We love watching legal shows – who doesn’t? Whether it’s Law & Order, The Good Wife, Suits, Ally McBeal, Goliath – legal shows are a hit with audiences. But in order to make them entertaining and fun to watch, they take a lot of dramatic license that can give you the wrong idea about what to expect from your own legal experience.
1- Real Law is Slow
On TV, a lawsuit is filed and the parties are in the courtroom debating the merits of the case fifteen minutes later. In real life, courts move slowly. Your own case won’t even see the most basic status conference for months, and that’s just a hearing where we talk about a schedule for the case. If a case proceeds to trial, and you get to court within a year, you’ll be lucky.
2- Most Cases Aren’t Won in Court
Watching attorneys exchange mounds of documents and pore over them would make for a snoozefest on television, but that’s what happens during any real life legal action. Those dramatic courtroom fights you see on TV almost never happen – instead, it’s a war of paper, with both sides exchanging many letters and legal documents. Most of the time, the parties “settle” – reaching an out-of-court agreement about how to resolve the case. This saves time and, most of all, saves money. Going to trial is very expensive for the client, so ethical attorneys like ours seek to settle as many of their cases as possible.
3- Surprise Witnesses
If you do go to trial, or have another in-person hearing, don’t expect that a surprise witness will walk in with shocking information to present to the Court and change the entire outcome. In real life, we have to identify the witnesses we will present, giving the other side’s attorney ample opportunity to question those individuals and find out what they are going to say. In the event that a last-minute witness was identified with truly important information, the trial would likely be delayed.
4- Your Honor, I Object!
On television, attorneys object regularly without providing any valid explanation. They object because they’re offended or upset on behalf of their client. That would never fly in an actual courtroom. We can only object if we genuinely believe the other side is violating a legal principle – unless, of course, we want to annoy the judge. Never a good strategy!
5- Fairness is #1
Most judges are concerned that both sides have a fair opportunity to present their case, and to investigate what the other side is alleging. TV isn’t – on one show, the judge got annoyed with an attorney and decided to start the trial immediately. A judge who really did this would get in a lot of trouble, as both sides would argue that they had not come prepared for trial. It would be impossible to get witnesses, especially important expert witnesses, to show up on short notice. It was a dramatic moment on the show, but in real life, it would be judicial misconduct.
If you want to learn more about what your case will really be like, there’s no need to guess – just schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at tg-law.com and get facts instead of fiction.