If Bogie Had Gone to Law School

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Book/film List / Legal Fictions

The classic film noir The Maltese Falcon is coming to a theater near you next week. http://www.highsierratheatres.com/movie/222228/TCM-Presents-Th-Maltese-Falcon-75th-Anniversary-(1941)/2016-02-03 Its star was Humphrey Bogart playing the private detective Sam Spade. Later in Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Play It Again SAm Spade gave the Woody Allen character advice in matters of love. Spade showed the shy Woody how to make love to a woman. But I think Spade can also teach a thing or two about how to live a life.
And his advice may be useful to lawyers. Individual lawyers want different things from their careers. Some want money; others prestige. Some even want to make the world a better place. But none of these goals mean much to private eye Spade. He is especially scornful of the “better world” rationale because he knows it’s a fraud.

Spade’s noir world is irredeemable, populated by characters motivated only by greed. Spade is not out to change the world. He just hopes to live in it with a modicum of self-respect. In the film, that motivation makes him avenge the death of a man he didn’t even like. But we do not think him any less a hero for his pessimism because we know in our hearts that he is not entirely wrong.

I think a lot of lawyers might want to try, like Woody, to learn from Spade. If you might be one, take a look at my essay “Being Bogart” http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1777210

In any case mark your calendars for February 21st and 24th.

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