I wouldn’t swap Stowe Family Law for The Good Wife, L.A. Law or Boston Legal!

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So goodbye forever to The Good Wife, now ended after seven years on TV, all about the life and times of fictional lawyer Alicia Florrick, and a programme that has had me hooked from the beginning.

I found myself eagerly awaiting each episode in the ongoing saga of this gorgeous-looking housewife/ mom of two teenagers, now turned hot-shot litigator. She is a good wife (in public at least) to her equally gorgeous but unscrupulous husband, former State’s Attorney Peter Florrick, who ends up as a disgraced governor. He just can’t help himself.

As it goes on, Alicia falls desperately in love with (gorgeous) lawyer and senior partner Will Gardner of the firm where she kicks off her law career as an assistant. So what happens then? Would she still be the ‘Good Wife’ or the ex-wife? Fortunately for Alicia perhaps, (or the series might have ended sooner), Will is unexpectedly murdered in court (where else?) and Alicia can only think about what might have been. And then in the final series she finally moves on to Jason, (gorgeous) former lawyer turned enquiry agent who can produce documents and evidence like a rabbit out of a hat at trial – just in the nick of time. If only.

So given that it’s so over the top, why did I enjoy it so much?

My long history with US legal dramas began with L.A. Law, at about the same time I was trying to establish myself as a lawyer in my first office in east Leeds back in the 90s. I was seduced by the fabulous offices of the partners in downtown LA where the TV series was set. I’d never seen offices like them.

So I decorated my own tiny office, and tried to copy the show. I had curtains, settees and a coffee table alongside my desk and chairs. I can’t begin to explain how proud I was of it and how influenced I was by the powerful women lawyers on that show. I worked out how I’d deal with lothario divorce lawyer Arnie Becker and win – and how shocked I was when ruthless power lawyer Rosalind Shays fell down the elevator shaft and that was the end of her.

At that time, I had a new baby and I was trying to run an office and manage a home, and a husband. It wasn’t exactly glamorous. I still remember the amazing day my brand new fax machine arrived. Suddenly I could fax lawyers countrywide to my heart’s content. They didn’t know who was at the other end of the fax – a young mum with big hair and shoulder pads in a tiny office in east Leeds trying to replicate LA Law.

But all good things come to an end, including L.A. Law. That’s when Boston Legal took over for me, a series much more hilarious, but with equally glamorous offices, once again filled with brilliant lawyers. My son Ben and I used to watch. We used to pretend I was Denny Crane and he was Alan Shore, and every time we went to Boston on holiday we had our photos taken outside the fictional offices of Crane Poole and Schmidt, in reality 555 Boylston.

We all went last year too and I tweeted for fun that I was at the offices for a meeting. Some folks tweeted back who got the joke but others thought me deadly serious.

It can’t have harmed my son because I’m proud to say he has become a bit of a hot shot litigator himself. And what series did I note he had recently recorded on his DVD? Yep. Boston Legal!

Then along came The Good Wife. The character Alicia starts off in a similar situation I was in all those years ago, a young mum trying to make it in the law….but then again, not quite.

She has the most fabulous wardrobe of clothes I have ever seen a lawyer wear for work. She never wears the same thing twice. Dressing for comfort doesn’t get a look in, something I personally find essential. How does she breathe all day? How does her hair and makeup stay like that? When does she get time to do all that shopping?

Her cases too get to trial immediately: she never has to wait, ever, for a courtroom or a judge. Rules of evidence don’t exist, disclosure is done on the hoof, her enquiry agent can get hold of more documentation than the CIA and she is legally allowed to use it.  And what’s more she is more than happy to go and see the Judge in his chambers and give him a telling off.

She doesn’t worry about getting paid – in fact, many of her cases can’t ever have been paid. Yet she attracts the US Government as a client and talks about the millions she and the others bring into the firm.

