Brooklyn Bar Association gets lessons from Blue Bloods writers and producers at CLE
The Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) tried to do something a little bit different to attract lawyers to its most recent continuing legal education (CLE) meeting — they invited a couple of television writers and producers to lecture.
Dan Truly and Kevin Wade of Blue Bloods, the hit CBS drama starring Tom Selleck, joined a panel that included BBA President David Chidekel and Michael Cibella, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association, for a CLE titled “At the Crossroads: Creativity for the Litigator While Harnessed by Model Rules & Precedent.”
The panel was moderated by Rebecca Rose Woodland, a past president of the BBA and a frequent TV legal analyst.
“The idea was to do something different and really try to get a big crowd in here,” Chidekel said.
“It’s certainly not easy to these days, and we wanted something that might draw in younger people especially.
“I think it worked,” Chidekel continued. “It was fun, people got a chance to ask them a lot of questions about the show, and afterwards there was a bit of music with food and drinks.
It was mean to be a fun, free, social event.”
The event, which packed the bar association building on a Thursday night, was co-sponsored by the Kings County Criminal Bar Association and the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.
The discussion came together because one of the show’s police experts had worked with Chidekel back when he worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn. After running into him again years later, that police expert invited Chidekel and his grandchildren to the set of Blue Bloods.
While the kids were most interested in the food being offered on set, Chidekel hit it off with some of the writers and producers. Realizing how much in common he had as an attorney with some of these writers, Chidekel quickly got the idea to invite them for a CLE.
“It also shows how law is connected to life,” Chidekel said. “How do the fiction writers do it versus how do real life lawyers handle these things. We picked a topic that tried to integrate it. There is a big issue with what can you say? Do you get reprimanded? Fiction writers are a good contrast. We talked a little bit more specifically about choices of words.”
Throughout the discussion there were constant parallels between the job of the writer and the job of attorneys. Particularly when it comes to attorneys addressing the jury, lawyers must choose their words very carefully and essentially come up with a script.
“A long time ago, someone told me that if I didn’t want to go into TV that I should become an attorney because, in a lot of ways, it’s the same skill set,” Truly said. “You have a certain amount of words, you have to craft them very carefully to get across not only what you want to say, but what you want the audience to feel.”
One major difference, Wade pointed out, between the real-life lawyers and those who appear on screen — the cursing.
“Network television gives and takes away,” Wade said. “You cannot use the language that cops use or lawyers use. You cannot use expletives, you cannot even say freaking. You notice it early on because you’ll be talking to cops, you get a great story, and you realize that I can’t use half the language in it.”
During the question and answer portion of the event, many of the attorneys asked about what the show can and cannot get away with when basing stories on real life events.
“We come up with the stories and, if it’s based on a particular case, a number of times it has been kicked back by CBS legal,” Wade said. “They’ll say that we all know who the person [is] or [what the] case is and we have to switch the gender or nationality or change some of the circumstances or facts.”
Truly explained that networks have the right to be cautious and explained a time where a competing show followed a real-life story a little too closely, didn’t disguise who the main characters were, and then were sued successfully over the portrayal.
“Ever since then, they are much more careful,” Truly said. “I was on NBC for five years and they were much more relaxed about it. CBS doesn’t ever want to get into a courtroom or newspaper over something like this, so they are very careful.”
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