The Grinder (and minder and finder)


By Finchley Atticus

A couple of years ago an early career commercial lawyer explained to me that in her law firm you have the finders, minders and the grinders. In her opinion the prime position is the finder, the lawyer who brings in the clients to the firm, the rainmaker who ensures the firm is rolling in the cash.

I mention this because I’ve been enjoying watching the first (and unfortunately the only) season of The Grinder, a US legal comedy series which screened in the USA in 2015-16. It’s been screening here in Australia on Channel Eleven, and it’s a show within a show. Each episode usually opens with a scene (which gives a nod to all the clichés of legal drama and always draws a laugh from me at least) from the long-running TV legal drama called, yes you guessed it, The Grinder. Like a Russian nesting doll, Rob Lowe (I never watched The West Wing but he was fantastic as the nefarious TV executive in Wayne’s World) plays TV star Dean Sanderson, Jr, who in turn played attorney Mitch Grinder, the lead in the fictional show The Grinder (hope you’re keeping up with me here). Dean is still very emotionally attached to his Mitch Grinder persona, and he never loses an opportunity to provide a commentary on his humorously overwrought performance of Mitch Grinder, for the benefit of his family, ensconced in their lounge room.

What’s an out of work actor like Dean to do? Apart from reliving his stardom as Mitch Grinder, he decides to parlay his skills learned as a fictional lawyer by joining the law firm Sanderson & Yao, headed by his father (played by William Devane) alongside Dean’s brother (Fred “The Wonder Years” Savage), both attorneys. Coincidentally, Fred Savage’s Wonder Years co-star Josh Saviano grew up to become a lawyer in real life, following a long and storied tradition of thespians giving up their auditions and scripts to pursue a legal career. The reverse is also common, with a string of lawyers turning in their briefs to become actors or comedians (Ronny Chieng being on prominent recent example). The intersection of acting and the law is fascinating to ponder, and probably explains the endurance of university law revues, featuring witty performances by law students who write, act and direct whilst cramming for exams and working long hours as paralegals for grinders who are under the pump to achieve the billables for the managing partner.

It’s a shame Fox axed The Grinder after one season, and the ratings was probably a key factor (why oh why do some quality shows have difficulty drawing in ratings?). Nevertheless, hopefully Mitch Grinder in endless of reruns of The Grinder somewhere in a screenwriter’s imagination and the memories of his fans like myself.

In Review: Making a Murderer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last 8 months or so, you’ve at least heard of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, or even if you have, this review has a look at the series, its message and whether it is a good thing for a legal mind to feed from.

A very long story short, Making a Murderer surrounds the life of Steven Avery of Manitowac County in the US. In 1985, Avery was convicted of the rape of a woman, which 18 years later DNA evidence proved he did not commit. It is seen that the County Police fixated on Avery as the suspect at the detriment of good police work, as Avery was an outcast of the community with some criminal history. Astonishingly, this horrible injustice isn’t even the focal point of the overall series.

After being released, Steven Avery returned to his family property on the outskirts of Manitowac, which primarily caters as a scrap metal salvage yard. Having the conduct of the police department 18 years ago found to be sound with regard to criminal law, Avery files a $36 Million civil suit against the Manitowac County Police Department. Wouldn’t you know it, as the civil case begins and a photographer for an Auto Trader magazine, Theresa Halbach, goes missing, the police turn up on Steven Avery’s door.

However I shouldn’t be so facetious, Halbach had visited Avery’s property to take photos of a car he wanted to sell, so he had in fact seen her the day of the murder. That’s the only connect though, now I know what all of you defence attorneys are thinking, but wait, it gets worse.

What follows in the 10 episode series are step after step poor police proceedings, incorrect judicial ruling and generally mind boggling injustice and illegality. Whether or not Steven Avery did murder Theresa Halbach is anyone’s guess, but the procedure of the criminal investigation and court case was so terrible it made me want to throw something at the TV.

