Important Takeaways from the Big Screen

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School Law school

Just because we’re law students doesn’t mean we’re immune from falling prey to Netflix’s newest lawyer focused drama. More times than not these shows are filled with unrealistic drama that expands the scope of the law, and makes lawyers out to be more calculating and dubious then we’re allowed to be (or would want to be).

Though the big screen often paints lawyers in colorful strokes, viewing these movies and shows through a lawyers lens does reveal some important takeaways that can be utilized both in law school, and once passing the bar.

The Paper Chase

  • Best known as a tool for demonstrating to family and friends the horrors of the 1L curve, cold calls, and the extraordinarily heavy reading load that law students are saddled with. Behind the ‘1L sucks’ façade,’ the Paper Chase also urges law students to remember that there are more important things than grades and law school rankings.
Timothy Bottoms in The Paper Chase. 20th Century Fox 1973.

My Cousin Vinny

  • At first glance, this humorous movie speaks to the importance of attorney competency, which is certainly an important takeaway for any perspective and/or current attorney. However, for those future litigators out there, this movie also provides a key piece of information regarding expert witnesses – namely, that contrary to popular opinion, expert witnesses do not need to be “professionals in the trade” per se, rather, the standard is sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject matter.
My Cousin Vinny. 20th Century Fox 1992.

The Lincoln Lawyer

  • The vast array of ethical gray zones presented in this movie reminds law students and attorneys alike of the importance of both understanding and abiding by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Lincoln Lawyer. Jesus (Chicago actor Michael Pena), left, protests his innocence on a murder. Lionsgate 2011.


  • Most obviously this hit TV show teaches you that you must, at the bare minimum, have a law degree and/or have passed the applicable state bar examination to legally practice law. Assuming that we all plan to practice legally, Suits also does a fantastic job of showing why lawyers should value and respect their administrative staff.
Suits. Getty Images. USA Network 2011 – Present.

How to Get Away with Murder

  • While this show may be filled with an unbelievable amount of drama, murder, and coverups, it does eventually showcase the importance of balancing your classes and studying against extracurriculars – after all, the majority of the main student characters end up in the bottom of their classes because they’re too caught up working (and committing illegal acts).
How To Get Away with Murder. ABC Television Network. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal). 2014 – Present.

What are your favorite law movies or TV shows? What important life lessons, or legal-specific takeaways have you noticed in them?