Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics
A recent addition to the field of video legal ethics is The Rest of the Story: Interviews with Two Disciplined Attorneys. Produced by Gerald Sternberg and Dyann Hafner, the film focuses on two attorneys who have been through the disciplinary process, covering how these attorneys got into trouble, what the disciplinary authorities did, and what advice the attorneys would give to other lawyers.
As an exercise in legal ethics “storytelling,” The Rest of the Story is a partial success. The second attorney on the film—who was disciplined for alcohol-related neglect of post-conviction criminal representation—is animated, engaging, and believable. He is a man with personality, and he has the ability not only to maintain audience attention, but to persuade viewers that he is not so very different from them.
In contrast, the first attorney in The Rest of the Story is not a person with whom it is easy to empathize and not a persuasive source of advice. To be sure, his story has instructional potential: it tells of how the attorney’s misappropriation of client funds led to a decision to commit suicide, and to marital breakup, criminal prosecution, disbarment, and, ultimately, employment as a substitute school teacher. Still, in the end, one is left with a nagging suspicion that film audience members would be unable to identify with the attorney. His story is more pathetic than gripping or memorable.
The simple, sequential structure of the tape affords the option of omitting the first attorney’s story from classroom use. In this respect, Sternberg and Hafner’s film has an advantage—severability. The segment involving the second attorney runs a mere twenty minutes, and there may not be a better way than this for a class to focus sharply on the human dimensions of the disciplinary process.
Vincent R. Johnson, Celluloid Legal Ethics: Discipline Redux (video review), 3 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 745 (1990).