Lawyers Off Duty: Netflix With No Chill
If your motivation to study is waning, watching a legal-themed movie or show is a great way to reignite your interest in the law and justify your procrastination (it's kind of educational, right?). But if you've binge-watched Suits for the tenth time and can recite the script of Legally Blonde in your sleep, it's time to watch something new. The good news is, we've put together a list of legal-themed films and tv shows for you to check out:
A Civil Action: This film is based on true events, including a real lawsuit about environmental pollution that made many people seriously ill. The film is nuanced in a way that Erin Brockovich was not, not only depicting the lifespan of large-scale litigation but also providing a cautionary tale about what happens when a lawyer becomes too personally invested in a case.
Garrow's Law: This series doubles as a history lesson – it's about real-life 18th century UK barrister William Garrow, and his attempts to represent defendants in criminal trials, in a time when the right to a competent defence was not guaranteed. It's heartening to watch how far the legal system has come since Garrow's time, and the scenes of Garrow pouring over law textbooks will make you feel seen.
Garrow's Law: The wigs in this show are their own characters.
Fracture: This film, about a perfectly planned murder by a wealthy man played by none other than Anthony Hopkins, is both a mystery and a legal thriller. It's a lot of fun to watch the way the characters manipulate the legal system, and you will be kept guessing until the very end. You may also fangirl over our favourite good guy protagonist (a prosecutor played by, you guessed it, Ryan Gosling) as he fights for justice.
Fracture: So much drama!
Silk: This UK tv series focuses on a criminal defence barrister as she strives to earn the recognition of Queens Counsel (or, "silk"). It’s a great alternative to typical American legal dramas, providing a look into what it is like to be a barrister, including the long hours and loneliness of being self-employed. Having worked in a barrister's chambers, I felt particularly validated by a scene in which the main character picks staples out of documents and files them in binders. I'll take my thrills where I can get them.
Apple Tree Yard: Apple Tree Yard is more about the legal system than the lawyers. The series demonstrates how harrowing it is to be a defendant in a criminal trial and its depiction of the treatment of sexual assault survivors in Court is hard, but necessary, viewing. In one scene, a character's comment that she was “really easy" when it came to coffee is used in Court to blame her for a sexual assault. You’ll want to reform the system after watching this.
Black Earth Rising: The most intense recommendation on this list (and that's saying something), Black Earth Rising is an eight-part political thriller about the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The series partly addresses the role of the international criminal courts and poses challenging questions such as: should people on the "right" side of conflict be prosecuted for war crimes?
Black Earth Rising: It has Michaela Coel in it - enough said.
The Girlfriend Experience, Season One: This show, about a law student who moonlights as an escort, is definitely NSFW and not obviously about the law. However, part of the story follows the main character's internship at a large law firm, which provides a fascinating commentary on what it's like to be a vulnerable junior employee in the legal profession, especially when it comes to unethical and inappropriate conduct by senior lawyers.
The Girlfriend Experience: On another note, this show is great workwear inspo.
The Children Act: Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, the Children Act examines the ethical dilemmas around religious objections to medical treatment, and the toll making these kinds of decisions can have on a judge. Emma Thompson's portrayal of a judge making life or death decisions concerning a teenage boy is incredibly realistic (I felt like I was in Court, being told off by a judge, when watching some of the courtroom scenes). The film is a reminder that the application of the law in court has real-world implications.
The Witness for the Prosecution (2016): This recent two-part remake of the famous story by Agatha Christie is well-worth checking out. The story follows a down-on-his-luck British solicitor in the years after WWII, who takes on the case of a young man accused of murdering a wealthy older woman. The entire plot turns on an issue about spousal privilege – so at least you can say that watching it is helping you with your evidence study.
The Witness for the Prosecution: Courtroom drama! And more wigs!
Reasonable Doubt: The cheap thrill of the list, this film is entertaining because the main character is pretty much every arrogant guy you couldn't stand at law school. But boy, does he screw up when he covers up a hit and run and then fixes a trial! This film is an example of things you shouldn't do when you're a lawyer (maybe it qualifies as legal ethics study?).
We would love to hear your thoughts – have you seen any of the movies or shows on this list? Do you have any recommendations, especially for series and films from outside the US and the UK? Include your comments in the box below!