So you want (your character) to be a lawyer…
In the way that many doctors don’t watch medical shows on TV, I rarely watch lawyer shows. Not necessarily because they get everything wrong (I can, for instance, understand why they make everything happen in 40 minutes – if I could condense my years worth of work on a probate to 40 minutes, I sure as hell would), but because I need a break from it all. Watching a lawyer TV show feels a bit too much like being at work.
Unless it’s Franklin and Bash, in which case, man, I wish being at work were like that show.
Anyway, I’ve heard that criminal attorneys have issues trying cases because juries expect everything to be like Law and Order and CSI. I don’t have that problem (please, keep me as far away from a criminal case and a jury trial as possible), but I do encounter a lot of little things that people expect from having seen on TV.
First, what do I do? I specialize in trusts and estates, which means we do estate planning (drafting wills, trusts, end of life documents, etc), and administration (trust administration, probate, after-death planning). This means I’m really good at my area of laws (trusts, estates, and to some extent, taxes) and know very little about the others.
Also, I shouldn’t have to do this, but I’m a lawyer, and we’re all about covering our asses:
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Okay, so with that out of the way, the number one thing I get from clients who watch too much TV is the “Reading of the Will” concept.
This doesn’t happen, except on TV. At least, it doesn’t here in CA. It doesn’t matter when the will is read, and everyone certainly doesn’t have to be in the same room for that information to be passed on.
But people want that big production, that big reveal.
Guess what? It might be dramatic, but I’m going to judge you for writing it. As attorneys, one of our big issues is client confidentiality. We’re not just going to call in a bunch of random people and start announcing things to them. Yes, we may have to disclose things to certain people (mostly legal heirs and beneficiaries listed), but we’re not going to start shouting from the rooftops that Uncle Joe’s ex-step-cousin-twice-removed is disinherited.
Disinheriting that ex-step-cousin-twice-removed. Or your kid. Whatever.