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Lots of lawyers have appeared before millions on the silver screen making arguments wisely and well. But can a case be made for them as first-seaters when it comes to romance? If not, what does that tell us about our occupation? My research indicates that the members of the bar who do lofty lawyering have been portrayed as having no romantic ambitions or as inept in pursuing those ambitions. Within bed chambers, they have been portrayed either as uninterested or uninteresting, as inattentive or ineffectual. And the lawyers who aren’t lovers all seem to be knaves. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to think about a class action against Miramax, 20th Century Fox and the rest of ‘em. Serve notice, if not papers, that lawyers are lovers too. Can a case be made? Let’s start with a few films based on or inspired by actual cases: There’s Amistad, Inherit the Wind and The Accused. In A Civil Action, there’s the tenacious overinvolved plaintiffs’ lawyer and the idiosyncratic detached defender of the toxic tortfeasor. All those advocates are preoccupied-nay, wholly absorbed-with the proverbial jealous mistress. Nobly, yes, but nary a nanosecond of nooky. Were those actors simply not apt at amour? Are Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, Spencer Tracy, Kelly McGillis and John Travolta so unlovely as to make romance remote? Their box-office appeal has been affirmed. So why deprive their characters of some passion for something other than justice? Movie-makers might argue that they could not take liberties in telling the stories of actual lawyers. Then why, with all of Hollywood’s other fictions, has there been such a dearth of fulfilling romantic relationships involving fictional lawyers? In Adam’s Rib, the conjugal chambers of prosecutor Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) and defense counsel Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn) become testy and adversarial. Frontier lawyer Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) gets the girl (Vera Miles) in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but he does so by virtue of misapprehension, not prowess. He’s a wordslinger, not a gunslinger. Even when moviemakers recruited the likes of Tom Cruise and Demi Moore to serve in A Few Good Men, their lawyer characters are not sent into action. They do not engage carnally. They’re in uniform; that should have been a turn-on, right? What a waste. Do bad lawyers have more fun? It seems that Hollywood cannot bear the thought of a lawyer in bed, unless he’s a lousy lawyer, and violating, among other things, the Code of Professional Responsibility. In The Verdict, the boozy Paul Newman character doesn’t realize that he’s in bed (literally) with opposing counsel. Lots of ethical violations there. Opposing counsel who bed each other when they should be prepping witnesses. Both of ‘em scalawags. In Body Heat, a cocky, but legally unintense, small-town Florida lawyer (William Hurt) has some pretty torrid consultations with Kathleen Turner. She has him figured: apt sexually and inept legally. Just what she wanted. Unethical? Probably. Criminal? Absolutely! Or consider Fatal Attraction, in which the big-firm Manhattan lawyer played by Michael Douglas beds not only Anne Archer, but Glenn Close too. Hot, yes, but ultimately deadly. And in Legal Eagles, Robert Redford develops an in-camera rapport with Daryl Hannah-she happens to be the defendant in the case he is prosecuting. Those attorneys may have made love well, but they did not love wisely. So, are there any lawyers who loved well and wisely? There have been a few, over the years, but they tend toward the artistic purgatory known as PG-13. The plight of lawyers was brought into sharp focus by Erin Brockovich’s biker boyfriend who logs hours as a babysitter as she breaks toxic-tort ground. He gets tired of Erin spending all her time combing through files and taking statements. Feeling taken for granted, he broaches an ultimatum: “Erin, I’m thinkin’ either you get a different job, or get a different guy.” There’s the rub in a nutshell: A professional virtue is a personal curse. A case can turn on one small detail. Good lawyers comb boxes of documents for that pivotal flaw. That kind of focus, that kind of scrutiny-that kind of attention to detail-would doom many personal relationships, where inconsistencies and imperfections are part of the package. Intensity and preoccupation may well bring about success in the courtroom, but the blinders may remove romantic possibilities from view. That’s not to say that good lawyers must a priori be bad lovers, or that bad lawyers are more likely to make good lovers. But there does seem to be a pattern: The steamy stuff comes from the unethical and arguably immoral involvements-relationships that violate professional or marital vows, or both. So, are you in? The class action- lawyers versus Hollywood. Of course, the truth may be their best defense. Joseph H. Cooper’s one-act plays were performed at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Conn., in 2002 and 2003. Cooper is working on a study of lawyers in film.

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