawyer who won the case in court when a little boy takes the stand and earnestly asks his daddy, who happens to be the opposing lawyer, whether Santa, the embodiment of everything that is good in the world, really exists.

A much more serious issue was given a powerful treatment in the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg, which featured an all-star cast in a fictional recording of the war crimes trials following the end of World War II. The film may not have always been faithful to the details of the historical events. Still, it was an intelligent and provocative work that offered a largely positive portrayal of lawyers and the appreciation for the ethical dilemmas of defending or prosecuting Nazi members, who even if "just following orders" were responsible for unspeakable atrocities. And in 1962, with the increased visibility of the civil rights movement in America, Harper Lee's engrossing novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was brought to the screen in an especially powerful adaptation. Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch remains one of the more memorable performances in American cinema.

Television is the stage on which popular perceptions of lawyers and the legal profession are most flagrantly paraded in all their complexity and contradictions. Unlike the terse, satiric statement of the cartoon, television allows for the unfolding of plot and the development of character. And, unlike cinema, characters develop over time, and viewers establish relationships and attachments to them. That is not to say that lawyers are dealt a more favorable verdict in television than at the drawing hand of the political cartoonist. But by virtue of its capacity to tell a "true" story in compressed time, television expands popular images of the lawyer, embellishing them with humor, suspense, and even at times a bit of sophistication.

Mention the TV lawyer and the first program to come to mind is "Perry Mason." On air for close to two decades, "Perry Mason" was the first of its kind to replicate the popular subgenre of the detective story (whose roots are in nineteenth-century fiction), but with a lawyer as chief protagonist. Written by Farle Stanley Gardner, a California lawyer who wrote eighty-two Mason novels, the television series of the 1950s and 1960s followed a successful radio run of the 1940s. Gardner's Mason was a figure representing a composite of four lawyers whom Gardner had known while in practice, all smart, serious, brilliantly logical, and courageous. "Perry Mason" is rightly considered the father of all subsequent television dramas featuring lawyers.

Where Gardner viewed lawyers in a generally positive, though one-dimensional light, F. G. Marshall, director of the popular early-1960s series "The Defenders," presented lawyers as dramatic grapplers with social issues. These issues were often public policy matters—civil rights, poverty, the draft—and their solutions remained prickly and vague, as in real life, and full of ubiquitous gray areas.

As the anti-Vietnam War movement began to take center stage, other lawyer-focused shows in the 1960s and early 1970s began to reflect the growing concern among Americans about social issues. In "Judd for the Defense," "The Young Lawyers," and "The Protectors," for instance, the attorney exhibited a sensitivity to the needs of the poor, working for legal aid groups and accepting pro bono cases on principle. At the same time, the women's movement, which heightened sensitivity to equal treatment, spawned the appearance of women lawyers in, for example, "Adam's Rib" and "Kate McShane."

It is hard to overstate the influence that such shows have had, not only on Americans' perceptions of the legal system, but on lawyers' perceptions of themselves, not to mention a few prospective law students. Television fomented an image of the legal profession that was glamorous, mysterious, appealing, and often realistic. The divisive strains of Vietnam and Watergate caused the younger generation to look upon traditional symbols of power with increasing cynicism and distaste, a viewpoint that was reflected in contemporary cinema. Lawyers in film were most frequently seen as flawed professionals concerned primarily with wealth, status, and personal vendettas. The Oscar-winning The Godfather and The Godfather Part II introduced the viewing public to Tom Hagen, the Corleone family lawyer portrayed by Robert Duvall. A likable figure, Hagen is the head legal counsel for the nation's largest fictional mob family, and as such is privy to the tactics of intimidation and violence utilized by the Corleones to retain power.

As the 1970s came to an end, the 1980s brought lawyers to the screen less as idealized symbols—both virtuous and unscrupulous—and more as realistic practitioners and hard-working professionals. In television shows like "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law," lawyers could be seen working through the daily routine of plea bargains and depositions. Even the personal lives of TV attorneys reflected the ups and down of normal life—romance, family, and child rearing. Comedy was offered up as a device for depicting the working lives of lawyers. "Night Court" and "The Associates" presented oddly humorous cases and lightheartedness to the otherwise serious business of the law.

As the twentieth century drew to a close, both the viewing and the reading public continued to see no stone unturned in the quest to expose the undue influence of the legal profession over everyone's lives. Cartoonists still carry on the long-standing tradition of poking fun at legal and courtroom phenomena, any issue with the slightest legalistic touch being fair game—prenuptial agreements, divorce settlements, criminals' rights, victims' rights, campaigns against crime, insanity pleas, jury nullification, and jury tampering, among others, accompany Americans' growing fimiliarity with the law and the courts.

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TITLE: Law and Legal Services at CitiMall.com Online Shopping Mall

Law Category: Prepaid Legal Services, Law , Legal, Attorney, Advice, Firm, Search, Attorneys, Lawyers, Power of Attorney, Durable, Forms

Shopping Mall: Law and Legal Services get attorney advice, search, law firm, legal law advice Forms, law, power of attorney, Legal service, Free legal Forms, legal advice, legal, aid, legal document, prepaid legal, help, information

Law Topics: Preapaid Legal Services, Law, Legal, Attorney, Advice, Law Firm, Search, attorneys, Legal Terms, Free legal documents, attorney, lawyer, lawyers, power of attorneys durable, forms