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5 Legal Dramas That Got a Lot Right

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You don’t need to have a law degree to know that many courtroom dramas and legal thrillers aren’t exactly accurate in their depictions of how attorneys operate. Law & Order may have been entertaining, but it certainly wasn’t a documentary.

However, sometimes movies and TV shows are much more accurate than you may expect. Consider the following examples. While they’re by no means perfectly realistic depictions of the legal profession, they do get a surprising number of details right.

 

Suits

Suits definitely indulges in high drama at the expense of realism in many ways. That said, it does accurately depict one aspect of an attorney’s work that most shows and movies fail to convey.

Specifically, several of the attorneys on Suits dislike court because they’re not allowed to behave dramatically or confrontationally in that setting. That’s not to say that all lawyers dislike going to court. However, it’s true that judges typically won’t permit the type of over-the-top behavior attorneys often display in court scenes from movies and TV shows.

 

My Cousin Vinny

My Cousin Vinny doesn’t technically qualify as a courtroom drama or legal thriller. It’s instead a relatively farcical comedy. Thus, viewers could be forgiven for assuming it has no place on a list of realistic legal movies and shows.

Surprisingly, though, many lawyers consider the film to be among the most accurate cinematic depictions of their profession ever released. Some law school professors even screen clips of it to teach various legal concepts.

The reason My Cousin Vinny is so realistic is actually linked to the ineptitude of its characters. Many have limited professional experience given the circumstances of the case at the heart of the movie. They need concepts and procedures explained to them, allowing the audience to learn along.

 

The Social Network

The Social Network earns a spot on this list because it depicts a legal process that movies often gloss over: depositions.

Most movies and shows depicting the legal profession focus on the “glamorous” aspects of the job, such as dramatic courtroom trials or thrilling investigations. They rarely cover the deposition phase, when attorneys record pre-trial statements from individuals involved in a case. However, in reality (and as shown in The Social Network), depositions can often result in cases being settled without any parties ever going to court.

 

The Good Wife

Several of the writers for TV’s The Good Wife had legal backgrounds. Additionally, the show’s executive producer, Craig Turk, was once an attorney.

He’s stated that the team behind the show prioritized trying to create a series that was more realistic and accurate than most legal dramas by avoiding certain common storytelling choices. For example, many shows and movies compress time, giving the impression that cases which may take months or even years to resolve can in fact be resolved very quickly. The Good Wife, on the other hand, often allowed cases to play out over a more realistic timeline.

 

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is another example many wouldn’t expect to see on this list. That’s fair, given how unrealistic many elements of the show are.

However, some attorneys point out that the first season of the series depicts another oft-overlooked aspect of being a lawyer. Instead of depicting the legal profession as one that always involves earning millions of dollars working at a powerhouse firm, it shows how many attorneys start out as small business owners struggling to establish their firms.

Just remember, no legal movie or TV show is entirely realistic. The creators of legal dramas emphasize telling an entertaining story over providing audiences with a law school caliber education. That said, sometimes, they still manage to release works of surprising accuracy.

 

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