Law firm layoffs will be moving from pink slips to the silver screen in the upcoming film Lathamed. The film tells the story of the gutting of the big law dreams, or as the studio has described the movie, “It’s like Titanic, but with fewer survivors.”
“Michael Bay was an easy choice for director,” we were told by the film’s producer. “I worked with him on Armageddon, and saw a lot of good ideas that ended up on the editing room floor. He’s been looking for a place to use them, and I think they’ll find a home in Lathamed.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if I’m up to the task,” Bay stated. “Sure, I’ve done the Transformers films, so I have some experience with robots. But Bumblebee and Optimus Prime had some personality. I could work with that. But lawyers? They’re more like the robots you see in an auto plant. The types they don’t make action figures of.”
Bay went on to explain that while there were some professionals on set, most of the cast and crew were unemployed attorneys. “Let’s face it, they’re cheap labor,” Bay said. “With actors you have to at least offer them more than they would have earned catering, but we have about a dozen lawyers that are being paid out of a stipend their school is giving us just to hire them. It’s also nice to have employees who wouldn’t know how to unionize if they wanted to.”
We asked one crew member how he felt about working on a non-union movie set. “You know, it’s funny, one of the real actors sat us down and gave a lecture on unions after we started. I know what a meal penalty is now. We don’t get that benefit, because none of us knew about it when signing our contracts. But, we did get CLE credit for learning about it. Honestly though, I’m just happy that I finally found a place to use my undergrad degree.”
That actor giving the lecture was Leah Pipes from the recently canceled legal dramedy The Deep End. She won’t appear in the movie, but was instead hired as a consultant. “I was surprised how little these kids knew,” Pipes told us. “And not just the union stuff. Yesterday I had to tell one of them which side of the court room the plaintiff stands on. He was a third year associate from some mega firm in New York. I did six episodes of The Deep End and I have more courtroom experience than he does.”
We asked one of the lawyers-turned-actor how he felt about the transition: “For me, when I heard about the casting call, it was just sort of a ‘duh’ moment. You go to law school for three years and learn how to act like a lawyer. You’re comfortable saying things like “res ipsa loquitur,” and “not withstanding,” but don’t have any real substantive legal knowledge. It’s lawyer-actor school, so this just seemed like a perfect fit.”
Not everyone on set was as enthusiastic about the change in careers. We spoke to another recent graduate who had a different take on the situation: “I went to law school hoping to be an entertainment lawyer. This may be the closest I ever get. But, at least it’s not contract attorney work. I did about three months of that, and then even those jobs starting going away. Here they serve us breakfast and lunch, and we’re only working twelve hour days. It’s not ideal, but what else are you going to do? I actually got a call from my law school the other day. They invited me to talk at an admitted students day about alternative careers for lawyers. I don’t know if the lady I talked to was serious, but she said I was the highest earner in my class. I’m an assistant’s assistant and I’m making $325. Way to go DePaul. I don’t know how I’m going to pay off my student loans.”
Like most of the lawyers working on Lathamed, the DePaul alumnus graduated with six figures of debt. One lawyer working on the lighting crew said he had conducted a rough poll of his fellow lawyer/actors with respect to outstanding student loans. We can’t confirm the numbers, but he told us their combined debt dwarfed the $60 million budgeted for the movie.
Around Hollywood, Lathamed is gaining a reputation as the most under-sexed movie set in town, and given the pale, doughy, beaten-down look of the lawyers, it’s easy to see why. We spoke to the film’s casting director about the lackluster appearance of the actors and actresses: “Lots of these girls had sorority leadership roles on their resumes,” he told us. “So, some of them were probably pretty hot at one point, right? But this is Hollywood. There’s lots of competition. Can’t get away with an extra five pounds in the back yard. Truth is, I didn’t want to bang a single broad who auditioned. First time in my career. I’ve never seen so many unscrewable chicks. Which is sort of ironic, since the only reason they’re here is that they got screwed by Latham in the first place. I hope they appreciate the irony.”
Karen, a thirty-something blonde who was laid off after four years at an AmLaw 200 firm, overheard the remarks: “What does that jackass know? I’m a ten. I look exactly like Kim Cattrall. I’m hot.”
Lathamed is scheduled to hit movie theater this October, but if the legal film industry behaves at all like the real legal industry, expect the release date to be pushed back to January 2012.