Blog Post by Kerri Marks
Without a doubt if you are reading this you have stumbled upon a law TV show at one point or another (or perhaps binged the entire series on Netflix in one weekend). There is definitely no shortage of legal TV shows these days, with “Suits”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, “The Good Wife”, and so many more (and yes, I am guilty of watching all three of the above mentioned shows). These shows are entertaining and often contain dramatic trials and interesting subject matter. However, with the dramatics comes an unrealistic perception of the legal world. My experience working at Harrison Pensa for the past few months has led me to notice inconsistencies between what I have watched on TV and real life at a law firm.
Full Service Lawyers
Harvey Specter and Mike Ross are lawyers on the show “Suits”, who practice criminal defence, intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, employment law, securities law, etc. In real life, it is unlikely that you will find a lawyer at a firm that mirrors that repertoire. While practice areas like “general litigation” handle cases with diverse focus areas, these lawyers are typically not intellectual property, criminal, and insolvency lawyers as well. While it is true that many lawyers are very multi-talented and could likely succeed in many areas of the law, the reality is that a lawyer usually practices in a practice group and focuses on a certain area of the law – and is insured to practice only in that area.
Lawyers are experts… at everything
Harvey Specter seems to have expert knowledge in all areas of the law. In reality, lawyers are often faced with a set of facts relating to an industry that they aren’t familiar with. Lawyers confer with other lawyers in their firm who might be more knowledgeable in the subject matter, and often hire experts to fill the gaps. After all, it takes years to become an expert in one field alone.
Going to Court
In television shows, lawyers are practically always in court. While being a litigator does require going to court, a typical lawyer is not in court every single day. There are many steps leading up to a trial, and hours of researching, writing, interviewing, and discussing that goes on far away from a court room. That being said, when the time comes to go to trial, it can most certainly take up your entire day, week, and even month (depending on the length of the trial).
“How to Get Away with Murder” is a prime example of a lack of ethics, legality, and realism. In the show, murders are covered up by more murders in a never ending cycle. The best part – the culprits are lawyers and law students, who don’t get caught. While you might not be practising criminal law or get to a case as extreme as a murder, ethical obligations and morals play a much stronger role in real life. Mistakes happen and you won’t always win for your client in court, but when practising law, your ethics and reputation can have a huge impact on your career. It is of the upmost importance to play by the rules, act ethically, and not take matters into your own hands.
Just kidding… this does happen. It’s not every night that you will be at the office until midnight or have to sleep at the office, but late nights do happen. Whether it’s legal research, sorting through a document dump, or preparing for court, long hours are somewhat expected during articling. That being said, the experience you get as an articling student at a firm like Harrison Pensa is irreplaceable and working long hours when you have to is definitely worth the benefit you are receiving.
While they may not be realistic, legal TV shows are definitely entertaining. Happy watching!