Let’s take, as the best example I’d argue, Brendan Dassey. Who’s that? Oh, that’s Steven’s nephew who is 16 years old and clearly not the brightest crayon in the packet. Both before, and more remarkable after, getting legal representation, Brendan is interviewed numerous times without a parent or lawyer present. Yep, that’s illegal. Therefore any evidence he gave would be inadmissible in court right? Say a confession that the police have on tape where it’s clear that Brendan is being fed the correct answers. Oh wait, that was allowed in. A confession where Brendan not only implicates his uncle in the murder, but himself too! What’s made worse is his lawyer allowed him to be interviewed without a parent or legal representation. Was Brendan allowed to get a new lawyer? No, not initially. At least eventually that was rectified.

How about this one. The ‘crime scene’ of Avery’s residence is searched more than ten times. Though a glimmer of hope is that it was supposed to be dealt with by a police department other than Manitowac County due to the law suit, many times after the initial search, Manitowac officers decided to search themselves and simply walked onto the property without clearance and just looked around. Suspiciously enough, on the seventh visit, one of the Sheriff’s named in Avery’s civil suit happens to find a piece of crucial evidence in Avery’s bedroom, the key to Halbach’s car with his DNA on it. Right there in the open. Gosh! What are the odds? Why had no one seen this? Or, you know, fell over it, it was so prominently placed.

While Making a Murderer is a very interesting and thought provoking series, it is for all the negative reasons. All the stereotypes that the Australian legal profession has regarding the American system are completely founded according to this documentary, which I don’t believe is actually true. The viewer, particularly a legal minded one, sits watching with their mouth gapped open, yelling at the TV like a sports fan at some of the judicial rulings that could not possibly have been ruled with that interpretation, and yet they were.

The system works against Steven Avery almost seamlessly and SPOILER ALERT, both Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey lose their case. Despite appeals on both parts, both men are still in prison and there is no release date any time soon.

All in all, I honestly don’t know if I would recommend Making a Murderer or not. On one hand, yes, because it is compelling, well documented and the storyline very much fits the saying “reality is stranger than fiction”. If someone wrote a fictional crime novel of the same story people who scoff and say “how unrealistic”. But on the other hand, as a legal mind you will be so incredibly angry at the unfathomable legal entities in this, from enforcement to judicial, that you can barely put it into words. I say, if you’ve got a 10 hour gap in your life, give it a go for sure, at the very least you’ll finally know what everyone is talking about at the water cooler!

An evening of musical entertainment guaranteed to provoke, amuse, and inspire? Guilty as charged.


Tickets are selling fast for BottledSnail Production’s upcoming Crime & Punishment: Cabaret for a Cause (Ding Dong Lounge, Oct 19 – 28), a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. The show is an all-singing, all-(terrible)-dancing conversation exploring contemporary issues of justice, civil rights, and the law (but in a fun way!) and in true cabaret-style there will be a live band, bar, and delicious food from Miss Katie’s Crab Shack sold throughout.

To see this all-lawyer cast get their jazz-hands on GET YOUR TICKETS NOW.

For more info see

We hope to see you there – watch this space for a review.

In Review: ‘Deadly Games: Kids who Kill Kids’

After writing a whole honours thesis on the topic of child liability under criminal and civil law, I was keen to read this book, written by Gabrielle O’Reilly and Liz Frame. Certainly not for the faint hearted, or for those who are already feeling a little overprotective of their kids, Deadly Games progresses through two centuries, providing short factual information on almost a hundred cases of murder committed by children (as defined as under 18 years of age). Starting as far back as the 1800s and moving to cases as recently as a few years ago, and the authors provide an overview of the background for each case and details of the crimes and punishments, or lack of, for the accused.

