Premiere (7/28): The Case of the Three-Legged Coroner
Welcome to the premiere of The Law Firm. This episode was originally advertised as being two hours long but mysteriously became 59 minutes. As a result, we are left with a show where the storyline is hard to decipher even for a law school graduate. LG. and I will be your recappers for this legal competition hosted by Roy “The Fist” Black. If you didn’t see the premiere, that last line will make no sense to you. Trust me. For some reason, Roy seems to use a closed fist to emphasize his points when talking to the competitors. Without more ado, let’s get the competition started!
The Circling of the Sharks
The show opens with “Pressure” as the theme song. Voiceover Man informs us that the twelve “promising” attorneys have come to prove themselves to Roy. Roy’s famous clients include William Kennedy Smith and Rush Limbaugh. Can I just say, “Yuck.” I wonder how Roy missed out on being part of the O.J. Simpson defense team. Each week, the associates will be divided into teams and go head to head in some of the toughest trials of their lives. In the end, one will take home $250,000.
The twelve competitors enter a generic looking lobby area of an equally generic LA office tower which houses “The Law Firm.” The receptionist who is no Robin from The Apprentice tells them to go to the Lounge and wait for the Managing Partner to contact them. I’ve never been to a law firm that had a lounge. A lunchroom, a cafeteria, or even an exercise room yes. A lounge, no. There is no lounging in private practice. Its bill, bill, bill people.
While the contestants wait for Roy to arrive, they introduce themselves to each other. The twelve competitors are:
Anika describes the group as being made up of cocky kind of aggressive types and quiet secretly aggressive types. No! I would have never guessed that about twelve young lawyers willing to go on a reality series. Elizabeth thinks that Anika is a killer whose claws are going to come out. Barrett singles out Olivier as being cocky and thinks that he isn’t going to be able to back up his talk. As it turns out, Barrett is the master of understatement, at least when it comes to Olivier’s cockiness.
Michael quickly identifies Chris who has seven years of trial experience as a contender. Deep says that his first impression of Regina is that she is going to be a bulldog. Regina is the most intimidated by Michael because of his demeanor and the way he carries himself. Kelly seems to have her priorities a wee bit askew. She comments on the men, and I don’t mean their legal skills. Perhaps she thought she’d signed up for The Bachelor.
Keith says that Jason appears to have a folksy down home Midwestern attitude about him. Jason tells us that he entered because he loves to compete, loves the law, and loves to win.
The anonymous receptionist comes to the lounge and tells the associates that the Managing Partner would like to meet with them in the conference room. Everyone sits around the conference table while dramatic music plays. Roy Black enters the room and welcomes the associates. He states that the twelve of them are going to embark on an unusual journey and are going to try real cases with real people which will have real consequences.
Roy says that he doesn’t care where they went to law school and doesn’t care what their GPA was. What Roy is interested in is how the associates can perform under the pressure and stress of the real courtroom. Sadly, this is not how getting hired at a law firm in the real world works; at least not for associates. Michael and Chris both seem to have a little hero worship going on when it comes to Roy.
Roy and his signature fist explains that each week he will be evaluating the associates’ performances and one or two will be dismissed. The final associate will win $250,000 and recognition by Roy as the finest young trial lawyer of The Law Firm. Seems like kind of a lame prize to me. I mean the money is nice but you’d think a major network could have forked up at least $500,000.
Roy then tells the associates about this week’s cases. The first case is Candy Danzig v. George Leach. Candy claims that her three-legged dog Dingo was dragged through the fence by her neighbor’s two large mastiffs and mauled. No, seriously. George claims that he is not responsible for Dingo’s injuries.
The second case involves a plaintiff, Karen Allen (no not the one who was in Raiders of the Lost Ark) who is suing her local coroner Bill Ryan who used his lights and sirens to pull her over for a traffic violation even though he had no legal authority to do so. She did not learn he wasn’t a police officer until later. Bill says that he was just acting as a good citizen. I’m pretty sure your average citizen doesn’t have a car that comes equipped with lights and a siren.
The associates have been randomly divided into four teams of three. After the verdicts have been rendered and Roy has evaluated the associates’ trial preparation and performance, two of them will be eliminated. Roy also announces that winning the trial does not make an associate safe. This seems infinitely fair to me because as a friend of mine once explained you don’t pick your clients or the facts. They pick you. Even the best trial lawyer can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear all the time and sometimes you win despite your performance.
Roy informs them that the case notes and team assignments are in the binders in front of each associate. Before Roy leaves, he admonishes the associates that the practice of law means acting with commitment and caring. While these aren’t the biggest cases they’ll try in the competition, they are important to the clients. Roy says that he better see some real passion and commitment or you are gone. He then wishes them all good luck.
