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You Can't Handle the Truth

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, July 27, 2015

For many, this famous line from Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men forcefully spat out by Jack Nicholson while being examined by Navy lawyer Tom Cruise embodies the dynamic and powerful role of the lawyer in the adversarial system -- the warrior seeking and forcing the villain to blurt out the truth so that justice can be served.  Watch and appreciate both the acting and the great script: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnO3igOkOk&sns=em

 

While fantastic and impactful, this line was uttered not by a real witness responding to questioning by a real lawyer but by an actor who was playing a role.  We have all seen Jack and Tom in other roles.  Some good, some bad.  Ironically, I saw the play A Few Good Men performed on Broadway several years before the movie came out.  Timothy Busfield played the Tom Cruise role while Ron Perlmen played the Jack Nicholson role (I cannot even recall the names of the characters, just the actors who played the roles).  I thought the line and the scene immortalized by Jack and Tom was just as great the first time I saw it, but then I also liked Ron Perlman as Hellboy (in both movies and hopefully a third) and I just saw Timothy Busfield kissing Melissa Gilbert (yes, Laura Ingalls Wilder!) in the Austin, Texas airport in May. 

 

Movies (or plays) are just movies (or plays) and actors are just people performing roles.  Actors, no matter how iconic a single performance may be, play roles. Many different roles.   And guess what, so do lawyers.  While many (I might even guess most) of us went to law school because we aspired to be the truth seeking warrior who wrangles the evil bad guy into admitting the truth with our wit and verbal dexterity, most of us as lawyers play very different roles within the legal and economic system.  

 

I can handle the truth.  I'm not a legal warrior.  I'm a transactional lawyer.  There is no "T" emblazoned on a spandex super-suit that I hide under my dress and cardigan.  While I’m not a super hero (or even a Super Lawyer) I do rush to the call for "Help!" from my clients.  I just don’t do so in a court room and most of what I do does not involve dramatic scenes enacted in a courtroom.  Instead I'm just a steady-as-you-go specialized lawyer who assists my clients through the ever more complicated tangle of legal and tax regulations imposed on businesses of all kinds.  That is the role I play in our legal system. 

 

The truth is that while most of us went to law school planning to be the fictional lawyers who populate books and films, we became the lawyers who make up the complex but beautiful quilt that is the Hennepin County bar.  All of us play an equally important role within the legal and economic justice system even if we cannot make Jack Nicholson admit the truth.

 

What role do you play in the legal system? 

 

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Tags:  Movies  President  Transactional Lawyer 

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