The authors’ writing style is quite basic; however the content, if your initial reaction to it does not leave you recoiling, is quite intriguing. It is a good comparison of the different people, lifestyles and punishments regarding child murder over hundreds of years. For any person interested in criminal law, child law or even with an overarching curiosity about “what makes them tick?” this book is a good compilation of information.

Story lengths range from one page to six pages in length, so quite short and sweet. The stories do not provide any criminal law analysis or discussion behind the case; they simply provide a factual account of the sequence of events obtained through publicly available sources. In places it reminded me of a public information internet page, it is nonetheless interesting to read and easier than googling all of these cases separately.

Without a specific interest in criminal law or child law this book may not be your cup of tea and I would be far from pushing it on you. However, if a one stop shop on child murder from centuries ago to present sounds, for whatever reason, like something you would benefit from reading, by all means give it a read. Coming from a background of criminal, mental health and child law, I found it a thought-provoking read.


Lawyers, law, living rooms and televisions (Part 1)


By Finchley Atticus

Lawyers in Your Living Room! Law on Television by Michael Asimow is a 2009 book that guides readers through our beloved legal dramas over the decades.  Perry Mason, Law & Order, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal, the TV lawyers we grew up with and motivated eager law students to wonder aloud in a criminal law tutorial “What would Jack McCoy/Ally McBeal/Alan Shore do?”. For the current generation of law students, Harvey Specter’s legendary quotes probably receives more insight and attention than that of a corporations law lecturer (with due respect to all corps law academics who are tireless in their efforts to get students interested in the Corporations Act).

I’m a devotee of L.A. Law, Law & Order, Ally McBeal, and The Practice.  It’s trite for well-meaning folk to remind us these shows are fictional, with “fictional” being the operative word. However I’m willing to submit to the bench that The Practice is as close as any TV series will get to a true-life street shop law practice, where not all the good guys win but some of the bad guys do. What caught my attention about Asimow’s book is the title. Not the “Law on Television” bit. It’s the “Lawyers in Your Living Room”, particularly the living room.

I have a theory I’d like to put on the coffee table.  I think there’s a greater probability of connecting with our legal heroes if they are portrayed on TV. Yes, we connect with our cinematic legal heroes, and a bit more about that later.  So why television? The fact Asimow’s book isn’t titled Lawyers in Your Corner Office with Harbourside Views probably provides an inkling. High profile American defence attorneys Mark Geragos and Pat Harris in their book Mistrial, criticise a growing number of prosecutors as “moralistic crime fighters” having grown up watching television shows like Law & Order, such as the outsized role television plays in developing the hubris of some prosecutors.

A few years ago, I saw an interview with US actor Patrick Duffy, forever immortalised as Bobby Ewing in the 80s TV drama Dallas. Duffy was asked why viewers become emotionally invested in TV characters. I thought Duffy was trying to draw a laugh when he believed it’s because the audience watch their favourite stars between their feet. The more I thought about it, the more I realise he has a serious point. It’s in the comfort and safety of our home, predominantly in our lounge room, where we follow the trials and tribulations (no pun intended) of our legal characters, week after week, all encapsulated in an hour-long episode. And we do so relaxed and spread-eagled on our favourite couch (explaining why the viewers in Gogglebox are couch bound), drinks and comfort food in hand, dressed as casually and daggy as we like. We really are ourselves in our lounge.

A person’s home is their sanctuary, a concept embodied in some laws. Tragically there are ways a home, and by extension us, can be threatened. World leaders invade countries. It was only relatively recently that home robberies became termed home invasions (God forbid this doesn’t happen to anyone). Home invasions have high priority in the 6 o’clock news, broadcast across millions of, yes you guessed it, lounge rooms nationwide. We have Australian Consumer Law protections to shoo away intrusive door-to-door salesmen and telemarketers. Sure, maybe more of us have less need for landlines, but there is an underlying and potentially sinister invasion of our sanctuary when a stranger calls, especially when our kids are around. Lawyers who grew up in the 70s can be forgiven by still being chilled by the threatening line “Have you checked the children?” intoned by the murderous home invader over the phone in the 1979 American cinematic thriller When a Stranger Calls, where the innocent babysitter was shockingly warned over the phone by the police to “get out of the house, the call’s coming from inside the house!!”

