I guess CBS ran out of ideas for shows mischaracterizing lawyers. The latest Hollywood creation-- Bull, airing on CBS Tuesday nights at 9PM – is a show inspired by the former career of Dr. Phil, as a trial consultant, and, his former company, Courtroom Science. He is also an executive producer of the show.
Dr. Bull is portrayed as a pontificating, omniscient, charming, cynical puppeteer with magical, mind-reading powers who steals his client’s Rolex and helps police arrest the true murderer in the end. Trial consultants help lawyers put their best case forward in order to obtain a successful outcome for the client -- but not as portrayed by Dr. Bull. Here are just a few mischaracterizations identified by members of the American Society of Trial Consultants:
- Although investigating what is known about potential jurors through public records and social media is one way in which we help lawyers, displaying the photo, background information (beyond what is known publically) and, what seems to be, biofeedback data of each potential juror on individual flat screens at the trial site is far-fetched. I would like to meet the client willing
to pay for such extravagance!
- Crafting voir dire questions that will uncover potential biases and reveal case-related attitudes is a task litigation attorneys should assign to a consultant because we are good at it. But suggesting an attorney ask each juror, “What do you feel is the cause of a cold?” as a means of determining locus of control would only result in a harsh, rebuking, evil-eye from the judge.
- What judge would allow a consultant at counsel table to openly carry on a conversation through a hidden ear transmitter with his team back at the trial site?
- And a Vogue stylist on staff to help improve the image of the client – really? Suggesting a haircut, the wearing of appropriate clothing, and discouraging the wearing of a Rolex or loud, expensive jewelry is the extent of our remake.
- Being able to read the minds of each juror to the level of hearing their internal dialogues would be a useful talent but one only claimed by diviners or soothsayers.
- The show ends with Dr. Bull getting his client acquitted. Dr. Bull then arrives outside a residence in one of two police cars to arrest the true murderer. Thrilling idea but not in our list of services!
What bothered me most about this show was the image that trial consultants are manipulative, caring little for the legal system. As a board member of the American Society of Trial Consultants, I can assure you that we abide by many of the same ethics and professional guidelines that are established by the ABA. We are not puppeteers. A good consultant is a highly trained and contributing member of the trial team working to obtain a positive and successful outcome for the client, all while making you look good.
So next Tuesday night, be entertained by a handsome, charming actor in a fluffy sensationally-charged Hollywood-style drama. Guaranteed it will be as entertaining as the presidential debate!
Sandra Donaldson, Ph.D. is the Director of the Trial Consulting Group at FirmLogic of Womble Carlyle. Dr. Donaldson helps ensure that clients enter the courtroom with the best possible chance for success. She has 28 years of experience counseling clients at all stages of litigation, from pre-discovery to post-trial case assessment -- for Womble Carlyle's clients as well as for other law firms and their clients. Sandy has been a member of the American Society of Trial Consultants for 21 years and is currently serving on the Board of Directors.