WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LEGAL MOVIE AND WHY?
AS TOLD TO ERIK LUNDEGAARD
Honestly, my favorite legal movies are To Kill a
Mockingbird and The Verdict, but I figure there’s
a 90 percent chance that others have written
And this film is a gem. It’s a sly effort by Steven
Soderbergh, featuring Matt Damon as an Archer
Daniels Midland corporate executive who reveals
a worldwide price-fixing conspiracy to the U.S.
Department of Justice. It’s based on a true story.
Eventually three ADM officials were found guilty,
the company was fined $100 million and it paid
$400 million to settle a class action lawsuit.
The script relies heavily on videotaped cartel
meetings, and it’s fascinating to listen to these
executives knowingly break the law. For anyone
who still thinks price-fixing isn’t a real crime, the
cartel scenes will bring home that these people
were stealing from their customers.
It’s not “Bourne” but it builds real tension.
Will Damon’s character overplay his part in the
conspiracy and be revealed? The surprise is how
subtly Soderbergh and Damon find the humor
and sadness in a man who is convinced of his
abilities but who occasionally glimpses how far
out of his element he is.
MARTHA E. GIFFORD / LAW OFFICE OF MARTHA E.
GIFFORD; BROOKLYN; ANTITRUST LITIGATION
Kramer vs. Kramer.
While I knew from an early age that I wanted
to be a matrimonial attorney, my decision was
solidified after watching Kramer vs. Kramer.
It is the story of a stay-at-home mother who
leaves her young son and husband because she
feels stifled in her marriage and emotionally is
unable to care for their child. The father is then
left to raise his son—a child he barely knows—
on his own. After the father and son bond, the
mother returns and takes the father to court to
fight for custody.
When the movie was released in 1979, the
prevalent presumption was that mothers were
the more appropriate custodial parents and
more often than not it was the mother who was
granted custody—but that did not eliminate
battles. The lawyers would still do all they could
to discredit each parent on cross-examination, in
stereotypical lawyer fashion, repeating questions
loudly to gain emphasis and making witnesses
cry. The movie provides insights to any attorney
who does this type of work into what our clients
feel when they go through custody litigation. It
is a must-see for anyone interested in pursuing a
career in family law.
JACQUELINE N. NEWMAN / MANAGING PARTNER,
BERKMAN BOTTGER NEWMAN & RODD; NEW YORK;
FAMILY LAW, ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
... And Justice for All.
I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s when most
films idealized lawyers and the legal profession,
and everything could be defined in very black-and-white, good-versus-evil terms. Even The
Verdict falls into this category, with its story of
... And Justice for All changed that for me. Al
Pacino’s portrayal of an earnest middle-class
lawyer pushed to the brink by corrupt judges
and unprofessional colleagues is masterful. The
off-center performances by Jack Warden and
Jeffrey Tambor are also terrific. Some may view
it as an over-the-top portrayal of the profession,
particularly in light of Pacino’s opening in the
critical trial scene, where he exposes his client
while proclaiming everything is “Out of order!”
But I see it differently.
I first saw it as I was entering law school, and
appreciated what I felt was a more realistic
view of the law. Aside from the great acting and
storytelling, it opened my eyes to the fact that I
was entering a profession far more nuanced and
complicated than the one inhabited by Owen
Marshall, Perry Mason and maybe even Atticus
CHRISTOPHER D’ANGELO / PARTNER, VANDENBERG
& FELIU; NEW YORK; EMPLOYMEN T & LABOR