With 48 hours to go before trial, we see the plaintiff’s team in the Dog Fight Case consisting of Jason, Keith, and Aileen. Keith thinks that if the attack took place entirely on the defendant’s property they have a problem. Jason, on the other hand, feels confident. As he explains, with a three-legged dog all you need to do is point at the dog. All Candy is asking for is reimbursement for medical expenses. As we later learn, this is a slight misstatement which is surely due to the editing at least in part.
The defense team for the Dog Fight Case is Olivier, Regina, and Anika. Olivier is of the opinion that the whole thing is so melodramatic. He decides to mock Candy’s statement about what happened while smiling the whole time. As a dog owner, I want to smack him.
Aileen and Keith go to Candy’s house to see what the scene where the attack occurred is like. Candy shows them the portion of the fence where the hole was. Keith admits that he has reservations about Candy as a witness. He thinks she is very emotionally attached to Dingo but is all over the map. Aileen feels that it is critical to the case that the judge sees Dingo.
Olivier, Regina, and Anika also go to the scene. They want to talk to George in his own environment. George is best described as crusty. George takes them to meet his mastiffs in their pen. The dogs scare me even through the television screen. George much to my disbelief tells his defense team that a blindfolded monkey could tell you these weren’t aggressive dogs. Perhaps that’s true since the monkey wouldn’t be able to see their snarling faces. Anika not being stupid or blindfolded looks nervous as we go to commercial.
Practice Makes Less Than Perfect
When we come back, it is 26 hours before trial. We see the plaintiff’s team in the Overzealous Coroner Case which consists of Kelly, Michael, and Deep. They discuss that to prove damages they will need to show that the plaintiff believed she was being pulled over by a police officer. As one of them mentions, you see flashing lights, you pull over.
The defense team is Barrett, Elizabeth, and Chris. They seem to be drifting towards a defense based on the fact that Bill didn’t actually identify himself as a police officer and instead just asked to see her driver’s license. Chris shows that he may have a hard time being a team player by talking about my client. They interview Coroner Bill who explains that she passed him on the right going over the speed limit.
Deep interviews the plaintiff and learns that a week later she went to a restaurant and Coroner Bill was there with his family. She pointed him out to her companions as the policeman who had pulled her over. Her friend’s husband was the one who told her that Bill was no policeman but was instead the coroner.
Elizabeth says that she feels like his intention was definitely to protect the public, Deep, on the other hand, says that we are going to send a message to the coroner that he is not Barney Fife and needs to stick to going and picking up dead bodies.
The Dogfight defense team is starting to bicker. Olivier does not listen to anything Regina says. He just keeps repeating that he is going to keep it light but doesn’t elaborate on his strategy at all and brushes off Regina’s questions.
Michael emphasizes that the Coroner Case is not about whether Bill has a good personality. He thinks the plaintiff’s team needs to emphasize the word “vigilante” as often as possible. Kelly for some strange reason pipes up and says that she think of vigilante as having a positive connotation. Michael shoots her down and tells us that Kelly is the weak link on their team. As far as he’s concerned, a lot of her ideas have been completely off the mark.
Elizabeth says that Bill is a completely controversial character and the defense team ought to confront it head on. Chris admits that he is used to working alone and that it is hard for him to have other people involved. He says that he thinks Elizabeth and Barrett are both great attorneys, but he’s having a hard time working with them. Why do I think Chris got needs improvement in plays well with others in kindergarten? He ends up telling Elizabeth and Barrett that he is going to go to The Lounge and go over some stuff.
Meanwhile, Kelly is worried that she is not going to be able to memorize her opening statement. Deep starts to become my favorite when he tells her in an encouraging way not to try to memorize it but to instead keep it short and simple and stick to the facts. Our buddy Foreshadowing pops in and we see Kelly stumbling mightily while practicing her opening. Mike admits that he’d feel better if their team consisted solely of Deep and him.
At 2:30 am, we see Aileen and the other members of the plaintiff’s team in The Dog Fight Case still at work. She asks if they are the only ones still there. As we learn, they are not. Anika is about to have a nervous breakdown because of all the bickering between Olivier and Regina.
Trial By Fire
The next morning, it is time for the associates to try the cases. Dingo limps his way down the hallway to the courtroom as Aileen jokes to Candy that Dingo walks better than she does in the heels she is wearing.
