Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
If, like me, you’re an in-house lawyer eagerly awaiting the February broadcast of the Seventy-seventh Academy Awards, you’ll no doubt share my disappointment at the lack of corporate counsel movies (or even roles) nominated for one of those handsome gold statuettes. The few lawyers who make it to the big screen usually seem to be litigators. From the towering Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to the strutting Vincent Gambini in “My Cousin Vinny,” the trial lawyers — in celluloid, as in real life — hog the limelight. Yet, due diligence will reward the tenacious counselor-cum-critic with a small collection of movies featuring in-house lawyers. The roles aren’t always played by stars, but they’re good to see anyway. Here are my awards for the Best Corporate Counsel Roles and Films. BEST IN-HOUSE COUNSEL IN A FAMILY-CONTROLLED ENTITY Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), consigliere to two generations of the Corleone family in “The Godfather” I and II (1972 and 1974). Hagen epitomizes the loyal and trusted in-house counsel, adviser to his don and emissary to competitors and potential strategic partners (e.g., movie studio head Jack Woltz) alike. As the young Michael Corleone says of Hagen, “He’s not a Sicilian, but he’s a good lawyer.” Case in point: Hagen’s negotiation in Hollywood with Woltz, in a bid to secure a starring film role for Don Corleone’s godson, singer Johnny Fontane. Rebuffed by Woltz, Hagen decamps to New York pronto and tells the Don about Woltz’s refusal; soon after Woltz discovers an unexpected equine body part in his silk sheets; Johnny gets the role; and a GC successfully closes another deal. BEST NUTSHELL REVIEW OF FIRST AMENDMENT LAW Davidek (John Harkin), in-house counsel at the Miami Standard newspaper in Absence of Malice (1981). In a matter of mere minutes, Davidek — without so much as a first name in the movie — explains 20 years of libel jurisprudence to reporter Meghan Carter (Sally Field), who insists she has written only the truth about reputed mobster (and later in the film, romantic interest) Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman). “If newspapers printed nothing but the truth,” Davidek explains, “they need never employ attorneys, and I should be out of work … which I am not.” BEST FALL FROM CORPORATE GRACE Helen Caperelli (Gina Gershon), general counsel of CBS, in “The Insider” (1999). It takes a pretty tough lawyer to order “60 Minutes” anchor Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) to kill an explosive interview with former Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation chief of research Jeffrey Wygand (Russell Crowe). Wygand told CBS news that B&W knew that tobacco is addictive. This admission violated Wygand’s confidentiality agreement with the company and, according to Caperelli, put CBS Corporate at risk of a tortious interference claim. Ultimately, the story is proven true, and Wallace puts a cowed Caperelli in her place: “We work in the same corporation. … [That] doesn’t mean we work in the same profession.” BEST COMEUPPANCE OF IN-HOUSE COUNSEL AS CORPORATE SCUM Lawyers for polluter Pacific Gas & Electric Company, whose discharge of hexavalent chromium caused hundreds of cancers among the townspeople of Hinkley, California, in “Erin Brockovich” (2000). Early in the film, junior PG&E counsel Foil (T.J. Thyne) delivers a lowball settlement offer to Brockovich (Julia Roberts) and plaintiffs counsel Ed Masry (Albert Finney), blaming the plaintiffs’ cancers on their personal habits and “irresponsible lifestyle.” During later settlement talks, while lifting a glass of water to her lips, PG&E lawyer Sanchez (Gina Gallego) suggests that the company’s $20 million settlement offer “is more money than these people have ever dreamed of.” Brockovich responds, “By the way, we had that water brought in especially for you folks. Came from a well in Hinkley.” BEST IN-HOUSE COUNSEL MOVE AS GUILTY PLEASEURE Romantic comedy “Two Weeks Notice” (2002). Ironically, the one movie that actually stars a GC — Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) as the legal adviser and love interest of CEO George Wade (Hugh Grant) — is the least substantive of the lot. Bullock and Grant look great; meet; break up; and then fall in love. Sounds just like your job, no? Bob Feinberg is deputy general counsel of ALM, Corporate Counsel’s parent company.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.