It’s no coincidence the Australian legal comedy The Castle is called The Castle. A man’s home is his castle after all, and we cheered everyday hero Daryl Kerrigan as he took up the cause against the Government using legal means to take his sanctuary. Pacific Heights, a 1990 US motion picture centred on married homeowners played by Meg Ryan and Matthew Modine, seeking to evict a tenant. The cruel twist being the tenant uses the law to outstay his welcome in the couple’s home. Remarkably, this is reflective of real Californian laws.

Now isn’t it ironic my exhibits to support my theory are all cinematic releases? Maybe, but as children growing up in the 70s and 80s, we were too young to see When a Stranger Calls in the cinema. Which is why we saw it on TV in the safety of our lounge and delightfully imitated the chilling quotes the following day at school. I’d take an educated guess and posit that a large majority of people who saw these motion pictures did so in their lounge room, especially aided by the VHS and then DVD boom.

Sure, TV can’t really replicate the big screen experience but the cinema isn’t our private space. Yes cinemas give us the big screen experience, mass audience participation, popcorn and choc-top ice creams. But in some ways the cinematic experience can be disruptive and intrusive, with some inconsiderate and rude patrons stumbling over our legs, sending texts or even worse phoning during the screening, munching, coughing, sneezing, exposing us to foot odour, and scratching whatever body parts.  And cinemas expect us to fork out $20 for the privilege! At least in our lounge room we can text, talk, munch, cough, sneeze, remove our shoes, and scratch whenever we want thank you very much.

But au contraire, Finchley, what about Atticus Finch, our fictional hero who for many lawyers ranks at the forefront in the cinematic pantheons of lawyers who inspired many a high schooler to enrol in law school to balance the scales of justice. To Kill a Mockingbird was a motion picture, not some cheap network TV series. Good point. I’ve had to give some thought to this. Here is where my lounge room TV theory starts to become metaphorical. To Kill a Mockingbird had its cinematic debut in 1962. Yes since then there have been special anniversary limited runs, but I’d be willing to say that unless you are now old enough to be on the pension, a very large number of law graduates saw To Kill a Mockingbird in high school during a legal studies class if they didn’t watch it in their lounge.

But, Finchley, sorry to point out the obvious but high school isn’t a home. Again, I had to really think about this … when you add up all your hours in a typical week at high school (boarding schools aside), you realise it’s almost equivalent to your total waking hours at home. You probably saw more of your teachers and fellow students than your parents. For better or worse our high school classroom became symbolic or even a proxy of our home and lounge room. High school was the place where we promised to be friends forever, developed crushes, hearts got broken, gossiped, goofed off, laughed, cried and who knows what else. It’s also the place where To Kill a Mockingbird debuted for many aspiring law students. Sure, school isn’t a home but I think we know at least one high schooler who suffered embarrassment by accidentally calling their teacher “Mum” or “Dad”. I don’t know anyone who for a brief moment accidentally called their Mum or Dad the name of their favourite English or Legal Studies teacher.

You can take us away from our lounge but it’s another thing to prise TV from our lounge room. About 25 years ago Sony released the Watchman, one of a line of handheld televisions, with the Watchman name being a pun on Sony’s famous invention the Walkman. A certain generation have fond memories of their Walkman, a hand-held audio cassette player to which we bopped to Cyndi Lauper and partied with Prince like it was 1999. But why weren’t people captivated by the Watchman, which one could cradle in our portable private space to make sure we never missed the latest episode of L.A. Law. Why didn’t many watch the Watchman?  It goes back to the lounge room theory and the intimacy it affords. It’s difficult to recreate that same intimate atmosphere on the bus, train or tram where your private space (for what it is) is interrupted by disruptive and intrusive passengers, some of who will stumble over our legs, munching, coughing, sneezing, exposing us to foot odour, and scratching whatever body parts. Maybe things have changed over 25 years with shows now streamed on demand on our smartphones or tablets, but with that comes the inconsiderate passengers sending texts or yakking on their devices in our private space on the bus train or tram. Still the same, to paraphrase US rocker Bob Seger.

