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The recent TV sensation Better Call Saul tracks the story of fictional attorney James McGill, whom we were all introduced to as Saul Goodman in the other hit series, Breaking Bad. Goodman, or McGill is said to be a criminal lawyer, with maybe a little too much emphasis on the criminal part.
The series, while often comical, is just as often dramatic as it gets into the worst aspects of practicing law. For attorneys, it is one of the rare legal TV shows that does not do much to glorify the life of an attorney. In fact, there are some serious lessons for practitioners that can be drawn from the show.
1. Stress Kills
McGill's stress comes from financial peril, and other lawyers on the show are just as stressed out over other matters both professional and personal. Each character seems to pursue and prioritize their career over their personal life, and we get to watch as the stressors in their lives prompt change.
While the stresses each experience come from different sources, the show does well to humanize and actually develop the lawyers on all sides beyond the stereotypes. If you learn nothing else from the show, it should be that your career isn't everything, prioritizing your personal life and self-care is just as important.
2. Don't Mix Business With Family, Nor Pleasure
If you're current on the plot, it's easy to understand why the story serves as a cautionary tale of mixing business with family, and business with pleasure.
McGill worked for his brother Chuck's firm, until he became a lawyer. His brother secretly prevented McGill from getting an offer at his firm after he became licensed due to their personal history. Though McGill is presented as a loving brother, he clearly crosses several legal, ethical lines, as he seeks to exact a sibling-rivalry-based revenge.
Additionally, McGill and his par amour begin sharing a workspace, which not only leads to deception between colleagues, but also to deception in the personal relationship between McGill and Kim Wexler.
Honesty and openness are essential to sustaining personal and business relationships, and doubly so when business and personal are mixed. Failing in either can lead to failure in both.
3. Mental Health Matters
As the ABA Journal noted, the show does much to shine a light on mental health issues in the legal profession. While the plot revolves heavily around McGill taking care of Chuck, there is a rather telling criticism at how the legal profession sees mental health.
While everyone at the big firm, and even in courts, respects Chuck's illness and makes every accommodation possible, once the malpractice insurance carrier learns of it, that's when the true disaster ensues. When the carrier seeks to raise the rates for the entire firm due to the increased risk of a senior partner with a mental illness, Chuck's life unravels even further as his firm seeks to oust him.