'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 5, Episode 5
The gloves are officially off at "The Good Wife." In this week's aptly titled episode, "Hitting the Fan," Lockhart & Gardner and the brand spankin' new Florrick, Agos & Associates go toe-to-toe over top clients. It was brutal, it was vindictive, and it was sinfully enjoyable to watch. But was the depiction of a clientele tug-of-war legally accurate?
Here's what happened this week when you-know-what finally hit the fan:
Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):
The episode opens with Diane informing Will that Alicia and Cary are leaving the firm -- and are taking their top clients with them. Will (Alicia's former lover) is personally hurt over Alicia; Diane (Cary's former mentor) is personally hurt over Cary. Naturally, things get ugly fast. Alicia, Cary, and the other implicated fourth-year associates are immediately fired, have their belongings confiscated, and are escorted out by security guards.
Florrick, Agos & Associates open shop earlier than expected and make a power play for ChumHum, Lockhart's most lucrative client. A few restraining orders and meetings later, they win ChumHum and Lockhart & Gardner noshes on a generous slice of humble pie -- or politically dirty pie (as Governor-elect Peter Florrick politically pressured ChumHum into signing Alicia's firm).
Law firm breakups are often messy, particularly in large firms like Lockhart & Gardner's where, as Alicia pointed out, rainmaker bosses take most of the profits while their lower-level associates work in the trenches with clients.
But "stealing" clients is a major no-no at law firms. What Alicia and Cary consider fair-and-square corporate wooing, Diane and Will consider tortious interference.
The opening of the episode was explosive but unrealistic. When firing an attorney, supervisors at law firms will typically go to great lengths to prevent a "scene." They'll document communications (which Diane instructed Will to do -- but he didn't), reference the employee manual, and have a civil conversation about the grounds for termination.
In real life, Will wouldn't have thrown Alicia's belongings around or confiscated (or answered...) her personal cell phone. In the real world, Lockhart & Gardner would fire Alicia and Cary and report them to the state bar for stealing clients rather than indulge a dramatic rivalry. But where's the fun in that?
This episode's legal issues were topical but managed to present an array of employment termination issues such as:
- Soliciting clients,
- Stealing data,
- Taking company property, and
- Terminating a partner (Alicia) through a board vote.
The episode also highlights the process of obtaining an emergency restraining order against former employees to prevent them from stealing clients and generally interfering with business.
Quorum: Will summons a quorum -- the number of members or officers that must be present to conduct business (typically a majority) -- to vote Alicia off the Lockhart & Gardner partner island.
Sure, this week's episode was more drama than anything else. But who cares? Cue epic firm rivalry.
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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