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Trial attorneys with a knack for swaying juries are discovering a new outlet for their lawyering skills: activism. Whether hosting radio or TV shows, or producing or starring in movies, lawyers are popping up all over the mainstream media, either pushing a cause, lobbying a viewpoint or simply taking on politicians with whom they disagree. Two key elements driving them from the courtroom to the airwaves, they say, are a desire to preserve the dignity of the legal profession and a need to educate the American public on pressing legal issues. In Illinois, the plaintiffs’ law firm SimmonsCooper is now hosting a weekly radio show called The Law in Your Life, in which attorneys discuss everything from tort reform to the immigration movement to pharmaceutical litigation. In Florida, two attorneys from the plaintiffs’ firm Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor host a nationally syndicated radio show called Ring of Fire, which aims to expose government and corporate corruption. Also in Florida, a partner at Baker Hostetler, a key player in the local Republican Party, hosts a political weekly radio show called Talkin’ With Tico, during which he answers viewers’ questions about various legal and political issues. He also has a weekly spot on an Orlando, Fla., TV station in which he debates a prominent Democrat on issues of the day. And in Michigan, plaintiffs’ lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, former attorney to assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, is continually using the media to make a point: hosting a radio and a TV show, and funding commercials that bash tort reform. He even made a run for governor. But should lawyers be activists? “Absolutely. It’s the right thing to do. You don’t want to live the life of quiet desperation,” said Fieger of Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Johnson in Southfield, Mich. Fieger believes that lawyers, like legislators, are obligated to be politically active, and let voters know exactly what and who they’re voting for. “We’re part of the judiciary,” Fieger said. “Just like legislators’ jobs are to alert people that they represent about issues, attorneys’ jobs are similar. We have as much a responsibility to protect the Constitution and alert the populace as to what’s going on as anybody else.” But some attorneys believe lawyers should stick to fighting for causes inside the courtroom-not on the airwaves. Acting like ‘regulators’ Glen Lammi, an attorney with the Washington Legal Foundation, a pro-business interest group that has advocated for companies in asbestos and tobacco litigation, believes that plaintiffs’ attorneys espousing their views on radio shows “perverts the role of lawyers in society. “It shows that there is no end to the creativity of plaintiffs’ lawyers when it comes to getting their messages out,” said Lammi. “Rather than being advocates for their client they’ve become advocates for a cause . . . .They’ve taken on this role that they’re here to fill in the gaps as regulators rather than officers of the court.” Trial attorney Mike Papantonio, who co-hosts the weekly Ring of Fire radio show, said his motivation for starting a radio show is simple: protecting and preserving personal freedoms. On his nearly two-year-old show, Papantonio, who co-hosts with his law partner Robert F. Kennedy Jr., expresses, among other things, his outrage with the war on Iraq, illegal wiretapping by the federal government and environmental problems. He aims both to educate and outrage the public. “Who is better equipped to do this than lawyers?” Papantonio asked. “We have the financial wherewithal to do it. We have the capability to do it. We are the perfect class of people to fight this fight.” Jeff Cooper of SimmonsCooper in East Alton, Ill., who started The Law in Your Life radio show in January, agreed, saying it’s a lawyer’s job “to be vocal about the issues of the day. “I don’t think that a lawyer’s job does stop at the courthouse,” Cooper said. “There is certainly a fine line that you don’t want to cross, but I don’t think that merely educating people is crossing the line.”

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