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Things On Better Call Saul That Real Lawyers Would Never Do

From the first moment viewers met Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), in the second season of Breaking Bad, it was almost immediately clear that he's less of a lawyer with a penchant for breaking the rules and more of a career criminal with a law degree. When the character spun off into his own series, Better Call Saul, fans got an even more in-depth look at this iconic scam artist in action.

For five seasons (soon to be six, when the final season of Better Call Saul premieres in 2021), viewers have seen Jimmy lie, cheat, break laws, and pull ridiculous stunts to get himself out of tough situations. And it's certainly made for thrilling and addictive TV. However, the longer Jimmy keeps up his schemes without losing his law license or his life, the more one starts to wonder if there's any universe other than a fictional one in which a lawyer could consistently get away what he does.

In order to answer that question, Looper went straight to an expert: David Fleck, a former criminal prosecutor. He broke down the moments when Better Call Saul went off the rails and had Jimmy doing things that no lawyer would ever do in the real world.

Jimmy's courtroom antics would get him disbarred

One thing fans have learned after so many seasons of Better Call Saul is that Jimmy loves a courtroom surprise. They certainly make for good TV, but according to Fleck, in real life, they would put him at serious risk of losing his law license or even being arrested.

In the season 5 episode "Namaste," Jimmy goes to court to defend someone charged with robbery. In order to sow doubt about the plaintiff's ability to correctly identify his client, Jimmy hires a lookalike to pretend to be his client in court. He then tricks the plaintiff into identifying the lookalike instead of the actual defendant, casting doubt on the case. Fleck admitted that he loves this scene, but it's "a little silly and not realistic" — and ultimately "inappropriate during cross-examination of a witness."

"A lawyer could line up a whole squadron of doppelgängers, but what this really proves is that the witness knows what the suspect/defendant looks like. In this case, the true defendant probably was charged with the crime because there was some other evidence that linked him to the crime. It could be a fingerprint at the scene, or that he frequents that store, or cell phone data placed him in the area. There would be no such information for the lookalikes," explained Fleck. "Hypothetically speaking, if there really were no corroborating evidence, just the witness testimony of a single eye witness, then the trick could work. It could create reasonable doubt. However, no actual lawyers would pull a stunt like Jimmy did."

Fleck went on to explain that the bait-and-switch Jimmy pulled would do him more harm than good. "It would anger the judge. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to 'demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges,'" Fleck told Looper. "I think a state bar association would probably punish Jimmy for this stunt."

In the episode "Chicanery" from Better Call Saul season 3, Jimmy pulls another spectacular courtroom con while cross-examining his brother Chuck (Michael McKean). Chuck is testifying that he has electromagnetic hypersensitivity and therefore cannot be in proximity to things like cell phone batteries. After some back and forth on the stand, Jimmy states that he had one of his associates slip a cell phone battery into Chuck's coat pocket, revealing that Chuck has been making up his hypersensitivity.

This would be another major mistake on Jimmy's part, according to Fleck. 

"No legitimate lawyer would engage in such deceptive behavior. To plant the battery on Chuck, Jimmy's associate committed the crimes of battery and/or assault against Chuck," he said. "Both Jimmy and the associate would be charged with a crime. At a minimum, Jimmy's license would be suspended by the state bar association."

Jimmy constantly puts himself at personal and professional risk

It's not just Jimmy's courtroom antics that Fleck called into question. There are plenty of moments that didn't take place under the watchful eye of a judge that still would have gotten him into serious trouble.

Fleck pointed to a moment in the season 5 episode "50% Off," in which Jimmy bribes a maintenance worker to shut down a courthouse elevator while he's riding it with an assistant district attorney, as being a big problem. In the show, Jimmy uses their confinement to successfully negotiate several good deals for himself and his clients, but in real life, Jimmy's scheme is nothing more than kidnapping. 

"Sometimes prosecutors are very busy with other cases, and private defense attorneys have difficulty catching them to negotiate a plea agreement. For this reason, I can understand why Jimmy might want to trap the prosecutor so that they could negotiate as many cases as possible. However, no sane defense attorney would take the risk of being charged with felony false imprisonment," explained Fleck. "Not only would they lose their license to practice law, but they would probably also go to prison."

In another potentially ruinous moment from the episode "Namaste," Jimmy barges onto the private property of a man whose business he's trying to get. While Jimmy ends up landing the client, Fleck cautioned that breaking onto someone's property isn't just illegal — it's also potentially dangerous. But it's not just the trespassing that's the issue here.

"No legitimate lawyer would do this because rational people would not risk their livelihoods for one potential client. [...] The mere fact that Jimmy solicited the client is also problematic. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit Jimmy from doing what he did. Under the Rules, a lawyer may not solicit business in person 'when a significant motive ... is the lawyer's ... pecuniary gain,'" Fleck told Looper. "Again, Jimmy risked his license and livelihood, and most lawyers would not do so."

While Jimmy is able to con and scam his way through the court system of the world of Better Call Saul, he'd have a much harder time getting by with that ol' Saul Goodman charm in real life.