Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why Does David E. Kelley Hate Patent Attorneys? Harry's Law.

NBC has a new show starting in January called Harry's Law, starring Kathy Bates.  The first thing I heard about this show was that Kathy Bates played a patent attorney.

Be still my beating heart!  A female patent attorney!  On television!  I rushed to You Tube to find a trailer:



Of course.  After being a "successful patent attorney" for 32 years, she realizes patent law is boring....and from the looks of the trailer ends up defending a kid in a criminal case.  This is about as realistic as a neurosurgeon deciding to wake up one morning and practice cardiology. 

Let me explain:  patent law is very niche.  You spend all of your time in federal court, and engrossed in 35 U.S.C., the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Evidence.  Nothing else matters in patent law.  (It's not clear from the preview whether she was a patent litigator or a patent prosecutor, but I'm going to assume a litigator because a patent prosecutor (patent attorneys who write patents) would be even more absurd given the scenario of the show, because they never go to court unless its to testify as a witness in a patent litigation trial.)  Therefore, you have absolutely no knowledge at all of criminal law, criminal procedure, or criminal law in state court.  I've been to state court exactly twice in my career so far.  Patent attorneys have no reason to go there.  State court is very different from federal court.  Now, maybe the kid is up on federal charges.  That remains to be seen.  My point is that the last time most patent attorneys had anything to do with anything criminally law related was in a law school class.  You can't just wake up one morning and decide to be a criminal defense attorney other than in David E. Kelley's brain.  Now, I can appreciate wanting a change, and lawyers do switch areas of specialty in real life, so a lot of how this goes down and the believability of it is going to be in the writing. 

But, why couldn't he do a legal show about a patent attorney?  Why are we always stuck with family law and criminal law on television shows?  Why does the patent attorney have to switch over to the apparently much more exciting field of criminal law?  Why does she have to leave patent law because it's "boring"?  Why does a "successful patent attorney" have to work as a lawyer anymore anyway?  Why is an attorney with 32 years of experience getting fired?  Shouldn't she be a partner by now?

Oh, I have so many questions.  I will watch, of course, because even a show about an ex patent attorney is better than a show about a run of the mill criminal attorney, I'm a sucker for law shows, and it does look like kind of a good show.  (I mean, shoes and law?  Right up my alley.)  I also love Kathy Bates in pretty much anything.  And maybe I'll be wrong, and maybe she'll be fumbling around during the first few episodes, screwing up the rules of criminal procedure and making an ass of herself, and maybe we'll get to see some crazy inventors show up in her office for some patent help at some point.  But God, please don't let her be standing up in court within the span of a few days of departing patent law and citing criminal case law and criminal rules of procedure like she's been doing that for the past 32 years instead of what can only be described as the exact opposite.

3 comments:

  1. I suppose she could have worked on a bunch of pro bono crim cases... but since she sucks in court, that's unlikely.

    To be fair, patent litigation is usually pretty boring. I mean, it's not the law, it's the actors.

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  2. Oh, come on! In patent litigation you get to deal with cool technology! While the day to day stuff gets boring, in the grand scheme I can't imagine its more boring than, say, tax law, labor law, or unemployment law.

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