Part 2 continues soon.

Terminus – Bottled Snail


by Phoebe Churches

It is practically impossible to experience a fully and flawlessly orchestrated choral experience in the acoustics of a cathedral without feeling profoundly moved. Whenever I go to enjoy live music I immediately wonder why I don’t do it more often. The actual vibration of musical notes in the chest, the tingle down the spine and the hairs on the back of the head which feel the notes, even as the orchestra tunes up in that discordant way just before the conductor taps on their music stand.

BottledSnail’s Habeas Chorus and the Melbourne Lawyers Orchestra (Lawchestra) along with the Monash University Choral Society did not disappoint. The evening started with the fantastic premiere of Last Verses, a work by Australian composer Dan Walker. Last Verses consists of the last poems of Thomas Hardy, Ralph Waldo Emerson (whose poem Terminus gives its title to the performance), Robert Herrick, Elinor Wylie and D.H. Lawrence. It is a wonderfully life affirming celebration of mortality. At once fresh and traditional. I am not sure whether it will be released anywhere else, so if you missed this concert, look out for a further opportunity to catch it live.

The second half of the show featured W.A. Mozart’s last piece – Requiem. It is fruitless to attempt to reduce the experience of Requiem in the beautiful acoustics of St Paul’s Melbourne to words on a page. It was magnificent.

BottledSnail is a great outfit. They donate a substantial amount of their profits annually to the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, whose aim is to improve the mental health of lawyers.

Terminus is a celebration of life, as Dan Walker says ‘rallying against the idea of death, but not necessarily the idea of dying’.

If you missed it, this short clip will give you the idea.

It’s not all good, Saul Goodman

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Photo: AMC TV


By Stewart Osborne

Spoilers abound. You have been warned.

We first met James MacGill, better known as Saul Goodman, in Breaking Bad, and his origin story has been explored (as far as the foundations go, at least) in the first season of Better Call Saul. If the ‘flash forwards’ are anything to go by, “Slippin’ Jimmy” ends up in witness protection, no doubt due to his involvement with Walter White, among other parties.

Not since Lionel Hutz of The Simpsons has the archetype of a sleazy yet loveable, fast talking, proverbial (or in Hutz’ case, literal) ambulance-chasing flimflam man with questionable qualifications to practice law been pulled off so brilliantly, and full credit to Bob Odenkirk on his portrayal of the character. It’s hard not to like him. The bus stop ads, the shockingly direct green screen advertisements which put major names in Australian public liability practice to shame with their brazenness, are all directly lifted from the U.S. legal industry. That’s not to say aggressive advertising (quite typically accompanied by commensurate aggressive billing) doesn’t happen in Australia, but I’ve seen how U.S. attorneys not averse to debasing themselves just a little go about spruiking their services in horribly put together TV ads.

Saul is entertaining. And it’s just about there that anything good about him can be said.

Criminal lawyers, despite what Saul Goodman would have you believe, are not conduits for one criminal to engage with others, or matchmakers as far as existing criminal enterprises or startups go. Walter White’s capacity to ‘disappear’ is facilitated by professional criminal with whom Saul maintains at least some kind of a non-client relationship. Saul acts as a middleman between Walter White, as a clandestine illicit drug manufacturer, and Gus Fring, a man with an industrial plant specifically geared to the commercial production of methylamphetamine. During the scene in the hotel in which Walter buys himself a gun with an obliterated serial number in a dingy hotel room, we learn the gun dealer and Walter were introduced via ‘the lawyer’. The same goes for Mike Ehrmantraut; another referral from Saul to Walter. Quite the one stop shop for a budding criminal. Forget the moral reprehensibility. How about the illegality of conspiring to commit a plethora of serious criminal offences in which Saul effectively involves himself?

