Fairly Legal Or Barely Ethical?

Over the past few months I have waited with baited breath for this show Fairly Legal to come to television. Many questions have passed through my mind (as well as other mediators, I’m sure) about how this show is going to portray mediation. And finally it debuted on U.S. airwaves last week with USA Network (watch it here). There was a lot of lead up to this show, rallies and online games. While I live in Canada, I could not watch the premiere of the show…but I did follow along the live Twitter stream (hashtag: #Fairlylegal) and found that there was an interesting response.

There were many that found the show unethical, in bad taste, and not true to what mediation is. There were also many (non-mediators, generally) people that loved the show. They thought it was great, it had action, drama, and romance in the plot and people ate it up. So here we are… many mediators disliked the show, and many public citizens enjoyed the show. For me it sounds like every other show based on a real profession.

For example, I know a few police officers, and they frequently get asked if they get to do cool stuff like CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, Flashpoint, Blue Bloods, etc. and they always have to correct the public. I know a few nurses that are asked about shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, ER, etc. I know a few contractors that despise shows about Mike Holmes, Extreme House Makeover, etc.

I think you get the point.

I have watched the show twice (you can watch it here) and the first time I watched it with my mediator lens. I was upset…I didn’t like it, there were many things in the show that I did not agree with and thought were unethical. Then I watched it again, from an entertainment perspective and from an everyday person. Then it hit me, mediation is getting air time. Mediation is being broadcasted to a lot of people, and that makes my work a bit easier. I am excited for this show to come to Canada, and I hope it is a hit, because it will put the profession in the spotlight (where it deserves to be). Now I know that mediators will say it puts it there in a negative way. But I would rather point out what’s wrong with the show with someone who has a basic foundation of what mediation is then have to start from scratch.

Some of the debate reminded me a bit of a blog post by Tammy Lenski called ‘Do you need a Mediator or a mediator” (read it…it’s good). Also, you can read Amanda Bucklow’s review on Fairly Legal here or Lynsee Swisher’s post over on ADRhub.ca here.

Keep your eyes peeled Canada, Fairly legal will be on Showcase in Canada on February 2nd, at 10:00 pm. Take a look and let me know what you think! Have you already watched it? What did you think?


Jason Dykstra

Jason is a Conflict Management Specialist who is helping organizations and congregations move from conflict situations to creative solutions. He specializes in relational and communication issues and uses his experience and training in mediation, group facilitation, conflict management coaching, speaking and teaching to aid you and your surroundings to better… MORE >

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