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'The Good Wife': Good Law? -- Season 7, Episode 5

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Every now and then, a legal drama has to take a break from the courtroom and show how often legal battles are fought behind the scenes, without a judge and jury around. And if there are backroom deals or any backs that need stabbed on this particular legal drama, you know Eli Gold is probably involved.

Both Alicia's new firm and her old one were trying to settle differences out-of-court this week, so here's what you need to know from last night's episode, entitled "Payback."

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 7, Episode 5

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  • Season 7, Episode 6 (Airs 11/8/15)

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert)

Alicia's steps out of seedy world of bond court and into the seedier world of for-profit colleges and predatory student loan practices. When their client has trouble settling her student loan debt, Alicia and Lucca threaten a lawsuit, but are forced into arbitration instead, per their client's agreement with Coliseum, a shady educational institution that gives its graduates little else than crippling debt.

Diane and Cary are also trying to settle a dispute out of court over at Lockhart, Agos & Lee, trying to mediate the dispute between Cary and Howard Lyman over the supposed "ageist" culture at the firm.

And, as always, Eli is living on a razor's edge in his duel with Ruth Eastman, and barely survived being fired by Alicia.

Alicia's student debt case escalates in part because her new firm is barely scraping by, and her daughter is pressuring her to "turn small cases into big ones." One way she and Lucca try to do this is via a contingency fee agreement with their student debt client. This means that the client pays little or nothing up front, and the attorneys are only paid a percentage from the eventual jury award or settlement. Considering Coliseum was preparing itself to be sold to a private equity firm and didn't need any bad publicity, the settlement could be pretty big.

This week's episode was pretty on point when it came to the law, but it turns out Howard's age discrimination battle may be largely fictitious. The old partner breaks down describing the harassment he gets from younger associates, but Cary and Diane may be on to his ruse after they subject the entire firm to sensitivity training.

Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations: As things escalate with Coliseum, Alicia and Lucca give quite a few of the graduates the idea for a debt strike to put pressure on the school to settle. Coliseum fires back with a tortious interference lawsuit, which is a claim that a third party improperly interfered with a business transaction. In this case, encouraging former students to breach their contract to repay their student loans probably constituted tortious interference.

This week's episode did a great job of highlighting forms of alternative dispute resolution. The vast majority of legal disputes never see the inside of a courtroom. While some cases, like Alicia's, have no choice due to binding mandatory arbitration agreements, Cary and Diane wisely avoided more costly litigation with Howard. (And we don't really want to know about investigator Jason Crouse's "alternative resolution" with the student debt scammer in order to get the client's $8,000 back, as it may have come on the wrong end of a tire iron.)

Did Alicia and Jason finally hookup? The suspense is killing us. Her tantalizing, "What do you drink" has us thirsty for next week's episode.

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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