Why Jarvis Law PLLC? Fiction Meets Real Life

The other day I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about lawyers fighting over the copyright for “Best Lawyers” lists. Apparently, so and so used the phrase “Best” or “Top” with “Lawyers” and they think that it’s wrong for anyone else to make a list of their favorite lawyers. This made me laugh really hard. As Shinedown says in their song “I’ll Follow You,” next they’re gonna “trademark the color blue.”

Lawyers that fight like this are not the best. These are not my favorite lawyers. My favorite lawyers aren’t real, but they formed me and how I try to practice law. The first one is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (also one of my all-time favorite novels). Atticus is authentic and honorable. There’s a sadness there, and a goodness that you know goes to the root of him. Whenever I’m unsure of the moral ground I stand on, I try to think of Atticus. And Scout. She makes me smile.

Man Thinking in court

Speaking of smiling, my second favorite not real lawyer is from the movie My Cousin Vinny. Played by Joe Pesci, tough guy Vinny Gambini gets called down to Alabama to represent his cousin Bill for a murder Bill didn’t commit. The problem is Vinny, after five tries, has finally passed the bar. Never tried a case. And all the evidence points to his cousin’s guilt. 

Bill’s family, so Vinny goes down to Alabama with his fiancée Lisa to help Bill. It doesn’t go well for Vinny at first. He’s over his head. He doesn’t understand basic criminal practice. He looks foolish, even inept, in court the first few times he appears. Even his sartorial choices (especially the used maroon tuxedo) cause issues. 

Despite a rough beginning and mistakes that border on hilarity, Vinny brings grit and creativity to bear on the case. Deep down, I identify from time to time with Vinny. Like him, I’m good and I mean well. Like him, I’ve had my successes and failures, and I’ve also pursued many interests outside the practice of law. Like him, there have been many times when I’ve found myself over my head.

Why? Because there are few challenges I am too scared to take on; and I’m not afraid of work. I like my work because for me, practicing law offers me a chance to do two of the things I like most: help people, and fix things. When it comes to fixing legal matters, I’m as much an artist as a lawyer. I see difficult cases as empty canvases, in need of the right brush strokes, paint colors, and perspective. When I get a case, I will use everything in my experience arsenal to find a way to get my client a fair and just outcome. 


My cousin Vinny in court

That brings me back to Vinny Gambini. He was lost as the case began. Didn’t know Alabama procedure; did not, in fact, know much of any procedure. And he dressed funny, but that’s a different story, and yes, he finally found an acceptable suit. As the case wore on, and with the help of his outrageously wonderful girlfriend Lisa (played by the great Marisa Tomei), Vinny uses his unusual perceptiveness to begin tearing up the prosecutor’s case. For example, Vinny observes that grits take a long time to cook—which invalidates the testimony of one witness who  gives the wrong length of time for observation of the alleged perpetrators. Sight lines and visual obstructions, as Vinny identifies them, knock out the persuasiveness of two other prosecution witnesses.  

The state has one last piece of evidence that seems unassailable: the tire tracks left at the murder scene are identical to Cousin Bill’s 1964 Buick—which was supposedly observed at the scene. The prosecutor brings in a ringer to testify about the tire tracks: FBI analyst Bill Wilbur. That’s where Vinny gets creative. Fiancée Lisa is an expert on automobiles. She grew up in a family of mechanics and she has an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of automobiles. In the meantime, by examining photos of the tire marks, Vinny, also knowledgeable about cars, is certain that the tire tracks were not made by Bill’s 1964 Buick. Why not? Because the tracks are flat and even. Only a car with four-wheel independent suspension could have made those tracks.

Proving that is difficult—unless you have an expert witness on hand. Vinny has Lisa. The prosecutor of course objects to her qualifications as a witness—until she tears it up during voir dire and proves, by answering a string of difficult questions, that she does in fact qualify by way of experience as an expert witness on automobiles. 


When questioned, Lisa explains that only a car with an independent rear suspension and “positraction” could have made the tire marks. Positraction is a term of art for limited slip differentials, and there is one model of cars, a 1963 Pontiac Tempest, that had that feature. In the meantime, Vinny has done his own research: a 63’ Tempest, mint green, was spotted at the scene. The driver of that is the killer—not Cousin Bill. Cue the music . . . Bill wins his freedom and Vinny wins his first case.

So what does all this have to do with asking my firm to help you? Like both Atticus and Vinny, who live in our minds, I’m good people, as we like to say in my family. I am what I am—authentic. I aim to serve and protect with honor. I’ve got tools, knowledge, skills and a will to help you with your legal problems. From business law and consumer protection, to drafting wills and trusts, and finally to helping you and your family through difficult times, I will be here, ready to give you my best.

Elaine Jarvis smiling with Sunglasses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *