Legal Dramas: How Accurate are Your Favorite TV Shows?

If you’re one of the millions of fans who have consistently tuned in to television’s many legal dramas, you may have questioned how closely these entertaining shows portray the reality of the daily life of attorneys. Whether you caught one (or all) of the Law & Order series, fell in love with Denny Crane on Boston Legal, met the soon-to-be-royal Meghan Markle on Suits, or devoured your weekly popcorn while watching the tense How to Get Away With Murder, you may have walked away from your favorite legal drama having formed quite a negative impression of attorneys.

Unfortunately, it’s probable that the show you watched portrayed most of its attorneys, whether they represented individuals or corporations, as self-centered, amoral liars. While it’s true that—as in all professions—there will be the occasional awful attorney who deserves to be sanctioned, the reality of most lawyers bears little resemblance to the antics TV lawyers get up to.

While we could spend hours listing the discrepancies between legal dramas and the more average day-to-day reality of financial legal work, but these are our Top TV Legal Drama Inaccuracies:

  • Real life attorneys never have the luxury of focusing on one case at a time. While no 40-minute show could cover this without severely confusing the viewers, the reality is that even moderately successful financial lawyers carry a huge case load that divides their attention in several directions at once.
  • Attorneys tend to be honest individuals. Television shows about honest, hard-working lawyers are unlikely to exert a huge draw, so networks and producers instead tell stories about lawyers who lie constantly. The truth is less exciting, but we hope it’s reassuring: real-life attorneys are more likely to be good, civic-minded people who are passionate about our intricate legal system. While our delicately-balanced legal system relies on us to do our absolute best for our clients, this simply does not extend to lying.
  • Attorneys are here to help. TV dramas would have their audience believe that attorneys are somehow delighted when clients come to them in distress, that they don’t have any human empathy. In fact, when an attorney chooses a specialty like bankruptcy, credit reapair, or real estate law, it’s almost always because they want to ease their clients through highly stressful, troubling times. It’s highly rewarding to connect with people who need someone to protect the financial fabric of their lives; this aspect of financial law never loses its appeal.
  • Attorneys cannot read minds. While television dramas tend to portray lawyers as keenly insightful, worldly individuals who possess uncanny abilities to size up their clients and deduce whether or not their clients are good or bad, and then wrestle with whether or not they should take them on as clients, the truth is that any good attorney withholds judgment on such things. We’re here to assist our clients in their time of need, period. The law in our country cannot function unless everyone has the right to an attorney to represent them in any legal proceedings.
  • Lawyers have personal lives. Sure, grocery shopping and going for a run just isn’t interesting, but even the most extremely overburdened lawyers have fulfilling lives outside of the courtroom. They didn’t choose the law the way a monk or nun chooses a religious life; many have partners, children, warm homes, and the occasional family spat just like anyone else. While the stress of a busy career can exacerbate existing tensions, lawyers are no less functional in their families or communities than those who have similarly busy careers—doctors, nurses, or firefighters, for example.