Regina, Anika, and Olivier appear stunned when Dingo enters the courtroom. Regina tells the camera that she thinks Jason, Keith, and Aileen should have told the defense that they were bringing the three-legged dog to the courtroom. Cry baby. Olivier decides to raise an objection to Dingo’s presence to the judge whose name according to his nameplate is Howard Broadman. Aileen tries to play innocent and say that the dog is the center of the plaintiff’s case. The judge being no dummy brings up the fact that Dingo is there to play on the court’s sympathy. Judge Broadman brushes aside her protestation and says that it is aggressive lawyering and that bringing Dingo into the courtroom is all about generating sympathy. He acknowledges that it also seems unfair for him not to see the dog.
Olivier tries to say that the presence of the dog has no relevance to the issues in the case. As it turns out, this is true. Due to the editing though there is no way to know that at this point. Judge Broadman gives Aileen a stern speech and warns her that if she had pulled this stunt with a jury present he would have declared a mistrial and sanctioned her. Aileen is suitably humble to the judge. She tells us that she would have never brought Dingo into the courtroom if there was a jury without getting the judge’s permission first.
The Overzealous Coroner Case is also starting. Kelly says that she feels confident but as you know in law there is no sure thing. Oww! Foreshadowing will you please knock it off. Geesh. Chris explains that this case is an arbitration and that it is a little less formal than a trial. We get no explanation as to how a case involving two parties from Wyoming ended up in arbitration in Los Angeles. The humorless female arbitrator whose name is never revealed as far as I saw says that they’ll start with the plaintiff. Kelly starts out confidently with her opening statement. It all goes downhill from there. The judge keeps interrupting her and she gets really flustered. It could have only gone worse if Kelly had burst into singing, “Cracklin’ Rosie” to the arbitrator. Frankly, I wonder if the arbitrator was instructed to be hard on the associates.
Barrett says that she thought Kelly’s opening was a disaster. Deep admits that he wanted to put his head in his hands but because he couldn’t he was just hoping she’d end it.
As the trials go on, we flash back and forth and see only small pieces. Chris does a great job both objecting during the direct of the plaintiff in the Coroner Case and cross examining the plaintiff. He makes her admit that she has no medical bills to back up her claim that the incident caused her to seek counseling and he throws off Michael’s direct exam.
George proves to be impervious to coaching despite the defense team’s best efforts. His testimony starts out fine when he is talking about Gina and Nikko his mastiffs. It goes badly for the defense from there. George ends up rambling about how he got a car horn and would blare it every time he’d let the dogs out. This is accompanied by him whooping, “Wah, wah!” He also demonstrates how he would yell, “Big dogs running, big dogs running!” Regina who is handling the direct stands helplessly by while her witness implodes. Aileen has to put her hand over her mouth to cover her grin.
And Dingo Was His Name-O
Jason handles the cross examination of George. At this point we actually got a hint as to what the case was really about. Apparently George had already paid Dingo’s medical bills at least partially and wanted his money back. George felt like Candy had made misrepresentations about what happened. In particular, George says that Candy told him she saw his dogs tear the hole in the fence. Jason has a terrible time on cross with George. Generally, you want to ask questions that only allow a yes or no answer. Jason instead gives George the opportunity to ramble on and call him son. When Jason tries to cut off an answer that he invited, Judge Broadman tells him he can’t do that. Keith, only having to confront the camera and not George says that George would never have gotten away with calling him son.
On redirect, Regina asks George if Dingo has ever bitten anyone. George says yes, the plaintiff. He then adds that you could cut off all of Dingo’s legs and he’d still be a menace to society. Jason who doesn’t realize that this testimony is golden for the plaintiff not only objects but also tries to strike the testimony. Keith is flabbergasted. Even the judge asks Jason what he was thinking.
Despite the fact that Mike irritates Deep by trying to tell him how to cross Coroner Bill during a break, Deep does a great job. He gets Bill to admit that he himself was exceeding the speed limit by quite a bit while he was chasing down the plaintiff. Chris is duly impressed and says that people underestimate Deep just like they underestimate him.
Mike handles the closing and does manage to do a good job. Chris grudgingly says that Mike thinks he knows everything and is very snide but he did a hell of a job.
Olivier’s closing by contrast is simply annoying. He keeps calling his client, “Mr. Leash” instead of Mr. Leach. Olivier also tries to make George sound like a normal guy with nice fluffy pets and emphasizes that he agreed to pay for Dingo’s injuries only because Candy said she saw the attack.
Keith gives the closing for the plaintiff in the Dog Fight Case. He describes the incident as a tragedy or a tragedy averted. He even throws in the phrase “dominion or control.” He ends his closing with George’s statement about cutting off all of Dingo’s legs.
