Law & Order, Boston Legal, How to Get Away with Murder, Suits, The Good Wife, Ally McBeal - the list of legal dramas that have grabbed the attention of millions of viewers is nearly endless. For attorneys, it always seems our relationship with these shows is one of either love, hate, or both. How many times has someone recommended a T.V. show because you’re an attorney? Does anyone else’s chosen profession have that profound an impact on the shows they watch?
(If one more person tells me to watch Better Call Saul, I might entirely lose my mind. I’m sure it’s good, I just don’t want to watch it.)
Hate them, love them, or love to hate them, here are my theories on why so many lawyers are drawn to legal dramas:
Whether it’s the dubious collection of evidence or a little too much emphasis on Miranda, crime dramas get a lot of things wrong. And it can be fun – for us, maybe not our friends and families – to catch every misnomer and point it out. It’s like watching a train wreck that we can’t tear our eyes away from. Not to mention a chance to show off some of the knowledge we paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain.
The practice of law often isn’t as dramatic as its T.V. portrayal. I still remember explaining to a bemused family member that by the time a case gets to trial, there aren’t really any surprises. However, deep down, we might want to be Atticus Finch. We want a confession from the witness stand. There’s a deep satisfaction that comes with that “gotcha” moment, even if it’s entirely unrealistic.
Or, perhaps attorneys are drawn to legal dramas because we see the human connection more than most. Because lawyers know, as actor Jimmy Smits (formerly of L.A. Law and now appearing in Bluff City Law) put it: “Behind every legal case there are real people that will either benefit from or experience a setback depending on the outcome of the case.”
And maybe sometimes we need a story where we know the good guys are going to win.