I took a little staycation over the holiday season. I puttered around the house and caught up on all sorts of neglected projects with my trusty canine companions, Daisy and Betty, trailing behind me, much like Lord Grantham's pooch, Isis. Twin Cities Public Television made all of this domesticity possible by airing marathon-style all previously-aired five seasons of Downton Abbey.
Just in case you've never watched this acclaimed Masterpiece Theater production, here is some background. The most intriguing aspects of Downton Abbey are not the above stairs romances of the aristocrats or the machinations of the Iago-like Mr. Barrows. No, the most intriguing aspects of Downton Abbey involve the characters—male, female, old or young—who face the changing social and technological world of the early 20th century. And, of course, we can relate the stories of our favorite Downton characters to the legal profession.
As we watch Mr. Carson preside over the table downstairs, it is impossible not to recognize the similarities between the bench, the formal processes of the justice system and the people ruled over by our laws. As we watch Lady Mary grapple with the cruel impact of primogeniture, we cannot help but consider the historic and even current struggle of women to succeed in the legal profession. As we watch housemaid Ethel, Tom Branson, Lady Edith and Lady Rose deal with a whole host of socially unacceptable relationship choices and ramifications, we must acknowledge how our profession remains closed to people of color and many others who are not born into a socio-economic situation that provides an educational path to law school. As Anna, Mr. Bates and Mr. Barrow navigate love, homosexuality, crime and their own pasts, we can see how all of us must navigate our own legal careers through our professional and personal lives. And, finally, as we watch the angst and drama that surrounds the fate of the Abbey itself, we consider the fate and future of our law schools and the legal profession challenged with new client-serving competitors.
So as I settle in to watch the final season of Downton Abbey with Daisy and Betty by my side, I am eagerly awaiting the episodes that will resolve the stories of characters that have become friends. I ponder how our profession and its stakeholders will navigate the changing times we find ourselves in, much like Downton Abbey and its inhabitants.