WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE LEGAL-THEMED FILM?
AS TOLD TO AMY KATES
My Cousin Vinny
by a nose over The
It’s hard to pass over a Billy Wilder film,
and Walter Matthau’s Willie Gingrich may
be the funniest, most mercenary ambulance
chaser ever, but Joe Pesci’s Vinny Gambini
and Marisa Tomei’s Mona Lisa Vito are both
Everything about the movie, including the
CORNELIUS W. COGHILL III / PARTNER,
taut direction, uberwitty script and superb
supporting cast, makes this not just a great
legal film, but a great comedy. Sure, Inherit
the Wind, 12 Angry Men and Anatomy of a
Murder are fine, serious films, but how could
any lawyer not love My Cousin Vinny It’s a
two-hour quote machine:
• Vinny’s opening statement: “Uh ...
everything that guy said is bull----. ...
• Vinny, after trying unsuccessfully to
examine Ms. Vito on direct: “Your
honor, may I have permission to treat
Ms. Vito as a hostile witness?”; and Ms.
Vito: “You think I’m hostile now, wait ‘til
you see me tonight.”
The older I get, the more I'm convinced
that as lawyers, we take ourselves too
seriously. My Cousin Vinny is the perfect
tonic for that. If you’ve never seen it, you’re
spending way too much time at the office.
WOMBLE CARLYLE SANDRIDGE & RICE;
CHARLOTTE; ESTATE PLANNING & PROBATE
Having to choose a
movie is like having to
pick a favorite pair of
shoes. It all depends
on the occasion.
For a good laugh, it’s hard to beat My
Cousin Vinny. For a reminder of small-town honor, To Kill a Mockingbird. For a
troubling look at how politics, war and the
law collide, Breaker Morant.
My lighter-side favorite, however, is
Adam’s Rib, a charming comedy ahead
of its time. Katharine Hepburn and
Spencer Tracy play married lawyers on the
opposite side of a case involving a woman
charged with shooting her philandering
husband. Adam [Tracy] is the no-nonsense
prosecutor, but his wife, Amanda,
[Hepburn, Tracy’s real love] takes up the
defense. Adam tries to pressure Amanda
to back down, but she is determined to
convince the jury that women should be
treated equally under the law. The movie’s
take on gender equality and the legal
profession seems enlightened for 1949.
Further, watching Hepburn and Tracy
spar and banter, in the courtroom and the
bedroom, is just a lot of fun.
DENISE SMITH CLINE / FOUNDER, LAW
OFFICES OF DENISE SMITH CLINE; RALEIGH;
None, and here is why.
With few exceptions, they are
unrealistic past the point of being
irritating. Depending on the formula, the
lawyers are amoral, unethical scum-of-the-earth who nonetheless have great
power and control vast swaths of the
government, a state or whatever backdrop
is selected; practically perfect crusaders
who, despite their unwillingness to exhibit
any imperfect impulse, prevail over
powerful forces of evil and seal the perfect
romance simultaneously; or are just plain
bad people seeking—with much success—
wealth, power and sex by all means
available. Where are these folks in real
life? What course in law school did I miss?
Most lawyers I know are smart people
who do their jobs and then go home. No
How To Get Away With Murder experts; no
Now, I cannot be a total curmudgeon.
The Pelican Brief and Julia Roberts?
ROBERT A. SINGER / PARTNER, BROOKS,
PIERCE, MCLENDON, HUMPHREY &
LEONARD; GREENSBORO; BANKING;
SECURITIES & CORPORATE FINANCE