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Friday, January 18, 2008

Denny Crane seeks relevance

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit it, but I’m a fan of Boston Legal -- ABC’s legal drama (although I hesitate to actually call it a drama) that follows the professional and personal lives of attorneys at the law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt. This week’s show had an interesting story featuring one of the firm’s senior and founding partners, Denny Crane.

Denny (skillfully played by William Shatner, right) apparently is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and rarely handles legal matters on his own anymore. Nonetheless, Denny was bound and determined to first-chair a high-profile murder trial, representing a woman who’d hit her husband in the head with a shovel in broad daylight. While Denny’s law partner -- and best friend -- Alan Shore (James Spader) is a brilliant criminal defense attorney, Denny didn’t want him to have anything to do with the trial. He simply didn’t want any interference in his quest to be relevant again. Alan did confront Denny, however, expressing his concern that Denny would “embarrass” himself if he proceeded with the case without help.

The show brought to mind a number of interesting ethical questions. What do you do when your law partner insists on handling a matter he or she is unfit to handle? Is concern over your partner being “embarrassed” the only reason to question the representation? And how do you know when your own health has made it impossible to adequately represent clients anymore? Should law firms have a mandatory retirement age?

I don’t have the answers, but I think the show would make a great starting point for a discussion of these issues in a CLE program.

By the way, Denny somehow managed to secure an acquittal. You’ve got to love the wonderful world of television!

1 comment:

Maury said...

You might look at the March 20, 2007 post at
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/ for a link to other discussions of this issue in the legal ethics blogosphere.