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popular culture, government lawyers, legal profession


Popular culture reveals much about the perceived role of lawyers in contemporary life. In this article, I draw lessons from the portrayal of lawyers in Aaron Sorkin's classic television series, The West Wing. As a drama centred around a Democratic presidential administration, Republicans often provide the foil. From time to time, however, the show lionizes what might be termed ‘the good Republican’. That ‘good Republican’ is most often a practicing lawyer whose desire to serve is grounded in duty or faith. In this essay, I use a trio of these characters to explore the role of lawyers in public service. At first glance, these lawyers may seem to achieve goodness through a readiness to abandon their political views, particularly Republican views – suggesting that lawyers’ beliefs are malleable if not mercenary. At a deeper level, however, these characters and their experiences vividly convey idealized but worthwhile ideals of public service as a valuable and honourable career choice, particularly for lawyers.


This is a pre-print article made available online by the Manitoba Law Journal in May 2024. This article is forthcoming in (2025) 47:3 Man LJ [24 pages].