When Law Goes Pop Book Review: Intersection of Law & Pop Culture

When Law Goes Pop – The Vanishing Line Between Law and Popular Culture, by Professor Richard Sherwin, a professor at the New York Law School gives breaking revelations on how popular culture moulds law. Sherwin argues that the orthodox way of legal communication is slowly evolving into what is popular communication. Law, he says, has “[taken] root in a culture of spectacle” using public relations communication techniques and style.

Lawyers these days now use some popular fiction to ensure a successful persuasion. They use it to deal with the press and manipulate the information that comes out to their advantage, and into possibly ensuring a win. Even some courtrooms now allow cameras, which feeds people on what goes on to get the juicy bits from legal dramas.

According to Sherwin, pop culture and law won’t necessarily mesh well together in the long run. He suspects that the hype on law-as-entertainment will eventually subside. He focuses on the dangers involved in using the techniques and styles of public relations, since the results expected may not be delivered. Apart from public relations refocusing subjective truths towards what the public should believe from what the public should know, as originally aimed by law in order to ensure that justice prevails, it also emphasizes how their respective purposes cross each other most of the time.

Storytelling by Gerry Pence: Popular Mythology Used In Court

Sherwin in When Law Goes Pop reveals the story of the techniques used by high-profile lawyers in criminal trials analyzing them in a sharp, smart and forthcoming manner.

He cited Gerry Spence’s use American mythology in order to give his final argument on Randy Weaver’s trial against offenses charged on the alleged killing of Ruby Ridge, a federal marshal in Idaho. He pleaded for the jury to do what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams did and “resist tyranny’s threat to freedom”. The attorney used literary references that led to the exoneration of Randy Weaver.

How Popular is Pop?

Although pop culture generally attracts the majority of audiences, this book targets legal practitioners. Although pop culture is increasingly relevant in law, Sherwin’s findings do not necessarily prove the effectiveness of such tactics.

Some of Sherwin’s analyses included film and T.V. such as The Thin Blue Line, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Red, and Phillip Haas's The Music of Chance.

Caution: Sherwin Concludes on Storytelling in Law

Providing both commendation and condemnation, When Law Goes Pop reiterates the need for lawyers to be aware of what works best, combining the use of technique, style and technology, and that these added tools be included in law school curriculum. Furthermore, he presents the fact that it should also not be overused into tweaking the truth up to the point that it becomes unrecognizable anymore. Sherwin advises that utilizing pop culture could help legal professionals, but emphasizes users to make sure that law does not lose its essence.