On the heels of posts about television legal dramas by Jonathan Siegel and Jon Ip, consider The Good Wife, now airing on CBS. (I haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, so no spoilers here.) The show is mostly about a wife dealing with the very public revelation that her elected-official husband frequented prostitutes. This storyline is good and the reason I’m still watching. But Alicia is an associate at a Chicago law firm and quite a bit of the show takes place there.
I’d been trying to figure out why The Good Wife feels so dated, even though Alicia’s family is a victim of the 24-hour news cycle and her kids are extremely wired. Then it hit me—the law firm is way too pre-2008. The associates are given a stern lecture about needing to increase billable hours. Where’s the angst about the viability of billable hours and the future of the law firm business model? Moreover, doesn’t the lecture mean that the firm has excess work and is just lacking someone who will step up and do it? There’s a passing reference to the firm hiring more associates than it will need over the long term, but where are the rescinded offers and the cancelled summer program? The writers need to start reading Above the Law and borrowing liberally.
Granted, television rarely provides a realistic look at how law firms really work. (See Ally McBeal.) I do hope, however, that The Good Wife doesn’t inspire too many would-be law students. These attorneys are way, way too comfortable.