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Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Crude Post

In Friday's New York Times, movie critic A.O. Scott reviewed the new documentary film Crude, which opens next Wednesday in Manhattan. The review and trailer (see above link) started a train of thought that has stayed with me since then. Scott calls Crude a “thorough and impassioned” film that “focuses its gaze on [petroleum] production, rather than consumption.” It sounds interesting, and I look forward to seeing it (presumably on DVD). As I read the review and watched the trailer, I began to ask myself: what would a documentary about the lawyers that work for the big petroleum companies look like?

What would these lawyers say?  Do they like the work?  Not like it?  Are they indifferent?  Also, much of the legal work for western petroleum companies is done by U.S. law firms, and the lawyers working at those firms are largely the graduates of U.S. law schools. What do the experiences of these lawyers tell us, anecdotally, about current U.S. legal education and the law schools that provide it?

As I think about it, perhaps the project would be more appropriately structured (at least initially) as a video oral history project. The idea would not be to be polemic, but rather to gain perspective on the global industry from the perspective of counsel.  One of course would need to take great care not to violate client confidentiality in the process, and presumably the focus of interviews would have to be on personal impressions, beliefs and the like, rather than on client or project specifics. I suspect that some of the most interesting stories would come from those junior lawyers who did the work for a while, and then moved on. (Or they just might be the lawyers who are more willing to talk about their experiences.) But in the interest of balance and obtaining a full-spectrum view, it would be useful to have senior and current lawyers involved too.

Such a project could be undertaken for virtually any industry with substantial legal representation, but the growing public focus on environmental and energy concerns suggests that petroleum companies (or perhaps the entire energy sector) would be a good choice. There certainly are a number of lawyer documentaries in existence (see A Lawyer Walks into a Bar and The Trials of Law School, for example), but none I can readily find that focus on the legal practitioners themselves in a particular industry.

This is not a fully formed idea by any means, but it does intrigue me. I would be interested in hearing what others have to say about it.

Posted by gregory w bowman on September 12, 2009 at 11:34 PM in Film, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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