Law in the age of Netflix

Making A Murderer’s Dean Strang on how the series has changed the perception of the profession.

When you think about law as a career, there’s no doubt you envision high flying lawyers in courtrooms much like the scenes depicted on some of the world’s most loved shows. From the fictional settings of How To Get Away With Murder or Law and Order, to the much more real documentary-type shows such as Netflix’s Making A Murderer; law has become a key focal point of pop culture
in recent years.

I see a great number of young people determined to pursue justice.

Focusing on the justice system in the United States and its impact on the case of Steven Avery – a small town man who has spent the majority of his life in prison charged with murder – Making A Murderer has piqued the public’s interest in law around the globe. “I think that the current high tide of good true crime stories, in film, podcasts, television and books has promoted public interest in how the criminal justice system really works,” says Dean Strang, Steven Avery’s former defense attorney. The show had so much of an impact, that over 536,000 people signed online petitions for Avery’s release.

The documentary allows for a more real, deep-rooted view of the world of a lawyer, unlike other television shows which Strang says can glamourise the profession. “On balance, I think that [Making A Murderer] has helped how people perceive law. I think the net effect has been good.” As well as it’s impression on the wider public, he notes that his part in the show has also lead him to consider his own profession. “I have had more opportunity to learn about other places and people, to meet interesting and thoughtful people, and to think broadly about criminal justice than in the 30 years of practicing law before then,” he says.

Pursue law if you think you can contribute to making life better for other people.

In the age of Netflix and social media, he feels that young people have become increasingly engaged in politics and the justice system. “I see a great number of young people determined to pursue justice, to make the world a fairer, better place – whether it’s for the poor, women, LGBTQ people or those in developing nations, minorities; everyone. I really do sense a renewed commitment to justice.”

I think Making A Murderer has helped how people perceive law.

When asked if he would encourage these young people to pursue law in an age of social media, Strang notes that law is not so much a profession as a vocation. “My answer never has changed since I became a lawyer: yes, pursue law if you honestly want to be a lawyer because you think you can contribute most to making life a little better for other people that way; no, if you cannot say that honestly.”

Dean Strang is a visiting lecturer at University of Limerick returning February 10 to March 27.

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