Law Office Of William F. Underwood - April 2018


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APRIL 2018


A s a real-life attorney, I’ve spent a lot of time dispelling the precedents set by my TV-bound peers. From the treasured classic of “Matlock” to the breathlessly intense antics of “Law & Order,” Hollywood has always been determined to plumb the depths of the courtroom for drama. But while I’m not about to tell anybody that they shouldn’t enjoy the last-minute reveal of a surprise witness or the beauty of a dastardly witness put on the

Nicholson or Tom Cruise’s characters in “A Few Good Men” be allowed to scream back and forth during cross-examination, as entertaining as that scene may be. Luckily, most of the make-believe is left in the criminal courtrooms. Still, there are a couple of pervasive misconceptions I wish people understood going into the legal process. For

spot, such shows leave us real lawyers with a whole heap of misconceptions to overcome. Sure, I admire Atticus Finch as much as the next guy, but as anybody knows, the courtroom fireworks you see on TV are mostly just fantasy. When I was working as a prosecuting attorney for the Dougherty District Attorney, the myths perpetuated by criminal investigation shows got so bad that they became the theme of a respected conference. One year, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia held a continuing education event called “Combatting the CSI Effect,” and it was dedicated to putting a dose of reality back into the public and legal consciousness. In the wake of these shows, juries were getting unrealistic expectations of how cases

one, it’s impossible to receive additional compensation for pain and suffering in a workers’ compensation case. In the Georgia system, you don’t have to prove your employer is actually at fault in order to receive the funds you need, but you’ll also never receive a big extra check to pay you back for suffering through the process. The other aspect many new clients don’t understand is how long it often takes to get to a hearing in a workers’ compensation case. The entire process can be extremely long and drawn out. Between insurance defense attorneys trying to delay, medical providers taking weeks to equip us with needed records, and a million other factors, it can take a lot of patience to persevere. Trust me, this bothers me as much as it does you. It doesn’t seem right that hurt workers should have to wait so long to receive the compensation they need. Rest assured, I will

should unfold. No, we were reminded, most cases won’t hinge on DNA analysis, either because of prohibitive costs or contaminated samples. Neither could we “enhance” a security camera’s feed and cross-index a perpetrator’s nose from a worldwide database. The problem back then was that every juror assumed it would come down to spit and fingerprints, and if we couldn’t provide them, they’d be overly skeptical. Of course, I could go on and on about the eye-rolling illusions that go hand in hand with these shows. Though they may get enough about the process right to make it seem halfway realistic, I’ll tell you that you can’t do most trials in 30 minutes. Nor would Jack

always do everything I possibly can to speed the process along, but there are some aspects that are fully out of my control.

If there’s one good thing these shows have done for us attorneys, it’s that they’ve made our lives look glamorous and exciting. After all, if people want to imagine me passionately yelling in the courtroom rather than spending hours combing through complex legal documents, that’s fine — but I’ll never be able to watch a courtroom drama without cracking up. -William F. “Trey” Underwood, III

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