Article by Makki Tahir
This article is part of a series to help students improve their advocacy skills and also bust some movie myths. The Student Lawyer aims to provide students with a number of resources to help improve their employability. We decided to do legal movie reviews to give you some tips on how to be better lawyers through an engaging medium (i.e. through films and movies), that many of us enjoy quite regularly. If you haven’t seen any of the movies that we post about, please go ahead and watch them, you will not be disappointed. It also helps to be productive during the summer and the bonus is, it can play a role in helping you determine whether you enjoy the thrill of being in court as a barrister or prefer the solicitor route!
The Client (1994) is a legal thriller based on the novel of the same name written by John Grisham. It tells the story of a young boy that has information about the murder of a politician that the District Attorney ‘Reverend’ Roy Foltrigg (played by Tommy Lee Jones) needs to convict a murderer with ties to the mob. The young boy, Mark Sway (played by Brad Renfro), looks for a lawyer to help him in his discussions with the FBI and stumbles upon Reggie Love (played by Susan Sarandon), a rookie lawyer with something to prove.
The film shows us the issues a layperson can encounter when they are involved in legal proceedings. An ability that all lawyers should possess and one that I discussed in an earlier article was the ability to take the jargon out and explain legal concepts to clients in plain English. As the old adage goes; if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. In this film, we see Reggie Love explain the law to an 11-year old Mark Sway, she uses various examples and metaphors to try and explain to him in language that he can understand.
The film also shows us the power of negotiation, we see Reggie Love negotiate a deal that fully protects her client against any future litigation. She also seeks to ensure that her client’s needs are met. An important part of any negotiation is to understand; what your client wants and what they can compromise on. The goal is to act in the best interests of your client, it may be the case that you compromise during negotiations to salvage a business relationship. Lawyers are also business advisors and dealing in good faith is as important, if not more important, than negotiating to get your client the best deal. This is also a tenet of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and it can sometimes be the case that a client wants to preserve the business relationship and can accept less money to complete the contract, this is not an uncommon practice and it must be dealt with appropriately.
Finally, the film also deals with the issue of access to justice and it shows that had Mark Sway not stumbled into Reggie Love’s office, he would have been interrogated by a group of lawyers and an agent from the FBI without the presence of his mother. One must also recognise that access to justice plays a role in determining how effective a justice system truly is. If an accused does not have a solicitor present during a police interview, then they can be forced by the police to say something incriminating or confess to a crime they did not commit. This is not an uncommon situation and I believe many of us have read stories about this and access to justice is something that the legal profession has tried very hard to ensure is promoted. However, they must acknowledge that more can always be done to ensure that the historically disenfranchised are treated fairly and equally by our justice system.
If you haven’t seen The Client, I would recommend that you watch it. It has an intriguing plot and it also has plenty of action. We also get to see the mob deal with an 11-year old that escapes them at every turn. Also, if you haven’t read the book, I would recommend it because it can really transform the way you think about access to justice. Next week, we will review another film adaptation of a John Grisham novel, The Chamber; starring Chris O’Donnell and Gene Hackman.
FUN FACT: J.T. Walsh plays Agent McThune and if you think he looks familiar, it is because he is. He played Lt.Col. Matthew Markinson (the one who signed the phony transfer order) in A Few Good Men (1992).
FUN FACT: Anthony Heald plays Trumann, a member of ‘Reverend’ Roy Foltrigg legal team and you may recognise him as Dr Frederick Chilton from The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
FUN FACT: Bradley Whitford plays Thomas Fink, another member of ‘Reverend’ Roy Foltrigg’s legal team and you may recognise him as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman from The West Wing (1999-2006) or as Captain Roger Peralta, the father of Detective Jake Peralta from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
This is the sixth article in a series of articles that The Student Lawyer will be publishing on films about lawyers and court cases, we want to give you the content that you want, if you have any recommendations, please contact The Student Lawyer or Makki Tahir on LinkedIn.