Story Synopsis

Paul Newman, 1954 (image is in the public domain)

Paul Newman, 1954 (image is in public domain)

The Verdict starred two powerhouse actors, Paul Newman and James Mason, and was directed by Sidney Lumet. In this courtroom drama, Paul Newman plays ambulance-chasing lawyer Frank Galvin, who was once a successful attorney at a posh Boston firm but has now hit bottom. A down-on-his luck alcoholic, Galvin has lost all of his cases over the last few years, and crashes funerals in desperate attempts to drum up business.

When an attorney-friend hands Galvin a “sure thing” medical malpractice case where Galvin can make some money on a contingency basis, Galvin doesn’t really care about the case, just that he can finally make some bucks. But in the course of doing yet another wrong thing, Galvin gradually comes around to doing what’s right.

Why This Film Is a Favorite

The story chronicles a lawyer’s redemption through his handling of a highly charged medical malpractice case.

Some lawyers have mentioned how this movie shows how difficult it can be for an individual fighting for justice against the corporate money-machine.

Legally Realistic?

Some lawyers have also said that The Verdict isn’t always legally realistic — how in some of the courtroom scenes rules of civil procedure are side-stepped in favor of dramatic tension. Another legal no-no is that the defense hid evidence in the discovery process from opposing counsel.

Frank Galvin’s Character

In real life, there are all kinds of jokes about lawyers being sharks, and lawyers not having souls, but those are one-dimensional characterizations of attorneys. Galvin starts out as a joke, but he’s more complex than that. In the course of the movie, you discover him to be a complicated, three-dimensional character who’s a hero despite his flaws.

(This article is excerpted from A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins)

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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