Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Clooney v. Clayton, Part 5

The Thanksgiving Holiday is again upon us. It is a time for family and for being thankful for what is truly important in our lives. And that subject brings to mind yet another theme from the movie Michael Clayton that I want to talk about. For those of you who have been following this blog recently, I have been writing posts about this film, with each post dedicated to one of the movie's law practice-related issues or themes. Previous posts in this series have provided a general review of the movie, as well as discussions of the movie's hyperbolic representation of big firm law practice, the myth of law firm "fixers", and the nature of law firm partners. Today, the subject is lawyers and family. And my point is this:

In this movie, Michael Clayton ignores his son.

Boy, this one hurt. Clayton is divorced (obviously--most lawyers in movies are divorced, right?), and the little time he spends with his son is spent not really paying attention to him. He drives the boy from point A to point B, and while his son talks Clayton says "Uh-huh" a lot. His son wants to discuss this really cool book he's been reading, and Clayton's response is "Uh-huh." Which does not mean that he does not love his son--he does. There is one scene in the film that drives that point poignantly home, as the two ride along in Clayton's car, and for once Clayton really tries to talk to the boy. But for the rest of the movie, the responsibilities of Clayton's job distract him at virtually all times from other, more important things like his son.

That phenomenon is not reserved for lawyers, of course, but it is an all too common phenomenon for practicing attorneys, and even a fair number of law professors too. In this respect, the movie does not engage in hyperbole at all. (See my previous point about hyperbole here.) Lack of real focus on family matters is a theme worth thinking about at any time, but perhaps especially during the Thanksgiving holiday.

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