Then there’s the money laundering. The vast, vast quantities of money laundering. The utter saturation of Saul’s involvement in the schemes used to launder money on behalf of the Whites is breathtaking, from buying businesses to sending money to third parties through fictitious inheritances. The sheer scale and quantity might be enough to convince a naïve audience that this is actually part, to at least some miniscule degree, of a good criminal lawyer’s job. In reality, no, it isn’t, and being disbarred is going to be the least of your problems if this is something in which you contemplate engaging.

We see the evolution of Saul from attempting to make his way into corporate law, working (poorly) as a public defender before getting involved with gangsters after a failed attempt at staging a traffic accident for compensation, and presumably going on to become the Saul we know from Breaking Bad. The conspiracy to stage a traffic accident for compensation money with a couple of kids who end up wishing they hadn’t gone along for the ride is bad enough. Along the way, he later procures the burglary of a client’s home, because ultimately, this was, to his mind, in the client’s best interest (and fit the story arc nicely). Let’s be clear here, in case it was missed initially – he procured an aggravated burglary undertaken actively with Mike in order to steal a substantial sum of money, in order to apparently get his client the best possible outcome. The ends thus justifying the means, we can all sleep better at the end of the show.

Yeah, nah. That’s not how it goes. Real life’s not like that, and the way both shows go about normalizing a litany of offences which would be bad enough being committed by any member of the public, much less an officer of the court, is almost worrying. The ends will not justify the means, no matter how you try to package it; you will be held to a higher standard than that nebulous “’reasonable person’ if you find yourself in court on a conspiracy charge of some flavour or another, and who knows – if you seek to emulate Saul, you too may find yourself working in a shopping mall in another state using a fake name, probably after a stint in prison and penniless, if you’re lucky enough to escape the agitated clients with whom you’ve become too closely involved when (not if) it all goes wrong.

In Review: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’



By Georgia Briggs

To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the first books I ever really read. I had to analyse it for English class, and it has stuck with me ever since. Whether it influenced my choice to become a lawyer, I don’t know, but it certainly influenced how I choose to act as a person.

This novel, written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, follows the life of Jean Louise, better known as Scout, a 10-year-old girl living in Maycomb Country, in America’s South, in 1936. As we probably all know, but I’ll remind you anyway, this time in history sees a very distinct racial divide between white and black people. Blacks are segregated from whites at all costs, and work only as servants in the town.

Scout lives with her older brother, Jeremy (Jem), and her widowed father Atticus. They also have a maid, a black woman named Calpurnia, who is also a mother figure to Scout. The book is told through Scout’s eyes as she recounts her life in her small town.

What becomes the main focus of the book, amongst many other themes, is that Atticus Finch, as the town’s prominent lawyer, must defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus takes on the case knowing that the prevailing opinion at this time was that when a white person who accused a black person of a crime, the black person was guilty.  Therefore, though not specifically stated, the majority of the small county deemed a trial unnecessary. He was guilty, they all knew it.

Atticus believing that everyone deserves a fair trial, and every man deserves legal representation, did the right thing. He stood against the crowd, defending to the best of his ability, an essentially unwinnable case. Because it was the right thing to do.

This is always solidified in my mind through a chapter in the novel where Atticus leaves the children at home one night. Scout, curious as always and not one to follow the rules, walks into town in the dark to see where her father went. She finds Atticus perched on a chair, reading the paper, right in front of the jail entrance. He is waiting, in the dark, guarding his client, as he knows that men in the town will take it upon themselves to lynch (hang) the man accused if they get the opportunity. Atticus is the human barrier between one innocent man, with the wrong coloured skin, and a large mob of angry men, most of whom are Atticus’ friends, neighbours and peers. Atticus chooses to stand against his own people, puts his own life and reputation in the small town at risk, to defend someone, because it is the right thing to do.

