Pet peeve #37: Media and television accounts of legal concepts that are procedurally or substantively inaccurate.
As a child, my mother would point out all of the obvious mistakes in E.R., such as shocking a patient through his clothes. The same issue plagues legal dramas (ask leading questions on cross-examination, you fool!) and even news reports on legal topics. A layperson will misstate the holding of a case or the implications of an appellate opinion because he neglected to consult a lawyer.
How hard is it to find an unemployed attorney or law graduate to translate landmark legal opinions or talk the screenwriters through courtroom procedure?
There is a big difference between legal dramas and the evening news, however. When it comes to fiction, faux pas are acceptable. We should expect more from the news and reputable blogs. That's why blogs benefit from hiring lawyers to cover legal stories.
Poyntr reports on Nilay Patel, the managing editor of Verge, formerly of Engadget, who began his professional life as an attorney defending students sued for downloading music before making the transition to blogging and editing. His expertise came in handy for the Verge's coverage of the Apple-Samsung trial and the Instagram Terms of Service debacle. He seems to be quite fulfilled in his new profession and enjoys translating legal-ese to plain English for laypeople.
Here at FindLaw, we do much of the same thing. Though some of our blogs, such as this one, are targeted at legal professionals, most of our blogs cover legal topics but are targeted towards laypeople. Who writes our blogs? Lawyers.
Having a lawyer on staff means news reports can go deeper than guilty versus not guilty and can instead discuss defensive strategy, elements of a crime, and substantive legal issues.
A decade ago, it might have been prohibitively expensive to lure a lawyer out of the practice of law. Today, with a massive labor surplus, you likely wouldn't pay the lawyer much more than your ordinary J-school graduate.
As for the legion of available lawyers, whether they are unemployed recent graduates or over-stressed experienced attorneys, working in the news or blogging beats unemployment or a stroke. Plus, it provides non-practicing lawyers with careers that use their legal skills and offer better hours.
It's a win-win situation.