Where criticism of Biglaw keeps pouring down
All lawyers are evil and corrupt – or so we are led to believe by Matt Damon in this classic 90s legal thriller. There are plenty of not-so-subtle digs at the profession peppered throughout, including the classic:
How do you know when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.
And the even more colourful:
What’s the difference between a hooker and a lawyer? A hooker’ll stop screwing you after you’re dead.
All lawyers, that is, apart from the hero, Rudy Baylor. Baylor, played by a very fresh faced Mr Damon, is an idealistic son of a gun who has beaten all the odds – broken home, lack of funding etc etc – to graduate from law school.
Joining the dodgiest ambulance-chasing law firm in town, our plucky Mr Baylor finds himself up against the evil corporate lawyer Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight) and his team who are denying the insurance claim of leukaemia sufferer Donny Ray Black.
Blurring the professional/personal boundaries, Mr Baylor is lawyer, friend and confidante to the whole Black family – plus another couple of waifs and strays he picks up along the way, including love interest Kelly Riker (Claire Danes) whom he ‘rescues’ from her abusive husband by, er, murdering him.
So what can we learn from this tale of corporate woe? Firstly, that evil lawyers play well in terms of critical acclaim: Jon Voight was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the dastardly Mr Drummond. Secondly, that standing on a (albeit rather iffy) moral high horse will always lead to triumph.
Even if that triumph means you never see a penny and quit after your first trial. KM