Atticus Finch is the lawyer we all want to be. Even Wikipedia says Atticus is “the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism”. He is a hero, he is our humble, average, no cape needed, hero. And while our battles as lawyers may be different, whatever our fight is, we want it to be a strong and passionate one, one that leaves our soul and conscious sound.

Atticus embodies one of the most difficult issues for any person, perhaps more so for lawyers, where one must balance their own safety, morals and agenda against what is right and what is wrong. Not to get swept up in the controversy and follow what your peers say is the obvious choice, but to do what is the correct choice from your moral compass.

A line that I found interesting came from the movie The Judge. Robert Downey Jr, playing a suave defence attorney tells us “everyone wants Atticus Finch until you have a dead hooker in your hot tub”. What a person hiring a lawyer wants remains to be seen, but what a person who is a lawyer wants… They want to hold their head high and do what is right, feel they are fighting a good fight and go home at night knowing they tried their best, and they hopefully made a difference. Atticus is the embodiment of all of this.

Told through his daughter’s eyes, Atticus becomes a father figure to us all. As Scout learns lessons of life from her father, the reader learns them too. It is well written, amusing, but also deeply profound. Harper Lee is a fantastic author who shines a light on what it can mean to be a lawyer trying to do all that you can. That we are people who do our best to balance our beliefs, our job, our responsibilities, our family and our conscious to do what is right. Often this balance is tricky, but we do it as best we can, and Atticus Finch leads the way.

If you have yet to read To Kill a Mockingbird, as a lawyer, or as any person, I strongly urge you, if not demand, that you read this book. If you have already read it, read it again! You’ll turn back through the pages and feel the familiar warmth of the written words, the southern twang of the dialogue, and of course the wonderful characters.

The Lincoln Lawyer – Lots of style, plenty of jail time.

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Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe in Lions Gate Entertainment’s ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ (Photo: Staff/Syndicated by: Lions Gate Entertainment)


By Stewart Osborne

About 5 years back, a movie called The Lincoln Lawyer was released, based on one of a series of novels starring a then “still clawing his way back up” Matthew McConaughey. To give you a brief synopsis, it’s about a smooth-talking Californian criminal defence attorney who knows everyone, abuses every loophole, and ends up on the wrong end of a situation with a sneaky client who tries to corner him using professional privilege, and yet he miraculously slips the noose and wins the day in true Hollywood style.

Very stylish, very slick, and pretty vacuous (not filling in any Californian stereotypes there, are we?), in the first half hour, in no particular order, Haller’s being chauffeured around from court to court and arranging future ‘gifts’ to facilitate prisoner movements for corrections officers because his schedule’s so tight. He then uses creative methods for keeping clients remanded in custody and stalling hearings, pending receipt of cash stuffed envelopes from ‘motorcycle enthusiasts’, who he then admits he will creatively overcharge to justify his expenses… that’s just for starters. All of this sounds pretty legit as far as being a criminal lawyer goes, right?

Ha. NO!

Let’s talk about some seriously twisted and unrealistic expectations. Haller is not a cowboy, or a maverick. In the movie, he’s cool and slick. By real life standards, he’s actually an out an out criminal and a disgrace to the court of which he is an officer.

Let’s take a quick look at the sample of misconduct considered above.

Why’s Haller being chauffeured? Oh yes, his licence was suspended for his propensity towards drink driving. One would hope he’d informed the ethics committee about that.

Then it gets heavier and heavier… Stop and ask yourself, what’s the closest you’ve come in your life to ACTUALLLY bribing someone? Maybe overpaying a cover charge when a late night venue is full? Bribing a prison officer for any reason, such as to expedite movement of your client (regardless of the amount, a measly $100 in the movie) is a different thing entirely – that’s a fast track to needing a defence lawyer of your own.

