Stanford Law Grad, Former 'CSI' Writer, Now Focused on Lawyer-Centered 'Drop Dead Diva'

Josh Berman says he had no social life during his JD/MBA program at Stanford University. But not because he did nothing but study.

“I … was constantly writing scripts at night,” Berman told Bitter Lawyer in an extensive interview. None of the scripts he wrote during this time got made, he said. But despite summer associate gigs at Kirkland & Ellis and Paul Hastings, instead of working as a lawyer after graduation, Berman started as an executive in the creative department at NBC.

“I found law school really fun and challenging—my mind was always in overdrive—but my briefs looked more like short stories than briefs,” Berman told Bitter Lawyer. “I realized I’m more of a storyteller.”

Berman is currently the executive producer of a Lifetime show he created called Drop Dead Diva. The concept: A plus-size female lawyer flatlines at a hospital and comes back to life with her stellar intellect intact, but the soul, if you will, of a beautiful wannabe model who died at the same time. Bitter Lawyer calls it “equal parts Ally McBeal, L.A. Law, The Practice … and Glee.” The show’s second season premieres June 6.

Diva is a departure from the show on which Berman really got his start (after a brief stint on a comedy canceled after four episodes aired)—CSI. Berman told Bitter Lawyer that he started on the show as a story editor based on a spec script he wrote for The Practice to demonstrate his legal knowledge.

Bitter Lawyer asked Berman if he feels he’s part of the “CSI Effect”—the notion that as a result of the popular show, many jurors now have misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about forensic evidence in criminal cases. (Case in point: CSI was among many legal TV shows cited as ones that may leave jurors “with an improper preconceived idea about the legal system” in Ohio State Bar Association jury instruction guidelines announced Wednesday.)

“I definitely think juries expect the prosecution to have more evidence now,” Berman said. “That’s the negative. The positive is that juries understand forensics a lot better and are more open to believing it. I feel lucky and so proud of my work on CSI.”

Updated at 5:02 p.m. to include link to post on Ohio jury instruction guidelines.

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