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'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 5, Episode 14

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

This week, "The Good Wife" took place in New York City (where the show, usually set in Chicago, is actually filmed). NYC's new Mayor Bill de Blasio even made a cameo as an annoying mayor!

Despite the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, the episode centered on Alicia's past and was surprisingly contemplative as it dipped its toes in the complex issue of women in the law.

Here's a legal breakdown of this week's remarkably quiet episode, "A Few Words":

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):

Alicia delivers the keynote address at an American Bar Association conference on the topic of "opt-out moms." Preparing for her speech sends her mind reeling back to her humble beginnings -- when she returned to the workforce, after 13 years away, as the wife of a disgraced politician.

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 5, Episode 14
"A Few Words"

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Meantime, Elsbeth Tascioni helps Will with his election fraud legal mess -- for serving as Peter Florrick's attorney during the time in question -- with her characteristic kooky flair.

The American Bar Association is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students. The ABA's Annual Meeting is a massive attorney event that boasts a jam-packed schedule of high-profile speakers. Last year, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder made headlines when he delivered a speech unveiling the Obama administration's new efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentences.

Random side note: In this episode, Elsbeth also gets accosted in Times Square by an anti-Semitic man in a bear costume. A man dressed up as Elmo totally did that in real life.

The episode underplayed the amount of schmoozing -- and partying -- that goes on at the Annual Meeting and other legal-industry conferences. It's not a major legal misstep, but certainly a missed opportunity for added drama!

The legal profession struggles with the "mommy track." In the industry, "opt-out moms" -- that is, moms who step off the career track to raise a child -- often lose their competitive footing.

As Alicia said in one of her flashbacks, "Women are underrepresented in this business and I should not be overlooked."

Indeed, women are making strides in the legal profession, but they are still underrerpresented at the top. According to a survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers, "At large law firms, women make up only 15 percent of equity partners, and they typically earn only 89 percent of what their male counterparts take home." In addition, only 4 percent of the 200 firms surveyed had a woman serving as managing partner (i.e., at the top of the totem pole), The Wall Street Journal reports.

There wasn't much legal lingo in this episode, but law firm job titles took center stage, including:

  • Paralegal: Though a licensed attorney, Alicia was offered a paralegal position to serve as a legal assistant who performs substantive legal work under the supervision of a lawyer.
  • Associate: Alicia joins Lockhart & Gardner as a first-year associate, a lawyer who does not hold an ownership interest as a partner in a law firm. It's the unhappiest job in America!
  • Partner: Partners are the top dogs at the firm. There are many types of partners at different levels, ranging from junior partners to senior partners. They make a lot of moola.

The Verdict:

This timely episode quietly engages the Cheryl Sandberg "Lean In" debate. Alicia said it best: "I want a happy life and I want to control my fate." Gender dynamics aside, whether that's possible as a law firm associate is a valid question of its own.

What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.

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