The Hollywood Reporter, Esq.

'Anonymous' lawyer's quest to join TV club

Like most of his Harvard Law School class- mates, Jeremy Blachman graduated in 2005 with big ambitions. But rather than climbing the corporate law ladder, Blachman passed the Bar and set out with an even tougher goal: to join the small but growing fraternity of lawyers-turned-successful television writers.

He knows it's a long shot. But Blachman, 28, also knows writers with legal backgrounds have a leg up in finding work on lawyer shows. The fall schedule includes another large crop of legal-themed series such as ABC's "Eli Stone," Fox's "Canterbury's Law" and FX's "Damages." They join CBS' "Shark" and the "Law & Order" franchise in what has become one of television's most bankable genres and a springboard for talented writers like Marc Guggenheim ("Eli Stone"), Jeff Pinker ("Lost") and Peter Blake ("House") to go on to successful careers after giving up the law.

"The nuances of what goes on in a law firm or a courtroom are not always apparent to most people, let alone most writers," says ABC Studios executive vp Howard Davine, a former tax lawyer. "Just as medical series require people with medical backgrounds to ensure that the script dialogue is right and the staging of medical procedures is accurate, so too, legal series need similar on-site expertise. Finding good writers who were once lawyers is enormously helpful."

Of course, they all walk in the footsteps of David E. Kelley, the chief justice of lawyer-scribes who practiced for three years as a Boston litigator before landing a job on "L.A. Law" and becoming the prolific creator of "Ally McBeal," "The Practice" and "Boston Legal."

"David Kelley is certainly the model," Blachman says. "I think being a lawyer isn't that different than being a TV writer. It's just a different type of writing that requires a different type of creativity."

Blachman has already succeeded in a few mediums. As a law student, he began an anonymous blog in the voice of a hilariously ill-tempered partner at an unidentified L.A. law firm. Satirizing the corporate firm culture he experienced as a summer associate, the blog became a hit as speculation grew over who its author might be. When the New York Times revealed his identity, Blachman says he heard from 30 literary agents in 36 hours. His novel, "Anonymous Lawyer," was published last year to mostly good reviews and was recently released in paperback.

But the book was only a step toward Blachman's ultimate goal: TV. He signed with WMA, and Sony Pictures Television liked his voice enough to option the book and pair him with Jeff Rake, another lawyer-turned-scribe, to write a pilot. The studio decided not to make the show, but he continues to take meetings, where he says executives have been supportive that his background will help him get jobs.

Still, as Blachman hustles for work, his Harvard classmates recently received word that many big-city law firms have raised starting salaries to $165,000. Would he consider a legal job if screenwriting doesn't work out?

"People always ask, 'Why don't you just (practice) entertainment law?' " he says. "But I couldn't. I'd be too jealous of my clients."
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