Misleading the court, of which you are an officer and to whom you owe a duty first and foremost, as to the need to locate a material witness in order to get your client remanded, specifically to squeeze his motorcycle enthusiast mates for more money? Now you’re looking at contempt of court in addition to seeing your practicing certificate spontaneously combust.

When the aforesaid squeezed motorcycle enthusiasts effectively pull you over on the road, and you take an envelope loaded with cash after outright lying to them about your intentions as far as use of those funds go, without so much as an entry in the trust account books, or maybe even an AUSTRAC report about the suspiciously large amount of hard currency which your client’s associate, who is not gainfully employed, handed you, you’re no longer a criminal defence lawyer. You’re a criminal and a conman, and possibly looking at money laundering charges as well.

Later, in no particular order, we also see Haller buying illegal guns and brandishing them, convincing a client to act against his best interests to the extent that said client is imprisoned for life, using his bikie connections to assault and intimidate his now former client, and bribing officials using a third party (sensing a theme with the casual bribery in criminal law? NO! THERE ISN’T!) to get an early look at the discovery file. But in the end, justice prevails and all is right with the world.

All in a day’s work, right? NO! IT ISN’T!

If you found yourself nodding along with a ‘yes’, condoning pretty much any point in Haller’s day mentioned above, on the basis that ‘it’s only going to be a problem if I get caught’, it really is time to consider pursuing a new vocation, because you can expect to be making career killing oversteps, if not getting yourself struck off or even locked up, in pretty short order for pretty much any of the above. This movie is the first in a line of recent fictional portrayal of lawyers who are portrayed as pragmatic protagonist characters for whom the ends will ultimately justify the means. Take that attitude with you into practice, and you are doomed from the get go.

Stylish though it may be, and an extremely slick portrayal of a criminal defence attorney who just seems to know all the angles, this movie’s leading lawyer’s example isn’t just unrealistic, its utterly toxic.

Meet Katha, the burnt out publicist


‘Switched on, driven and burnt out’

Eleanor Morrison plays the role of Katha in this year’s production of Maple & Vine.

Eleanor is a lawyer in the Disputes Team at Ashurst.

We’ve asked Eleanor a few questions to gain some greater insight into her background, reason for performing and what excites her about her role as Katha.

Is this your first BottledSnail production?

I was a member of the cast for BottledSnail’s production of Parade and a member of the production team for BottledSnail’s 12 Angry Men.

What drew you towards the BottledSnail community?

At first I thought the BottledSnail community might be a sort of sub-community of the legal industry where I could devote some time to an activity that was creative, but quite separate from my professional life in the law.  To the contrary, being involved with BottledSnail has shown me that there is a real depth of support in the legal community for people who want to be creative or try something new.  I’ve found that investing in an activity outside my normal work routine has actually made me feel more engaged with my existing “work world”.

Why did you choose to perform?

I like assisting in telling a story.  I was drawn to the story of Maple & Vine and wanted to be a part of telling the story to people in the legal community and provoking discussion.

As you are playing the role of Katha, if you could describe her in one word what would it be?

Relatable.  I don’t think Katha is always likeable but I think parts of her story will strike a chord with the audience.

What excites you about this role and what challenges does it bring?

The role excites me because I think Katha’s story is a vehicle for addressing some broader issues facing my generation and my generation in the legal industry.  I feel challenged by the material though.  Because it’s an important story to tell, there’s a bit riding on the execution!

The play explores a number of themes, what is the most important one for you?

Freedom and the idea that choice can be crippling.  If you grow up being told that you are special and you can do anything you want with your life, how can you be sure that you’ve chosen the best path?

Tickets can be found here: and the details are: 2-5 December 2015 at 8:00pm, with a matinee on the 5 December 2015 at 2:00pm.