Citizen Lawyer: A Film Pitch

I’d be the first person to call myself an idealist.  Maybe even a Ridiculous Idea – list.  Ever since I can remember I’ve thought more was possible for the average person than the ordinary and mediocre.  I can distinctly remember having the following conversation with my parents when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old:

Me:  “I’m going to be in the Olympics.”

Parents:  “Really?  But, you’re not involved in any sports.”


Parents:  “Okay, in what sport?”

Me:  “Gymnastics.”

Parents:  “But, you don’t take gymnastics.  Can you even do a handstand?”

Me:  “You are a pair of limited, myopic, thinkers.”

Ok, it didn’t go totally like that, but it was pretty close.  Today I still feel the same way.  Maybe I’m simply the end product of too many underdog sports movies or overly inspirational Nike commercials.  As of late, I have the following won’t-leave-me-alone film pitch buzzing and spinning and percolating around in my head.  Really, it’s like a disease.   Here’s the 3 second elevator pitch:

A regular Joe/ Jane becomes a lawyer WITHOUT going to law school and films it.

Call the film – CITIZEN LAWYER.

Since this is a film about the law, let’s talk about both sides.  The pros, the cons.  The fors, the againsts.  Let’s engage in a lawyerly debate about the subject, granted told through the computer keys of a stand – up comic:

How would you undertake a film project like this?

You interview everyone the un-law school student knows.  You find out WHY a person/ mental patient would want to take on something so ridiculously hard in its scope that its reward promises such a low rate of achievability.  I mean, accomplishing the idea would be like you running an intellectual ultra-marathon.  Now, who would want to run an ultra-marathon?  I mean, that’s more miles than an actual marathon.  Who’d want to do that?  (Apparently, a lot of people.  They’re the really skinny ones who say, “Going for a run.”  And they’re back 72 hours later.  The un-law school student is the mental equivalent of this physical a-hole, I mean anomaly.)

You follow the un-law school student to the law firm where they will apprentice and ACTIVELY learn to practice the law.

You interview lawyers.  Lawyers who have succeeded through this type of apprenticeship (there aren’t many) and lawyers who are disillusioned by law school, the legal practice, and the legal system.  You draw a big yellow highlighter pen under what’s wrong with the legal profession.

You build a website called, “CITIZEN LAWYER”.  At, an average person can obtain open source learning programs and resources to acquire a very un-average law degree.

So, WHO should become a Citizen Lawyer?

Answer)  People who – like me – don’t care about your quarter life crisis or your blog start-up.  Why do only 20somethings get to have all the fun?  Why do they start all the online businesses and get all the silicon valley venture capital?  Meanwhile, tech companies like Google “let go” experienced, over 20 something employees and law firms despise hiring practiced and experienced lawyers because they’re too cynical?!  Maybe China has way more on us besides an incredible work ethic – how about a culture that values old people?  Especially “old people” who are only in the 30-50 year old range.  (Why, just why, is that even old, people?  Medical advances have said, “sure we can help you live longer and better”, while society has said, “but, we won’t let you feckin’ do anything!”)  I don’t think I’m better than anyone.  I too had a quarter life crisis.  I watched the entire Godfather trilogy in one sitting while staying at a friend’s house in college in my 20’s.  By the end of the third film, I found myself insanely jealous of Al Pacino.  I mean he didn’t have to figure out what he wanted to do in life!  He was “made” into the family business.  He didn’t have to try his hand at pharmaceutical sales for a year!  But, not me.  I had no idea what I wanted to do at that age.  So, instead, I annoyed everyone around me with my quarter life crisis.  Now, with the advent of easy-to-use blogging platforms every young, a-hole with a quarter life crisis can start a blog and lament over the “just what in the hell am I going to do with my life” big questions by creating some sort of “manifesto” or social platform.  The rest of us who have given up the “it’s all going to work out” idea – you know, the above 30ers – stay at home and enjoy our beer of the week club and our flat screen tvs.  But, at Citizen Lawyer that all changes.  Because at Citizen Lawyer – no one under 35 is allowed to enroll and everyone above 35 has to get off the couch.  The idea of “reading for the law” is an incredibly difficult undertaking.  No one is allowed to enlist unless they know exactly who they are.  And if you’ve invested in ten years of therapy or more, even better.

Sorry, it’s my ridiculous idea, so I’m setting the ridiculous rules.

Uh, Ms. Ridiculous Idea-list:  How would someone go about doing this and is it even legal?

Answer)  Apprenticeships – because mentoring is for more than just learning how to shoe a horse.  If you’re like me, you think an apprenticeship is something a blacksmith goes through.  If you’re like me, you also think homeschooling is for the Amish.  But, if you’re also like me, you think the upkeep and the monetary investment necessary for a car is ridiculous.  So, maybe, just maybe, the Amish have something figured out after all.  That and you think that the price of higher education has spiraled out of control.  Who in the hell can afford a law degree when you’re not even guaranteed a law job after school?  Not to mention, most law firms don’t want to hire a law student because they haven’t been trained in practicing – wait for it – THE LAW!  So, why not create an alternative to law school – online, free for everyone – that TRAINS people to be lawyers by apprenticing them with real law firms.  You would probably even get un-law school students to show up in suits and be professional at your firm if they’re participating in something so revolutionary, that it’s un-seeable, like going to an un-law school without paying tuition.  I mean it’s almost fantastical like the Hogwarts school for Magicness and Wizardry.  Is it all legal?  YES!  There are seven states in which you can read for the law – California, New York, Vermont, Wyoming, Virginia, Maine, and Washington.  Why not actually train the citizenry to be lawyers with a certain set of core values in mind, much like a doctor taking a hippocratic oath?  The core values of the citizen lawyer are to ADVOCATE for the good of society and not just the individual.  They are to use their own passionate and internalized moral compass to mediate and YES even turn down unwarranted cases that would just clog the legal system.  They are citizens first and lawyers second – I don’t know maybe like – ABRAHAM LINCOLN! – who was also educated this way.

Um, Ms. Ridiculous Idea-list, that’s just really stupid.  I mean, there’s a whole system in place already.  Things that are this important need gatekeepers like the receptionist when you’re trying to get a table at Spagos or like the Oscars so homeless people won’t take all the seat-filler gigs.

Argument)  Trained-at-home lawyers won’t lead to trained-at-home doctors, buddy.  We’re talking about simplfying the law.  Give the citizenry access to knowledge and train people to practice the law right after passing the bar.  We’re not taking about autopsying a donkey head on your dining room table.  Or maybe you think allowing people to gain the requisite knowledge of a juris doctorate would be like allowing those gays to marry?  And you know what happens if you do that?  Next, they’ll want to marry goats!  One thing does not lead to the other, buddy.  I’m thinking about a movement that turns Occupy Wall Street into Citizen Lawyer.  Don’t think corporations are people?  Well, how about if we unleash a flock of un-law school lawyers on the government to overturn such legislation.  It would accomplish far more than hippies in tents passing out buttons.

Maybe, just maybe, online learning isn’t just for the unabomber anymore.  Maybe you don’t have to be a recluse in a cabin with more notebooks than a hoarder to have the big ideas.

What do you think?  Would you watch a movie like this?  Citizen Lawyer – should we start a KickStarter or just kick it to the curb?
gavel photo cred