Whether it’s Jack Nicholson screaming, “You can’t handle the truth!!” in A Few Good Men or Reese Witherspoon breaking down the cardinal rules of perm maintenance in Legally Blonde; everyone has a favorite legal movie. At Torgenson Law, we love a great movie or television series that ends in a nail-biting courtroom scene. However, we also love to nitpick at Hollywood’s many exaggerations or complete misrepresentations about being an injury lawyer and the litigation process as a whole. For your entertainment, here are five misconceptions Hollywood creates about lawyers and legal proceedings.
To be fair to Hollywood, their job is to tell an entertaining story. The momentum shifts of a trial ending with a suspenseful jury verdict are much easier to sell than a movie about a settlement conference. With that said, the overwhelming majority of cases settle or resolve well before trial. In fact, in Arizona, less than 3% of civil cases go to Trial. Most cases are even resolved before a legal complaint is filed.
For example, here at Torgenson Law, before filing a complaint on behalf of our clients, we first attempt to negotiate their claim with the adverse party’s insurance company. If the insurance company makes a settlement offer that is satisfactory to our client, we can resolve the claim efficiently without being burdened by delays and expenses of the litigation process. However, even in cases where we file the lawsuit, those cases can typically be settled before the trial date.
In movies, lawyers spend every waking hour arguing against one another in front of a judge. However, the truth is, lawyers spend very little time in an actual courtroom. While you may see Hollywood lawyers in a hearing in front of a judge, Hollywood omits the weeks it takes to draft the motion, the response, and the reply briefs that led the attorneys to that point. In real life, most lawyers spend their days in an office, reading, writing, or communicating with their clients.
Lawyer movies can be broken down into three acts: (1) The facts that gave rise to the lawsuit; (2) Preparation for the trial; and (3) the trial itself. In movies, this takes roughly two hours. Obviously, Hollywood is limited by the time constraints of a feature film. Still, Hollywood’s general portrayal of the litigation process is very misleading. Relying solely on lawyer movies, one would believe that the litigation process (from complaint to jury verdict) lasts a few weeks to a couple months at most. In reality, this process can easily take two to three years if not more. Parties typically have up to a month to respond to pleadings, motions, and discovery requests. Not to mention, any hearings, arguments, or conferences with the court have to be scheduled around the judge’s already busy calendar.
In almost every lawyer movie, you see one of the attorneys breaking into a file cabinet, having a secret meeting with a witness, or blatantly lying to opposing counsel or the judge. What these movies do not tell you is that these actions could lead to suspensions or even revocation of their license to practice law. While Hollywood lawyers are more than willing to risk their law licenses, almost all real lawyers are honest and mindful of their ethical responsibilities to their clients and the court.
Finally, Hollywood lawyers are depicted as working alone through the night buried under a pile of paperwork, as they prepare for the impending trial. To be sure, being a lawyer can be stressful and often requires late nights in the office. However, it is hardly ever a one-person show. It takes an experienced and committed team of lawyers, paralegals, and administrative assistants to take on any given case.
At Torgenson Law, our staff works together as a unified team for the benefit of all our clients. We strive to resolve our clients’ personal injury cases as efficiently and effectively as possible. Whether that takes a few weeks of negotiation or trial, we will not stop until you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injuries, don’t rely on Hollywood to determine whether you should file a claim. Call Torgenson Law at (602) 726-0747, and we can help you understand what to expect in your personal injury lawsuit.