It’s all utterly, totally improbable and implausible and it wouldn’t happen in real life firms on this side of the Atlantic or the other, that’s for sure.

But that’s why I love these dramas. They’re good fun, they’re good looking and glamorous – and you have to take them with a pinch of salt.

But at the same time, there is just enough about them to make you think they’re lifelike. There is just enough drama and character and atmosphere to hook you in and keep you there – and that’s the brilliant achievement of the writers and producers.

I can now watch them all with a bit of a wry smile, since as the Senior Partner of Stowe Family Law, I am heading up the kind of firm I would never have imagined back in the early 90s, as I sat there then pretending my little one lawyer office was just like L.A. Law. And, believe me, with a national team of real life hot shot lawyers, two thirds of whom are women, I would never swap Stowe Family Law for McKenzie Brackman, Crane Poole & Schmidt or Lockhart Gardner either!

Image of Good Wife poster by Jamie Luther via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence. Box set images via Amazon

Marilyn Stowe

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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4 comments

Hank - May 12, 2016 at 9:09am

Interesting personal recollections — it helps to get the human angle, especially done in an honest way, not blowing one’s own horn, just putting things into perspective….

But can you explain something I have never really understood, although I have some theories — WHY are so many divorce lawyers WOMEN? And, sadly, a supposed corollary of that: Honestly, don’t you think that must introduce a bias into the system?

Personally, I feel sure in my mind, my own lawyer was (at least somewhat) both gender- and racially-biased. (I mean, if you can be gender biased, sadly it is even more likely that you can be racially-biased.) And how can this possibly help the administration of justice when preparing a divorce case? On the face of it, there are not enough male lawyers to go round. And if you are unlucky enough to have a female judge too….

It does tend to make many men cynical about the whole process. You might want to claim that having a woman lawyer on your side, as a man, helps, because she understands how the spouse may be thinking. True, maybe. But it doesn’t mean she will necessarily act on it. Because a lot of bias is unconscious.

And how do you overcome that? Well, sorry to say, we all know the answer: Act for yourself.

Trouble is, many of us DO need lawyers to help present our case — or the outcome might be even worse.

So, whether we like it or not, we are cast back into The System…..

Marilyn Stowe - May 12, 2016 at 9:27am

Dear Hank
Good point and I agree, women do seem to be outstripping men in family law but I just heard on the radio there seem to be more women coming through University generally. So I’m not sure it’s only in family law. Times have massively changed.
For myself, I never studied family law at University, I was much more interested in international and commercial litigation, which I did after qualifying. I handled tough hard fought trans national commercial cases and it was fantastic. I did IP work too, acquiring and selling trademarks but slowly found myself representing my commercial clients in their divorce. As I became a mum I had to think hard about my priorities. I couldn’t work the same hours, and frankly family law was easy compared to cut throat commercial litigation. I saw an opening in the market, I was the only woman lawyer in my area and went for it. At that time I was very much on my own the vast majority of lawyers were men and they resented my approach and often called me names behind my back which of course I got to hear about. But I kept on developing that market and my experience in commerce was invaluable, giving me an edge and a background knowledge others didn’t have.
So that’s another part of my story. And I suspect the same thing happened too to other top women lawyers of my experience across the country. Women were then new and fresh and now the tables have turned.
Regards
Marilyn

Andrew - May 14, 2016 at 12:22pm

In Britain at least: while it is unlawful to discriminate on the ground of gender in the provision of services – so Marilyn cannot refuse to act for male clients and I am sure she would not want to – the opposite does not apply. A private client who prefers a solicitor of his or her own gender – or of the opposite gender – is free to do so. And so it should be: in personal matters and above all in family you need confidence in your lawyer and can choose accordingly. I have acted for mask clients who – for reasons which seem good to them – will never trust a woman again and you Marilyn have probably acted for women who feel the same way about men. It’s understandable.

Andrew - May 14, 2016 at 12:56pm

That’s MALE not MASK clients, bloody phone!

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