The Impact of Film on Law, Lawyers, and the Legal System
March 31st & April 1st, 2006
University of Maryland School of Law
Over the past ten years there has been an explosion in the number of books published that explore the connection between law and film. During the same period the advent of relatively inexpensive emerging media technologies impacted on the production of new work, especially new documentary work. The relative ease with which films can be made and even marketed today raises interesting questions about the relationship of law to film and filmmaking. The legal academy’s increasing fascination with film is reflected in the growing number of courses dedicated to exploring law in film or making wide-spread use of film in teaching students about law.
Films have always reflected prevailing attitudes about law, lawyers and the legal system. But some legal scholars, like Richard Sherwin, argue that contemporary films, whether feature films, documentaries or docudramas, unduly influence legal culture as well. “Real legal issues and controversies give rise to popular legal representations just as popular legal representations help to inform and shape real legal issues and case outcomes” (Sherwin, 2000). This is particularly true of documentary or nonfiction films. The prominence and availability of documentary films on political issues during the 2004 presidential election raises interesting questions about the impact of film on democratic institutions and democracy in general.
During this day and a half symposium law professors, filmmakers, film critics and film industry officials will discuss some of these questions and explore other issues related to the impact of film on law, lawyers and the legal system.