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Television vs. Reality

Since law school I’ve heard dozens, if not hundreds, of clients and self-represented people on the other side of the table say things like “I watch People’s Court, I know my rights”.  Sure.  And I watch Grey’s Anatomy so I can perform surgery!

While there is a certain basic correctness in the terminology that is used for most legal shows, in 90% of the cases that’s where the similarity to real life stops.  Television is for entertainment.  Even shows like People’s Court, Divorce Court, Judge Judy, Judge Mathis and the other dozen or so US shows, are significantly edited to provide “tension”, humour and entertainment.  While they contain real cases, they don’t always contain accurate information.  Also, they are AMERICAN.  So even if real, their application to Canadian law is, at best, minimal.

Court actions are, more often than not, living examples of Murphy’s Law.  Everything takes longer than you think.  Everything is harder than it looks.  And, if anything can go wrong, it will. 

Most lawyers in Ontario have gone through about 9 years of school which includes an undergraduate degree, 3 years of law school, the Bar Admission Course (and exams) and a year of articling (or apprenticeship under a qualified lawyer).  Lawyers are trained to find the evidence and issues that support you, and deal with the evidence and issues that don’t.  Even after years of experience, there are things that come up which require research, and lawyers know how, and where, to look for the answer.  Do you?

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