A couple of days ago, my wife and I watched Paul Newman in The Verdict. It’s a traditional requirement of law students, apparently, to watch the movie and pick out all the ethical violations.
The obvious ones jumped out, but we were too distracted to note some of the more subtle contraventions to the American Bar Association Model Rules or California Rules of Professional Conduct.
You see, the movie starts out with Paul Newman playing a pinball machine…
…a real pinball machine.
The setting for this movie is somewhere around 25 years ago, approximately 1980. Newman is an attorney who appears to be very much on the skids. He’s a drunken ambulance chaser. One of the first ethical violations slaps you in the face as he goes through the obituaries, deciding which “cases” look best. He then goes to the funeral homes, going through the lines of those offering their condolences. He offers his condolences in the form of his business card and the words, “I was a friend of your father,” or whatever else seems — dare I say it? — “appropriate.”
Right now, I couldn’t catalog for you too many more of the transgressions because we were quickly caught up with other concerns.
For example, at one point in the movie, the phone starts ringing and my wife says, “The phone sounds funny!”
Why? “The ringer is a real bell,” I noted. That phone must’ve rung about 30 times, too, before the caller finally hung up. Why didn’t they just leave a voicemail?
As Homer would say — or I should say, “would say now,” since I’m fairly certain cartoon shows for adults were not standard fare in 1980, either — “D’oh!”
Notable also were such things as offices without computers. Not like today, where you still find an occasional office without a computer. In the movie, there are no offices with computers. Hmmm…come to think of it, there weren’t any computers anywhere in the movie….