The bundle of fun arbitrator delivers her opinion and awards $5,000 in compensatory damages to the plaintiff. Elizabeth and Barrett don’t take losing well. Kelly with Foreshadowing tapping her on her shoulder tells us that hopefully the win saved her for another week. Deep is more realistic saying that he is happy they won but that doesn’t mean any of them are safe.
After a ten minute recess, Judge Broadman comes back in to the courtroom to deliver his opinion. He tells the litigants that he has considered the evidence and admonishes Candy that she knew there were big dogs next door and that Dingo stuck his head through the fence. However, he tells George that he said he would pay the bill. Judge Broadman says that a man’s word is only as good as his bond and that George will pay. In other words, this was really a contract case about whether George had entered a binding agreement to pay Dingo’s medical bills and whether Candy’s representations rose to the level of fraud. Most of what we saw had nothing to do with the real issue.
Aileen prods Foreshadowing with a stick and says that she bets all three of the plaintiff’s team is safe. Olivier for whom I am developing a healthy dislike says that he was furious but the bottom line is that he doesn’t think Regina is a good attorney. Regina showing that she can read people well says that she is worried and that she thinks Olivier’s strategy will be to blame her for the loss and try to get her dismissed.
The Boardroom The Final Deliberations
Olivier being unable to admit he got out thought confronts Keith in the kitchen and chides him about bringing Dingo to court. The truth is that the defense team should have anticipated the plaintiff’s team would try to bring Dingo to court and brought a peremptory motion to exclude Dingo from the courtroom. Olivier won’t let the matter go and tells Keith they need to air this out in case they end up on a team together. Keith curses him out and calls him on his bull. Keith tells us that he doesn’t think Olivier is capable of assessing his own weaknesses and that he is a sore loser. I now really hope they do end up teamed together so Keith can kick his smarmy ass.
It is time for Roy to meet with the associates and dismiss two of them. Going into the dismissals, Michael and Jason are both confident although Jason tells us that he is trying not to be cavalier or overconfident. Olivier says that he thinks Regina is going and he feels good about it.
Roy starts by saying that some of the associates rose to the occasion while others faltered. When Roy brings up Dingo’s presence in the courtroom, Olivier says that he thought it was a shady maneuver. Roy tells Olivier and the rest of the defense team that they are flat out wrong. He calls bringing Dingo to court a brilliant maneuver and says the defense team flat out blew it.
Roy asks who was responsible for preparing George to testify. Regina admits it was her and that she did the best she could to get him ready. Olivier, of course, pipes up that he doesn’t think she did a good job. Keith pretty much sums it up by saying that if he thought the plaintiff’s case was on shaky ground at all before George’s testimony, he felt they were home free afterwards.
Roy turns to Jason and calls him on his objection to George’s inflammatory statement about cutting off all of Dingo’s legs. Jason gives a flip answer and says, “Yeah, I was stupid.” Maybe Roy doesn’t like flip. Roy then asks Keith what he thought of the objection and Keith agrees that it was a mistake.
Roy moves on to the second case. He starts by bringing up Kelly’s performance during the opening statement. Mike gives her lukewarm support. Roy then asks Deep why the plaintiff’s team didn’t ask for punitive damages. Mike says that they didn’t think the damages to their client were that great. Roy chews him out and says he would have definitely asked for punitive damages based on the defendant’s conduct in impersonating a police officer.
Roy asks Chris about his taking a back seat during trial preparation. Chris answers that he researched. Roy says that he isn’t looking for a researcher; he’s looking for a trial lawyer. Given what we saw of Chris’s polished and confident courtroom performance, this is puzzling to me. Most great trial lawyers don’t necessarily do a lot of the preparation work other than outlining the trial strategy and reading deposition summaries and the key documents and preparing the most important witnesses.
Winning Isn’t Everything, In Fact It’s Not Enough To Save You
When we come back from the final commercial, Roy gets right to the point. He says that he has thought long and hard. The first associate to be dismissed is a team player but took a back seat during the trial and was unable to adjust to the flow set by the judge. The verdict is in and Kelly is out. Gag on the verdict line. Kelly admits that she would have changed her strategy if she’d known what criteria Roy was going to use. The second associate has the possibility of being a great trial lawyer but was so engrossed with his own point of view he couldn’t see a major blunder by a witness. Jason is out. Jason is apparently still engrossed in his own point of view because he says that he doesn’t know why he is out. Well perhaps because you made an error that could have cost you the case.
On the West Coast we got no previews for the second episode, so I have no idea what is coming next. Join LG. next week for what is sure to be a superb recap.
If you want to help me paint a mustache on Olivier’s photograph, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org