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The Good Wife Doesn't Know Much About Mediation

March 23, 2011

Tags: writing tips, The Good Wife, Fairly Legal, mediation

Why the heck canít TV shows get mediation right? I mean, if a comedy like The Wedding Crashers can do it, why not courtroom dramas? Fairly Legal has made a mockery of what mediation is about, but I expect USA shows to be silly. Now comes The Good Wife, and I usually expect better from them. Iím a mediator, and this kind of error hurts my feelings because the writers clearly donít give a hoot about getting mediation right. Mediation is suddenly popular with writers, so why wonít they find out what really happens in a mediation session?

Getting it wrong

Hereís just some of the stuff I keep hearing on TV about mediation thatís glaringly stupid.

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Fairly Legal Says You Canít Copyright a Recipe Ė Theyíre Only Partly Right

February 21, 2011

Tags: Fairly Legal, writing tips, patent, copyright, trade secrets

Iíve found some peace with the show Fairly Legal, about a woman they call a mediator who does nothing that even vaguely resembles mediation. The way Iíve done it (because I still like the characters and the legal issues) is that I just keep telling myself sheís something new Ė a unique entity in the law.

In my mind, I call her a Conciliator. The weird part is, I think thereís room in the legal system for someone like this. It would be sort of a mediator, sort of an arbitrator, and sort of an investigator. Thereís nothing like this now, and I suspect that this show might spark such an entity into being. Sheís closest to an arbitrator, because arbitrators can investigate to some extent and in a very limited way. So Iím not writing to complain about how they went right off a cliff on the whole mediator concept.

Instead, Iím writing about a recent show involving a barbecue sauce recipe. The conciliator (I absolutely refuse to call her a mediator) made this statement: ďYou canít copyright a recipe.Ē I shook my head, first because if she were a mediator she couldnít give legal advice (okay, Iím going to complain a little), but second because she was wrong.

Itís true that you canít copyright a list of ingredients. But you can absolutely copyright ...more

Fairly Legal is Unfairly Inaccurate About Mediators

January 23, 2011

Tags: writing tips, Fairly Legal, mediation, mediators

I try to give all the new legal shows a fair chance. So when I started watching Fairly Legal, the new USA show, I was really hopeful. USA has a great track record of developing shows I enjoy. In fact, I think I watch all of their original shows: Burn Notice (one of the best shows on TV), Psych, In Plain Sight, White Collar, Royal Pains and Covert Affairs are all season passes on my TiVo. So I thought, yay, finally there will be a fun legal show I can watch.

The fact that the show has a mediator as its lead character made me really excited, since Iím a mediator, since I talk about mediation in The Writerís Guide to the Courtroom: Letís Quill All the Lawyers, and since the only other show with mediator characters I can recall is Wedding Crashers. When I teach at writing conferences, I always talk about underutilized characters in the legal system that writers can utilize to get away from the old typecasting. Mediators have great possibilities, so I encourage writers to use them in their stories.

The characterization was pretty good, and thatís what USA is particularly good at. They develop interesting characters with interesting backgrounds and make them funny. Fairly Legal started out so well Ė the mediator was the victim of an armed robbery and she negotiated a resolution that was a win-win for the robber and store owner. Fantastic!

Then it went utterly off the rails. The mediator is a former lawyer who works for her now-deceased fatherís law firm. The wicked stepmother is in charge and clients start abandoning the firm the day of Dadís funeral. The firmís in trouble, and one of the firmís clients is about to walk away from a deal the firm negotiated. Wicked SM wants our mediator to mediate the client back on track. In the meantime, a judge who hates our mediator appoints her to mediate a case he thinks is a waste of time. Okay, so far not so bad.

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