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FROM SCREEN TO COURTROOM: HOW FILMS AND TV SHOWS HAVE INSPIRED A GENERATION OF LEGAL MINDS

In the entertainment field, films and television series have become mediums that not only entertain, but also impact and inspire people in numerous ways. One significant impact that these forms of media have on individuals is in shaping their aspirations and driving them towards pursuing certain careers. The depiction of legal scenarios, courtroom drama, ethical dilemmas, and the pursuit of justice portrayed in these visual narratives often captivate viewers, sparking an interest in the legal profession. This surge can be attributed to the profound way in which the legal profession is depicted, often glamorizing it and shedding light on its intricacies. In this exploration, we delve into the ways in which films and TV shows have played a pivotal role in fostering a newfound fascination with the world of law. From iconic courtroom dramas to gripping legal thrillers, these narratives have not only entertained, but also ignited a passion for justice and the pursuit of truth among countless individuals.


The cinematic courtroom has long been utilized by Hollywood to make socio-political observations or to influence public opinion. Media has become a key source of information that produces visual resonance with the audience, rather than giving a way of commentary on social concerns through the likes of conferences, protests, and so on (Saltzman and Dunwoody 412). Popular culture depictions of the law may be the only first-hand legal experience that most of today's society receives before engaging in any type of litigation. People I have known since high school were fascinated by the legal profession after seeing films like 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, or television shows like Suits, Better Call Saul, and Law & Order, amongst others. I recall being captivated by Tom Cruise's passion through his role as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee in trying to "fight for the people who couldn't fight for themselves" when I first watched A Few Good Men. It was at that point that I realized that my capacity to support others in obtaining a better outcome through the lens of the law was something I wanted to be a part of. The symbols of the law are so widespread in our daily lives that it is rare for people to struggle to find "justice" signifiers (Robson et al. 1012). Objects such as a gavel or items of clothing such as a wig are universally recognized; therefore, these visual representations can be considered as having a broader resonance for people.


Suits, a hugely successful show that premiered in 2011, reignited people's passion for law through this medium of art, delighting audiences through compelling yet complicated characters while presenting the world of corporate law. Fast forward to 2023, the show has stood the test of time. However, it has influenced popular culture in reshaping the public perceptions of law through its physical presentation appearing to be glamorous (Jain 2023). What made the show, and what continues to make it renowned now, was its ability to illustrate the day-to-day challenges that lawyers encounter in the corporate world. It does an outstanding job of capturing the complexity of the legal industry. According to one study, first-year law students who actively watched Suits had different conceptions of law than law students who did not follow the show (Jain 2023). Those same first-year law students assumed that the legal profession was always thrilling and attractive, which is not always the case, in any field. The show offered a visual environment for viewers to digest the complexities of the legal profession in a tangible manner that made it understandable. As a result of the show's huge popularity, it inspired legal firms to take a more modern and inventive approach to their profession, pushing limits and challenging established standards (LinkedIn article).


In terms of film, legal dramas have become an integral part of the medium. The best antagonists in film history have appeared in some of the best films of all time. For example, the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird, the "Greatest Hero of the 20th Century" in 2003 (Jensen 2013). The Academy Awards (Oscars) have praised legal films, with Gregory Peck winning for his work as Atticus Finch and Tom Hanks earning his first Oscar for Philadelphia. Film has a depiction with which people seem to resonate, as it depicts elements of the struggles people experience in their own lives. The complexity of human emotions represented in films by lawyers has provided an opportunity for aspiring lawyers to further examine their interests through the lens of these characters. After high school, Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey desired to be a lawyer and even attended the University of Texas with the intention of becoming a defence attorney. His plans changed when he decided to attend film school and become an actor. However, he has freely said in numerous interviews how his ambitions to become a lawyer helped him develop attributes that aided him in becoming the actor he is today, such as discipline, preparation, and precision, among other things. Celebrities like McConaughey will only serve to motivate others to pursue their aspirations in the legal profession.

Films and television productions have undeniably had a big effect in persuading people to pursue legal careers. These mediums have portrayed legal professionals as multidimensional, ethical individuals with the potential to bring about justice through fascinating storytelling. They have also thrown light on the judicial system's complexities, emphasizing both its successes and weaknesses. The possibility for social change has also been demonstrated through pursuit of the legal system, encouraging people to advocate for a just society. Viewers are more inclined to pursue law as a career path where they can make a meaningful difference as they become more aware of the law's impact on society. Still, it remains crucial to recognize that media portrayals of the legal profession are not necessarily accurate or typical of real-world legal practice. Despite this, the role of films and television series in generating interest and curiosity in the legal profession should not be overlooked. While they may offer a somewhat glamorized view of the profession, they have undoubtedly contributed to shaping the aspirations of countless individuals who are drawn to the pursuit of justice through the legal system.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Jain, Garvit. “Exploring the Impact of “Suits” on Popular Culture and the Legal Profession.”

culture-legal-profession-garvit jain#:~:text=The%20show%20has%20portrayed%

20lawyers.

Jensen, Travis. “Some Legal Movies That Inspire Me.” Johnson Jensen, 10 July 2013,

johnsonjensen.com/some-legal-movies-that-inspire-me/. Accessed 8 Oct. 2023.

Robson, Peter, et al. “The Impact of Film and Television on Perceptions of Law and Justice:

Towards a Realisable Methodology.” Law, Culture and Visual Studies, Springer

Netherlands, pp. 1011–28, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9322-6_46.

Salzmann, Victoria S., and Philip T. Dunwoody. “Prime-Time Lies: Do Portrayals of Lawyers

Influence How People Think About Legal Profession.” SMU Law Review, vol. 58, no. 2,

2005, p. 411–451



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