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Give the boob tube credit. It has transformed a profession whose most spine-tingling moments consist of hole-punching exhibit tabs into real drama. Medicine, yes. Even cop shows. But law? Don’t those Hollywood studios know what we do for a living? Sure, there are the Johnnie Cochrans among us, but even Johnnie has to read a deposition transcript once in a while (or at least the index). Watching lawyers do their lawyerly thing on television, you’d think we were good-looking, sharply dressed, smart, oversexed, and devoted, when, in fact, most of us wouldn’t wish this career on our kids. With the premiere (and inevitable rapid demise) of NBC’s “First Years,” we briefly had no less than 10 — count ‘em, 10 — shows on network prime time television about lawyers (and that doesn’t count “Judge Judy” and all those “Matlock” reruns). Coming for the fall, so we’ve been warned, are more lawyer shows, including two about the Supreme Court. (Now there’s a dramatic challenge for a screenwriter.) Literary license has always been Hollywood’s right, and it’s easy to see, in some respects, how the adversarial nature of the legal system lends itself easily to the screen. All that righteous indignation! Stripped of the documents, the redlining, the Bates stamper, stripped of everything, in fact, except the protagonists, law is actually quite thrilling. Good against evil; might against right; truth, justice, and the American way. It’s the reason we went to law school in the first place. But television is doing a great disservice to the nation’s young, in more than the obvious way. It has raised the bar, convinced our impressionable youth who might otherwise find their moral compass in the wisdom of rapper Eminem that they can work all night and still look respectable in the morning. This, of course, is false, tragically so. Working all night means cartons of Chinese food, greasy lips, terrible complexions, and very, very bad breath. It means failed relationships (one thing television sometimes gets right), children who are raised by family pets or sock puppets, and expensive baubles to overcompensate for ethical lapses. It’s time television stopped sugarcoating the practice, and took a good hard look at what we do for a living. The upcoming writer’s strike gives TV execs the perfect opportunity to revamp the current fare with some “reality” shows. With that in mind, I offer some suggestions: “The IPO” — Seven men and one woman sit around a conference table with bowls of M&M’s and Diet Cokes arguing about whether the possessive of Cisco Systems Inc. is Cisco Systems’ or Cisco Systems’. The show ends with the market crashing and everyone losing his job. “The Bankruptcy 98″ — Attorneys representing 66 creditors, the debtor, and the debtor’s accounting firm gather in a small auditorium. Terms such as “convertible subordinate debenture” and “equitable cram-down” are bandied about. No one laughs. The attorneys vote to allow legal fees to be paid out of the bankrupt’s remaining assets. Hilarity ensues. “The Document Production” — A mountain of boxes in an airplane hangar. A small army of associates clambering over and among them. A copy machine and a carton of Post-Its. This goes on for months. “The Deposition” — Two lawyers and their clients face each other over a conference table for three days straight, with short breaks only for meals and sleep. “Let’s mark this as plaintiff’s exhibit 23,” says one lawyer. “Twenty-two,” says the other lawyer. “Twenty-two or 23?” the first lawyer asks the stenographer. “We’re up to 22,” she says. “Fine, let’s mark it as 22,” says the first lawyer. “Twenty-two,” repeats the stenographer. “The Time Sheet” — Loosely based on Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness,” this half-hour sitcom is actually only 12 minutes long. “The Court Appearance” — Our hero sits in a crowded courtroom waiting for his moment before the judge. He waits and waits. It seems as if his wait may go on forever. Just when it seems as if he may expire from waiting, his case is called. False alarm; it’s an attendance check. He sits down and continues to wait. He waits some more. Finally, he is called in to chambers by the clerk. The judge, a rumpled man in his late 60s, scowls at our hero and asks him what his case is about. Before he can say more than two sentences, the judge says he has 60 days to complete discovery. Our hero opens his mouth to protest, and the judge says, “How about I make it 30 days?” The judge scrawls an order and dismisses the parties. Granted, there are no dancing babies or miniskirts in my television schedule, but there’s real legal derring-do. And if these shows fail to work out, I offer them as titles for the next John Grisham novel.

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