Lawyers and law students will learn more from watching how great actors deal with situations than they can from listening to a staid lecture on legal ethics. Legal TV shows can be the perfect medley between classroom fantasies about lawyers and law practice in the real world (at least some legal shows have come this close to portraying what transpires in actual law practice). In addition, they are an invaluable aid to the law student who wants to form an opinion of the type of lawyer they want to become in practice. Either you’d love to be the type that plays by the rules or bend the rules to your advantage. The ball is always in your court. Here are five of the lawyering lessons anyone will ever learn from watching legal TV shows.
(1) Legal shows can provide guidance to law students on proper attorney behavior and the boundaries of legal ethics.
Being a lawyer means you’ll encounter ethical quandaries, like those on social media. Sometimes the rules of conduct will offer you guidance other times they won’t. Your own moral code should light you the way. Thus legal dramas provides guidance to lawyers and law students who wish to be on the level with legal ethics with the exact scope of proper attorney conduct. As result, lawyers watching legal shows would be better informed in avoiding potential ethical blunders that could either bring the legal profession into disrepute or result in avoidable disbarment that could sound the death knell for their otherwise promising careers.
(2) You could model yourself after them
Lawyers and law students can also study fictional lawyers with their differing idiosyncrasies and try to model themselves after them as they launch their own careers.
Fictional lawyers also show case other deficiencies the law student will learn a thing or two about building their own reputation.
(3) You’ll have a better dress sense
For so long the media has often portrayed lawyers in very bad light with a particular penchant for depicting our lousy and dreadful dress sense. And they may have been right all along since the trademark oversize wigs and flowing dingy gowns seem to be the only plain outfits we have in our office wardrobes. To that end, legal shows can dispel this widespread fashion misconceptions the public have about lawyers being too old-fashioned by presenting lawyers in good light fashion-wise, with a lot more pizazz, elegance and style. Series like the Suits have shown us that lawyers can look very professional in chic suits while also brandishing their infectious personalities.
(4) You’ll learn that the successful lawyer is one who puts client’s first.
For most practicing lawyers winning seems to be all that really matters in litigation. Even so, the job of the lawyer isn’t really about personal ambition and prioritizing winning in every case they litigate but about exploring other viable options that could best safeguard the client’s interest. And in some scenarios, a lawyer will be duty-bound to put aside their predilections for winning through drawn out trial over an out of court settlement in the client’s best interest.
In this wise, legal TV shows portray lawyers as effective problem solvers who always put their client’s first with their biases and thirst for revenge taking the backseat. You’ll learn from legal dramas that sometimes it would be best to take the “deal” than “sue the bastard” where from a lawyer’s superior analysis of the facts of case, defeat in court would be unavoidable. We see this in Suits where Mike Ross would reprimand Harvey for having “a boulder-sized chip” on his shoulder for wanting to settle scores going on trial (which he could lose) with a rival attorney who had wronged him in the past than take their better offer of settlement
(5) It can help beginners in law see how the law actually works in real life.
Law TV shows are to be lauded for the way they portray proceedings in the courtroom, the way lawyers go about arguing their cases and the proper courtroom behavior to be expected of trial lawyers. In that sense, they will have immense benefit for newbies in law in helping them understand the law and how it operates beyond just reading theories about them in beginner law books.
(6) They have enormous entertainment value.
As you all already know, with so many cases to brief and memorize and countless books to read, studying law can be quite a grind with no prospect of respite. So for the burned out law student, legal TV shows can offer a real form of unvarnished escapism with no end to their plot twists and riveting intrigues carried out with such spellbinding effect to have won over the admiration of even non-lawyers. What’s more, it’s also one of many the ways to have fun studying law
You’d imagine as a law student the hallmark of an excellent lawyer as having an eidetic memory for instant word perfect memorization of legal rules and precedents without the need for rote learning. With an equally uncanny sense of judgment and unduly confrontational inclinations. While that perception is partly true, it doesn’t really do enough justice to the qualities of the successful lawyer.
But in watching legal drama, you get to learn, in truth, what separates the men from the boys in the world of courtroom drama. Legal dramas tell us that while successful lawyers are astute and well-informed on the law, notwithstanding, their trump card lies with their ability to employ stealth and anticipation against whomever they are up against. They not only take time to understand their own cases but go a step further to actually understand their opponents and predict their every move as one might expect from an ambush predator stalking a prey.
Then with this knowledge, they try to match them argument for argument. Often with the benefit of better research, they tend to have the more persuasive argument which might likely swing the scales of justice in their favor.
Legal dramas also teach us that good lawyers pay great attention to details and would try to dig deeper to the root of every case they are to argue. Wherever they appear, they are seen to be always flexible and are ever ready to thinking outside the box in finding more viable alternatives that might secure their clients better results.
The takeaway here then, is that any would-be successful lawyer should do their homework and at the same time, never take their eyes off the opponent.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LL.B from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
To get in touch, follow him on social media.