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Hit Drama Based on Tufts Graduate

Hit Drama Based on Tufts GraduateScott Hollander’s work as a child advocacy attorney and head of a nationally-renowned nonprofit is the basis for CBS’ “The Guardian.” Pittsburgh.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.12.02] Every Tuesday, millions of viewers tune in to CBS' hit drama "The Guardian," which is set around the compelling lives of abused and neglected children and the attorneys who volunteer to represent them in court. For child advocacy attorney Scott Hollander, the stories hit very close to home. A 1985 Tufts graduate, Hollander is the inspiration for the courtroom drama - created by his brother - which is finally shedding light on an area of the nation's legal system he says has been long overlooked.

"I've always been extraordinarily proud of what [my brother] does," David Hollander - Scott's younger brother and the show's lead writer and creator - told People Magazine.

A successful corporate attorney at an elite Seattle firm, Hollander left his job more than a decade ago in search of something more fulfilling. He turned to child advocacy and quickly found his calling.

"I love the law, and I've enjoyed the different aspects of practice," the Tufts graduate told the Western Pennsylvanian Legal Intelligencer. "But this work, for me, is personally more satisfying. There is a higher level of commitment."

His work on behalf of neglected children has taken him around the world - including Thailand, India and Romania.

Tapped several years ago to head Pittsburgh's KidsVoice - a nonprofit providing free legal services to children - Hollander quickly turned the struggling organization into a national model.

"Hollander [nearly] quadrupled both the budget (to $2.7 million) and the staff (to more than 40), taking a more multidisciplinary approach to the problems of his young clients," reported Pittsburgh Magazine.

Representing more than 5,000 clients every year, KidsVoice quickly grew into a thriving organization under Hollander's leadership.

"When I started, I wore every hat: director of development, coordinator of special events, press, marketing," he told the magazine. "Now I have a legal director, a program director, a financial manager. I rarely do court work, though I miss it."

As the technical consultant for "The Guardian" and the inspiration for the drama's lead character Nick Fallon, Hollander has been spending more time in courtrooms - at least on the small screen.

"He reads his brother's scripts to make sure the legal procedures and terminology ring true," reported The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He also inspired many of the show's plotlines.

The show's main character, Fallon, left a corporate environment to become a child advocate like Hollander. And many of Fallon's on-screen cases are based on Hollander's actual experiences.

But the show's creators stress that "The Guardian" - which received the highest ratings of any new drama on television in its first season - wasn't meant to mirror Hollander's life too closely. To give the show added drama, they wrote some major differences into their lead character.

"Fallon works for the nonprofit group only because the judge who convicted him on a drug possession charge gave him that option to avoid disbarment and jail time," reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Hollander doesn't use drugs, doesn't have a criminal record and chose to leave his lucrative position to run KidsVoice."

Hollander's ethics are also a lot stronger than Fallon's. "Fallon doesn't seem to have a problem with ethical breaches," reported the Post-Gazette. "Hollander, a member of the ethics committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, insisted on principled reforms at KidsVoice."

Though Fallon's character flaws took Hollander a bit by surprise, he told People Magazine that they play a necessary role in the show.

"When I saw the script, I thought ‘Oh man, I don't like that - why couldn't this be about people in my office who make great choices,'" he told People. "But it didn't take me long to figure out that's not great drama."

In addition to providing great drama, "The Guardian" provides Hollander with a great tool for drawing attention to child advocacy issues.

"[The Guardian] creates a phenomenal opportunity for people to know what we do, to understand the issues that affect children, the limitations in the whole system and maybe focus a light in a way to generate more awareness and allocation of funds to social-service agencies," Hollander told Pittsburgh Magazine. "Children don't have a voice. They don't vote. They don't have a whole lot to make a change in their life."

But attorneys like Hollander are dedicated to doing as much as they can.

"When I make a pitch for money, it used to take me a long time to explain why kids need lawyers," he told People Magazine. "Now they say, ‘Oh, like "The Guardian."' People watch the show and get a sense of how we can really make a difference in the life of a child."

Photos courtesy People Magazine, CBS and KidsVoice.

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