"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Arresting Developments! 6 Savvy Lessons Writers Can Learn From Courtroom TV Shows

Okay, so I admit that I’m a sucker for men in uniforms; courtroom bailiffs are no different. But bulging biceps are not the only reason that courtroom TV shows are among my guilty pleasures.
Over the years, glued to the “boob tube,” I’ve picked up some pretty useful tips on homeowner liability, statute of limitations, tenets of the Fair Debt Practices Collection Act, labor law and a host of other useful tidbits.

But, perhaps equally important, are all the lessons they impart to today’s writers and bloggers seeking success. From Judge Judy, to Divorce Court, to People’s Court, to Judge Mathis, to America’s Court with the sexy “Boss Ross,” there are numerous practices and principles to be applied to help you to operate ethically, strategically, profitably, and wisely.

Here are the most important six:

1. Credibility is important.
Are you who you say you are online? Is your image consistent? Do you have the “expertise” and experience to offer others advice, or are you just “fakin’ it ‘til you make it?"
With the Internet and the availability of various search engines, it’s extremely easy for folks to research your words, your vocational background, your social media profiles, and a host of other avenues to determine if you’re legit. With this in mind, don’t embellish to impress. Keep your word. And refrain from saying unkind and untrue things that will serve to tarnish your image in the future.

2. Humor helps.
Even serious matters can be handled with humor and a little comic relief. Judge Greg Mathis is a great example. Not only is he easy on the eyes; he’s sometimes easy on offenders when they appear before him in his courtroom. A former “criminal” himself, he often uses empathy and offers funny anecdotes and amusing punch lines to lighten the mood and get others to be more receptive to his advice. You can too.

3. Get things in writing.
I can’t count the number of times when someone has been victimized by a slum landlord, a Don Juan who reneged on paying back a loan, an employee who was terminated unfairly, or someone, who in ignorance loss the proverbial “shirt on his back” and his court case, for lack of proper documentation of his arrangement with others. Don’t be one of them.
As a freelancer, make sure that you work with a written contract that outlines deadline dates, payment terms, scope of duties, and cancellation policies so that you won’t have to appear before a “real” court judge.

4. Pictures help to enhance your position or illustrate a point.
Often, when the judge is trying to determine liability, (particularly in tenant disputes) before and after photos can seal the deal. For writers and bloggers, images help to draw readers in, serve as a visual aid, and make points clearer. Depending upon how they’re used. Make sure to give proper attribution for works that are not your own.

5. Pro Bono work has value.
As a veteran freelancer for many years, I am an advocate for writers earning fair pay for their say. Over the years, I have earned thousands of dollars, authoring hundreds of articles. But, when the cause is important, and the need arises, I still write for free. Some writers feel that this devalues our profession, but I strongly believe that this should be evaluated on a case by case basis. And if lawyers can do it from time to time, why can’t we?

6. Freedom of speech isn’t totally free.
Social media, email and the Internet have been used for bloggers and the general public to “share thoughts”, slam clients, vent about bad bosses, gossip, and air their dirty laundry to a global audience. But, don’t think that your First Amendment rights are absolute; there can be dire consequences in the way of defamation of character, improper disclosure, and the violation of employee confidentiality agreements. Tread carefully.

There you have it, folks. Would you agree or disagree? Any of these resonate with you? Who's your favorite TV judge?

Image: Stock Photo


  1. I agree, Jennifer. It is amazing how lessons are everywhere, isn't it? I like all of these points, and often need to remind myself of #3. Just because you think someone is on the same page as you are, doesn't mean that they are. Have learned this one the hard way.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 13, 2012 at 2:45 PM


      I know what you mean. Better safe than sorry though, right? :-)

      Thanks for your thoughts here.

  2. You have a knack for painting pictures with words! And Judge Joe Brown is my go-to guy. He tells it like it is. Good advice here, Jennifer.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 13, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      Hey Linda,

      Thanks for the compliment!
      I must say, I think Judge Joe is a cutie, but he's a little too "argumentative" for me to watch on the regular. :-)

  3. Oh, Jennifer. Number 6. Slamming and venting can slit the throat of a writer faster than anything. Not, not worth it! Great points all.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 14, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      Thanks so much, Susan. Well said.