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Law 2101 Lecture Notes - Canadian Bar Association, Lionel Hutz, Legal Advertising

Course Code
Law 2101

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Law and Popular Culture 4/29/2012 2:40:00 PM
The Cultural Life of Law
- Law and Popular Culture studies the law as a cultural phenomenon
- The study requires interdisciplinary approach
- When we broaden our perspective to include various disciplines, we come
to understand the cultural life of the law
Law and Popular Culture
Law in Popular Culture Popular Culture in the Law
Law in Popular Culture
- Representations of the legal profession in popular culture
Legal stories capture the public imagination
The law is inherently dramatic
o Opposing parties
o Controversial subject matter
o Popular themes
o Competing versions of truth
o Viewing audience becomes the jury
Pop Culture in the law
- Impressions that TV and movie viewers get about how the legal system
- The intermingling of law and fiction is nothing new
What is new is the extent to which law and popular culture
The extent to which law and popular culture mingle has an impact
on law
Law in Popular Culture Negative Representations of Lawyers in
Popular Culture
Lawyer Jokes
- Galanter analyzes over 300 lawyer jokes
- Lawyer jokes can tell us what it is about lawyers that inspires so much ill

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- Most lawyer jokes focus on the negative thigns lawyers do
According to Jokes, Lawers are…
- Corruptors of discourse
They lie and promote needless complexity
- Economic predators
They are greedy money hunger opportunists
- Promoters of conflict
They are hired guns & discourage problem-solving
- Betrayers of trust
They take advantage of everyone
- Enemies of justice
They lend their talents to frustrate justice
- Allies of the devil
They are associated with devil, sin and hell
- Morally deficient
They completely lack morals and decency
- Objects of public scorn
They are universally despised
- Candidates for elimination
Lawyers are a plague
(see slides for jokes)
Lawyer Jokes Over Time
- Galanter found that the poularity of lawyers and the legal procession
- 1960s were a high point for public opinion of lawyers and legal profession
A favourable period for lawyers in society
A facourable period for lawyers in the media
- By the 1970s, societyu started to suffer from “legal pollution”
Increased litigation, increased legal costs, increased number of
- By the end of the 1980s several factors caused the image of the legal
profession to fall into steep decline
Changes in society
Changes in the profession

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Changes in Society
- Rise in rates of divorce, crime and bankruptcy
- Increased distrust in institutions and power centers
- Increase in government regulation
- Changes in mass communication
- Exponential increase in lawyer advertising
- Bad public relations
- Negative sterotypes of lawyers as human beings
Changes in the Profession
- Lawyers’ rising incomes
A “noble profession” becomes profit-making business like any other
- Increase in number of lawyers
Number of lawyers, particularly women lawyers, grew rapidly
- Increased litigation
Increase in lawyers together with increased litigiousness on the part
of the public
Pop Culture as Follower of Opinion
- Decline in public opinion laid the foundation for lawyer jokes
- Decline in public opinion laid foundation for negative representations in
popular culture
- Negative beliefs may be exaggerated or distorted, by they have origin in
commonly held views
- Michael Asimow believes that popular culture can create and perpetuate
negative opinions about the legal profession
The Simpsons A Case Study
- The Simposons as Satire
o Satire is a technique used to attack or criticize human vices
through the use of humour
o Satire often is used with the intent of correcting the subject of
the satiric attack
o In today’s society, satire is prolific in popular culture
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