Law Show founded by writer behind hit Netflix series

Created by Steve Blackman, '97 LLB.

Helen Metella - 31 January 2020

Law Show was created in 1996 by second-year law student and avid writer Steve Blackman, '97 LLB, who is now a renowned Hollywood writer and producer.

"I arranged a meeting with then-Dean (Timothy) Christian, who as it turns out, liked to sing," says Blackman. "I proposed a one-or-two night run of a law student cabaret to raise money for a charity and promised to let him perform. The rest is history."

A self-confessed control freak ("was then, am now") Blackman wrote and directed the show. "But I did find wonderful support from other eager students like Jay Haugen, '98 LLB, and Koorosh Shahrokh, '98 LLB, who both had experience in music, in theatre, lighting, etc. They were my core team and I relied on them heavily."

In its first two years, Law Show's venue was the Timms Centre for the Arts, Haugen says, recalling that Blackman wanted it to be a classier production than "the Med shows, which were a series of skits about bodily functions." But renting the venue stressed their budget, says Haugen, the production's stage manager. So at the first technical rehearsal, on a -30 C day, the theatre was frigid because the heat had not been turned on four hours prior to prepare.

Although Blackman was called to the Alberta bar in 1998 and worked for two and a half years in Criminal, Personal and Divorce Law, his fascination with stage and screen took precedence. With fellow articling student Greg Ball, in 1999 he wrote, pitched and sold to CTV the premise for a drama series about junior lawyers (the duo developed the series treatment during early morning sessions at Uncle Alberts Pancake House on Edmonton's 124th Street). The Associates, at the time the most expensive series ever made in Canada, aired 30 episodes in 2001 and 2002.

Since then, Blackman has become a busy writer, showrunner and producer, now based in Los Angeles. His writing and producing credits include stints with the series Bones, and Fargo. He was an executive producer and co-showrunner on Private Practice, and writer and executive producer on Altered Carbon. Currently, he's the executive producer and showrunner of the hit Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, which has just wrapped production of Season Two, and is one of Netflix's most successful shows, with 50 million viewers worldwide. Blackman is also creating and producing new projects for the streaming service.

Law Show started him on that successful trajectory, he says.

"It reminded me that being a lawyer didn't mean I had to shut out the other creative aspects of my life. In many ways, the Law Show inspired me to go to Hollywood and follow my dreams to produce, write and direct television."

From "The True Meaning of Law Show," Canons of Construction, Spring-Summer 2002

Mark Woltersdorf, producer of Law Show 2002

"It truly is amazing when I started to add it up: organizational meetings in March and April; writing, choreography and music selection throughout the summer; theatrical practices, soliciting donations, booking theatre space, negotiating contracts, etc., throughout the fall and winter.

"The month before the show was feverish. Tempers were stretched thin as personalities clashed and, despite all of the hours we spent planning so that last-minute glitches wouldn't happen, they did. I don't think that (director) Elizabeth Tatchyn slept for two nights before the show and I know I was wishing I had never heard of Law Show ...

"Because of all the extra hours put in, I'm tired, behind at school and working overtime to catch up …

"I drove to Kids Kottage last Friday to deliver our cheque for $20,000. It's not a lot, really, compared to the one million dollars that is required annually to operate the facility. Despite this, as I sat in the office at Kids Kottage with development officer Pam Miller, she made me feel like some kind of hero … our contributions have been used to help children who need a safe place to be when families have problems."