A few decades ago, Hollywood was willing to make movies about more or less ordinary people — sometimes even lawyers. Some of the lawyer movies were not only good but popular: To Kill A Mockingbird, Inherit the Wind, The Verdict, A Few Good Men, Legally Blonde (hey, come on). Today, any movie hoping to see the big screen must be a mega-budget 3-D thriller about aliens, dinosaurs, or best of all, superheroes.
In fact, a movie about just one superhero isn’t even spectacular enough. You need multiple superheroes (the Avengers, the Justice League, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
I’d love to see a new lawyer movie make it big with movie audiences, but I’ve accepted that it would have to fit the superhero/superteam format. Accordingly, here is my proposed cast of characters for a hit lawyer film for our times. Collectively, let’s call them the Civil Justice League.
Superhero Moniker: General Damages
Super Power: While browsing a law library for semi-retirement edification, a former military lawyer is struck on the head by Volume 2 of Joseph Ashbury Joyce’s A Treatise on Damages, dislodged by a minor earthquake. Discovering thereafter a new extraordinary ability to persuade juries to award astonishing levels of damages, the barrister dubs himself Gen. Damages and takes on every seemingly hopeless civil case he can find. Having first convinced a jury to award $300 million to an 8-year-old who stepped barefoot onto a Lego block he had left on his own bedroom floor, Gen. Damages topped even that with a $2.5 billion verdict in favor of a Domino’s Pizza customer whose pepperoni pie was delivered 30 seconds late and lacking the olives he had ordered.
Sidekick: Additur, Gen. Damages’ young protégé, possessing an uncanny ability to coax trial judges into increasing damages even beyond the amounts awarded by jurors.
Archenemy: A mid-level insurance company executive by day, by night Remittitur relentlessly schemes to foil Gen. Damages and Additur at every turn with post-trial motions, appeals, and bankruptcy filings.
Superhero Moniker: Pro Bono
Super Power: A painfully indebted, underemployed recent law school graduate is jolted by lightning while using an ATM. Upon recovering from her injuries, she discovers that her bank account balance never again declines, regardless of the magnitude of her withdrawals or paucity of her deposits. In gratitude, she takes the name Pro Bono and vows to thereafter practice law solely for the public benefit and without monetary compensation.
Sidekick: Lo Bono. While motivated like Pro Bono to serve the public, Lo Bono doesn’t get struck by lightning and has a regular bank account. He vows to help out by practicing law pretty cheaply but still needs to, you know, make enough to pay the bills.
Archenemy: Overbill, a law school classmate of Pro Bono’s who, despite having inherited a fortune, has vowed to keep practicing law and charging 150 percent of a reasonable fee for all services, plus inflated travel charges, just for fun.
Superhero Moniker: Johnny Dep
Super Power: While watching the grindingly arrogant Mark Zuckerberg deposition scene in The Social Network, law student Johnny falls into a deep trance. Upon awakening, he discovers he has acquired a superhuman affinity for taking depositions, such that he can depose up to 50 witnesses in a day without asking a single stupid question or needing a quart of coffee to stay awake.
Sidekick: Transcriptor, an otherwise mediocre lawyer with a savant-like ability to recall verbatim reams of testimony with no need to refer to the transcripts, thus realizing enormous savings in clients’ pretrial costs.
Archenemy: Ad Nauseam, the ill-tempered spirit of a deceased litigator who possesses the bodies of expert witnesses during depositions and rattles off hours of hypnotizingly dull credentials and irrelevant background facts, hoping to send Johnny Dep screaming from the room.
Superhero Moniker: The LitiGator
Super Power: A toxic-torts litigator investigating the scene of an alleged release of radioactive material falls into the cooling pond of a nuclear reactor and transforms into The LitiGator, a half-human/half-reptile mutant combining a high IQ with ferocious competitive drive and a literally impenetrable scaly exterior.
Sidekick: Doc-O-Dile, the LitiGator’s associate, can devour filing cabinets full of documents in minutes, reducing them to precisely categorized, chronologically ordered sets of facts without the aid of a document scanner.
Archenemies: The LitiGator frequently faces off against two equally tenacious opponents, one from each side of the litigation world: uncompromising plaintiffs’ advocate The Ambulance Chaser and unyielding insurance defense counsel Deep Pocket.
Superhero Moniker: The Silver Drafter
Super Power: Lacking the oratorical gifts of a natural courtroom lawyer, a shy but brilliant law student secretly dedicates incalculable hours developing her contract drafting skills to a level never before seen. Following her 100 percent-correct performance on the bar exam, she emerges as the Silver Drafter, gaining acclaim as “the Madonna of contract composition.”
Sidekick: Boilerplate, the Silver Drafter’s indefatigable legal assistant, who diligently inserts, reviews, and updates the technical details of each document, freeing the Silver Drafter to concentrate on the bold, creative elements for which she is renowned.
Archenemies: Collectively known as The Void, archvillains Parole Evidence Man and Subsequent Oral Agreement join forces to haunt The Silver Drafter, relentlessly seeking grounds to undermine the mutually beneficial contractual relationships she has so carefully crafted.