Crime fighting and crime-solving television programs are now like a staple to modern-day television. From police and specialized detectives to P.I.’s and superheroes, it is clear that we, as a people, enjoy the drama of investigating evidence in search of justice. We tune in as the hero stops the villain just in the nick of time– and just as always, an attorney has been called to represent this fallen foe in a court of law. This aspect is loved as much as others (a fact proven by a multitude of attorney shows; think Good Wife). But how much of this charade is true and how much is fiction?
For starters, we know that real world attorney work, like most other occupations, involves more people, more time, more energy, and is far more complicated. In reality, attorneys can spend days at a time reviewing and reading different legal cases, and most cases never make it to trial; whereas, on television, tedious paperwork is never shown and lawyers are nearly always shown in a courtroom.
While the on-screen portrayal of this occupation, like many others, is a bit extreme and dramatic, legal dramas do work to portray the justice system truthfully, in that it is a true–albeit inaccurate–representation of the U.S. justice system. Typically, legal shows will hire consultants, and even lawyers, to write scripts or talk with scriptwriters to keep the show as close to real life as possible, without eliminating the entertainment. Consultants typically aim to keep things realistic and balanced, rather than to the T accuracy.
Although writers, producers, and directors spend a lot of time ensuring an appealing legal drama, there are a few inaccuracies that Hollywood can’t seem to resist. Here a are few top flawed depictions:
- Court is always exciting – In every show, the back and forth discussion, banter, and quick-witted responses make courtrooms seem so interesting and cool, but the fact is that it just isn’t that riveting.
- Meal ticket – Every lawyer and attorney shown (okay, besides a few) has a nice, sleek car, a fancy watch, and an expensive suit. They get hefty checks, and it shows. Unfortunately, attorneys living in reality do not always experience such lavish lifestyles.
- Dirty, Sleazy, Grimy – Whatever your word is, it all means the same. Lawyers are scum, and they will throw you under the bus for the right price. You’ve seen the type. They use the law to get what they want, often manipulating and bending the law in their favor.