George Zimmerman has a new man in his life: someone he probably met only this week, but who now holds the key to his future.
Over the next few days, weeks, maybe even months, Trayvon Martin’s killer will be forced to put all his trust in his newest attorney, Mark O’Mara, if he has any hope of staying out of jail.
By all accounts, O’Mara is an astute, media savvy and seasoned criminal defense attorney. Indeed, the former television legal analyst knows only too well that his client’s notoriety means his own credibility will be played out in the glare of intense media scrutiny.
This leads to the question: what motivates lawyers to take on high-profile/media-scrutinized trials? Is it the prestige, desire to fight for justice or simply the financial gain that comes with celebrity status cases?
WATCH NBC NIGHLTY NEWS COVERAGE OF THE TRAYVON MARTIN CASE:
In fact, headline-grabbing cases, which are often highly contentious litigations, have over the years propelled the careers of many ambitions lawyers.
Johnnie Cochran effective advocacy in the highly controversial O.J. Simpson murder trial, for instance, made him an overnight superstar. In the trial’s aftermath, he used his “celebrity lawyer status” to establish a successful national law firm and secure his own Court TV show.
Another lawyer who gained national recognition during the trial was Simpson’s close friend, Robert Kardashian, who sat by Simpson throughout the proceedings. Some might even say the late Kardashian’s claim to fame played a part in the family securing the reality television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Gregory Harmon is an African-American, New York-based attorney who has made appearances as a commentator on Nancy Grace’s show. He believes lawyers are attracted to high-profile cases for one of two reasons: public interest or private gain.Harmon says legal practitioners don’t mind, and sometimes even welcome, public scrutiny to establish their reputation or their firm’s credibility and record of success. “In high-profile cases the publicity is worth more than you can imagine, because if an attorney is successful, the case will bring in more business.”
Harmon, though, says lawyers are not just motivated to take on these types of cases because of media recognition or financial gain. In the case of Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, Harmon is convinced that Crump’s drive is to see justice being served.
“I have a case I’m working on at the moment,” he adds, “It’s a police brutality case and I have taken this on, not because of money, but I want to eliminate this type of problem. ”
Other high-profile lawyers include feminist attorney Gloria Allred, Mark Geragos, Allen Grubman, and more recently Jose Baez, who stepped into the spotlight after representing Casey Anthony in the Caylee Anthony murder trial.
Even Nancy Grace, who today has her own television show, has a background practicing law. She made her television debut on Court TV and later began hosting a regular prime-time legal analysis show called Nancy Grace, on CNN Headline News.
Judges are also in on the act, with the growing market for popular reality-based courtroom television shows. The long-running TV series, Judge Judy, for example, has been nominated numerous times for Daytime Emmy Awards.
Dorothy Brown, a black American professor of law at Emory University School of Law, however, is not convinced the attractions of a celeb-lifestyle is enough to entice young people to a career in the profession.
She says in reality, since the economic downturn, law school applications are down and employers have drastically cut hiring. “Graduates are coming out with a hundred thousand dollars of debt and no guarantee of a permanent job.”
She does, nevertheless, believe popular television shows like L.A. Law, has helped make a career in law appear “sexy and glamorous.” Brown adds that she would not be surprised if there was an increase in medical school applications at the height of the popularity of the drama series, Grey’s Anatomy.
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