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Watching Legal TV Shows: Five Common Law Student Reactions

Harvey Specter from Suits

Suits, Rake, Boston Legal, Law & Order – for law students, watching a legal TV show is a bit of a guilty pleasure. But because these shows were made with entertainment, rather than accuracy in mind, this guilty pleasure can quickly become a pet peeve. Here are five things you’ve probably said or experienced when watching an episode of your favourite legal drama…

“Is that right?”

It’s a question that makes me cringe. You see, a law student can never watch a legal drama with someone with a non-lawyer without answering questions about whether the law presented on the show is correct. Even worse are the questions, “so what’s the law for this” or “what would you do?” It’s not that I don’t necessarily know the answer, it’s just that after reading through endless cases and presenting arguments in countless assessment tasks, I can’t be bothered explaining again.

“I wish I could do that!”

Legal TV shows are full of super lawyers like Harvey Specter and Alan Shore – they rarely ever lose a case. Also, they can usually do any kind of law that is thrown at them, and jump easily between criminal law to commercial law, then over to environmental law, then back to the beginning again! They can take on any case with ease. I wish!

“It never happens like that!”

Have you ever noticed how the key to winning the case on a TV show will typically appear out of thin air at the crucial moment? Either the answer will just come to an attorney, or a vital piece of evidence will be found at the last minute. Yeah, right!

“You can’t do that!”

Think of Denny Crane’s hilarious courtroom antics in Boston Legal – the lawyers in some of these dramas really misbehave in court but are rarely held in contempt.

“Why can’t my job be as interesting as that?”

When it comes to law on TV, the cases are always very intricate and interesting, and if it weren’t for Mike Ross, they’d hardly ever show the ‘boring bits’ that go on before the trial itself: the legal research, the paperwork, and the other ‘fun parts’ about working in the law. Appeals are rarely ever shown, because every trial is a dramatic must-win scenario (which the TV lawyer will almost always win). I sometimes find myself wondering, why can’t being a lawyer be as interesting as they make out on TV?

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