CFP - Lawyers and the Legal System in Popular Culture

deadline for submissions: 
December 13, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
K. Dale Guffey/Southwest Popular/American Culture Association
contact email: 

EXTENDED TO DEC. 13, 2020!!


Call for Papers


Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)


42nd Annual Conference, Week of February 22-27, 2021

Submissions Open September 1, 2020

Submission Deadline: December 13, 2020


For the 2021 Conference, SWPACA is going virtual! Due to concerns regarding COVID-19, we will be holding our annual conference completely online this year. We hope you will join us for exciting papers, discussions, and the experience you’ve come to expect from Southwest.


Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 42nd annual SWPACA conference. One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels. For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit


The area of Lawyers and the Legal System in Popular Culture is now accepting proposals for presentations for the upcoming Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (“SWPACA”) conference.

The United States prides itself on being a country based on the rule of law, and often the courtroom is seen as the “great leveler” of socio-economic classes in America. Thus, Lady Justice is often depicted as being blindfolded while carrying both scales and a sword.

In popular culture, lawyers run the spectrum, shown sometimes as high priests who adhere to the most rigid standards of truth seeking and ethical behavior (Atticus Finch, Jack McCoy) and sometimes shown as all-too-willing to be on the wrong side of the law (Tom Hagen, Saul Goodman).

Suggested topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Actual people in the legal profession who have been fictionalized, such as Daniel Webster, Clarence Darrow (as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind), or Erin Brockovich
  • Defending unpopular clients, such as the war criminals in Judgment at Nuremberg
  • Fictional women in the legal profession, such as Amanda Bonner in Adam’s Rib, the title character in Ally McBeal, Patty Hewes in Damages, or Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder
  • Films centering on the law, such as 12 Angry Men, Devil’s Advocate, or Philadelphia
  • Legal ethics as depicted - rightly or wrongly - in popular culture
  • Particular fictional lawyers, such as Shakespeare’s Portia or Perry Mason
  • The law as depicted in animated shows through characters such as Lionel Hutz (The Simpsons) or Harvey Birdman
  • The legal profession as a force of evil, such as Wolfram & Hart on Angel
  • The stereotype of the “simple country lawyer” such as Ben Matlock or Hyper-Chicken (Futurama). This topic could also easily include real-life figures such as Cicero, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Ervin, or Gerry Spence
  • The tension between reality television with paid participants and wildly popular courtroom shows involving small claims litigants
  • Using popular culture examples of the law and lawyers in the classroom to teach particular concepts


All proposals must be submitted through the conference’s database at


For details on using the submission database and on the application process in general, please see the Proposal Submission FAQs and Tips page at


Individual proposals for 15-minute papers must include an abstract of approximately 200-500 words. For information on how to submit a proposal for a roundtable or a multi-paper panel, please view the above FAQs and Tips page.  


SWPACA will offer registration reimbursement awards for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. Submissions of accepted, full papers are due January 1, 2021. SWPACA will also offer registration reimbursement awards for select undergraduate and graduate students in place of our traditional travel awards. For more information, visit Registration for the conference will be open and available in late fall. Watch your email for details!


In addition, please check out the organization’s peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, at

If you have any questions about the LAW AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM IN POPULAR CULTURE area, please contact its Area Chair, K. Dale Guffey via email at


We look forward to receiving your submissions!