Streisand 101

by Jason Fischer

In an effort (I’m assuming) to be hip and relevant, my alma mater (and Randazza’s previous teaching gig) has begun adding courses to their curriculum that have little to do with the law or lawyering.  One example is a course called “Popular Culture and the Law,” to which the registrar has assigned the following course description:

This 2 hour seminar will examine social attitudes toward law, lawyers, and legal institutions through the viewing and examination of Hollywood films.  Film depictions of law students, juries, and judges will also be considered.  Each seminar session will focus in as much depth as possible on a particular film or films and a particular problem or aspect of law, law practice, ethics, or the image and status of the lawyer in American culture raised by the film(s).  The majority of the films will be viewed outside the classroom and will be considered as texts providing contemporary depictions of the subject matter to be examined in class.  In addition, readings will be assigned for each film and will form the basis for class discussion.  The films will be reserved in the library.  This will be a paper course which may be used to satisfy the Upper Level Writing Requirement.

legally_blondeMy understanding is that this course is just another excuse for chicks in law school to watch Legally Blonde (2001) for the 4,821st time.  What a great way to spend your tuition dollars at a professional school!

Normally, I’m not the one in this forum to bitch about the state of legal education.  Marco & Co. do it regularly enough that I don’t have to.  (See here, here, and here.)  On the whole, my law school experience was a good one.  I took as much advantage of our externship program as I could, and I went out of my way to take classes from adjunct professors who I knew actually practiced what they were preaching.  What I object to is courses that have students watch reruns of “L.A. Law” (1986), or other fictional portrayals, as a means for teaching about the practice of law.  Aren’t there other subjects that could be presented that have more merit?

Fuck_barbara_is_that_your_faceOne subject jumps quickly to my mind, and regular readers of this blog will recognize it immediately.  I would call it “Streisand 101,” taking its name from actress and singer, Barbara Streisand, who effectively demonstrated that simply filing a lawsuit can bring about the exact opposite result from what you hoped to achieve.  It would be a skills course, aimed at training young lawyers to talk their clients down from filing certain kinds of lawsuits — the kind that end up splashed all over blogs like this one, fueling negative publicity for the client.  The intent would be to teach how to 1) determine the unintended consequences of a particular cause of action; and 2) effectively communicate those consequences to the client, giving them the opportunity to back away before doing any real damage.  The primary pedagogical tools would be roll playing and reviewing news stories about past P.R. blunders.

Finding great teaching examples would be about as challenging as falling off of a log.  Just this week, outdoor clothing maker, The North Face (TNF), is in the news again, moving forward with their lawsuit against The South Butt (TSB).  (You can find my previous coverage of the case here.)  Before TNF filed their lawsuit, TSB had a whopping $5,000 in gross sales — after months of being in business.  Now, TSB’s selling that much every hour.  Their attorney claims that, with 14 new employees, TSB has created more jobs in its home state than the Obama’s $800 billion stimulus plan.  (Source.)

The only downside that I see to so educating the next crop of attorneys is that a huge source of entertainment will be snuffed out.  What will we read about for fun when Micheal Jordan’s attorney convinces him not to sue the people who congratulate him?

7 Responses to Streisand 101

  1. Alan says:

    What does all this have to do with parting clients from their money? It seems something was lacking in your legal education, so let me explain. Talking potential clients down from filing a suit does not pay very well. Convincing wealthy clients to file lawsuits, even frivolous ones, is potentially lucrative. Its all about $$$ billed and collected. What is needed (and no doubt desired by just about every law student) is a course on Fleecing Clients Without Running Afoul of Bar Counsel 101. Cause if they don’t learn it in school, they’ll have to learn it on the job, and that just sucks. The “Popular Culture and the Law” course might have some value; it just needs a slight title change: “Popular Culture and [How to Get P-A-I-D Practicing] Law”.

  2. jfischer1975 says:

    I wanna get paid as much as the next guy, but I want my photo next to a story on a whole lot less.  Call me an ideologue, I guess.

  3. Windypundit says:

    An important part of this class should be how to tell if a potential client is a sociopath. Someone who comes in with a terrific complaint against an employer, client, business partner, or neighbor may have been terribly wronged and have a really great case. Or he may have a grievance against everyone he has ever met, and he’s telling you lies to get you to screw with them. That second thing doesn’t pay you nearly as well.

  4. […] Two Chicago grocery store chains, Jewel and Dominick’s, bought full-page ads in “a special commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated magazine dedicated to [Michael] Jordan and his career”. The ads saluted the Chicago Bulls great for his achievements. Jordan proceeded to sue them for trademark infringement. [Chicago Breaking Sports, Tactical IP via Legal Satyricon] […]

  5. Feldman says:

    Not that I (entirely) wish that Barry University School of Law fails, but I do hope that UCF buys them up sooner than latter. Barry is typical of many other ABA accredited Law schools in that they want to keep enrollment rates high. After your first year, the registrar tries to keep their profit margins (aka students) so they bends over backwards to make sure students don’t flunk out. These classes serve to pad a GPA and raise semesterly credit totals.

    As a side note. I do remember watching The People vs. Larry Flint in one of my classes. Subsequently, I have met Mr. Flint’s daughter who was a law student at Seattle U. Needless to say, seeing that movie prepared me for small talk that has lead to an interesting relationship. Therefore, I will concede that certain films can have an impact on future legal careers.

    Oh…I wonder if these students get to watch old episodes of Night Court. Seeing Bull/Ross/Harold T. Stone/Dan Fielding/et al. would be AWESOME!

  6. Sean F. says:

    Next, there’ll be a class on John Grisham novels.

  7. […] • And what the hell does $120K in debt really teach you if you’re taking classes like “Popular Culture and the Law” anyway?  (A nice compliment to Harvard Law’s Evil: Seminar, perhaps?) In a loosely related non-sequitur: The South Butt is growing into a massive ba-donk-a-donk with huge sales after being sued by The North Face.  [The Legal Satyricon] […]

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