While we all can agree that Legally Blonde is the quintessential comfort film for Law Students everywhere, why not try something new? Now that Mid-Semester Break is here (and it couldn’t have come soon enough), it’s time to put down those books and actually have a ‘break’!
Better Call Saul (Stan)
It takes hard work, determination, and a whole lot of hustling to make a name for yourself, particularly as a small-time lawyer! For fans of Breaking Bad, this spin-off series documents the rise and fall of ex-con artist, turned morally grey criminal defense attorney, Saul Goodman (ironic right?).
Is a hotdog a sandwich?
Dr Jason Bull, head of Trial Analysis Corporation, uses psychology and high-tech data to select jurors and monitor their reactions through the use of a mirror jury. If you’re interested in the inner workings of the courtroom and jury system, particularly the power (or malleability?) of jurors, give it a watch!.
Burden of Truth (Binge)
Looking for a legal drama with a little chemistry on the side? Look no further than Burden of Truth. Joanna Hanley is a high-powered corporate lawyer who returns to her childhood hometown in rural Canada and gets involved in advocating for the local girls. Throw in the small town boy from high school who became the local lawyer and you have the perfect blend of every kind of tension. Burden of Truth is the perfect show for people who enjoy a slow burn and a gal who sticks it to the man!
The Castle (VHS? Stan)
“It’s the vibe of it. In summing up, it’s the Constitution. It’s Mabo. It’s justice. It’s law. It’s the vibe, and ah, no that’s it. It’s the vibe. I rest my case.”
I always wanted to be on Broadway… I made it! (kind of) Set in 1920s Chicago at the Cook County Jail, two death-row murderesses develop a serious rivalry for the spotlight (and their lawyer’s attention). A superb cast, accompanied by a stellar soundtrack - and being Law Students, I am sure we can all appreciate some dark humour!
In the words of the silver-tongued prince of the courtroom: ‘Razzle Dazzle em’ and they’ll never catch wise’.
Criminal Minds (Disney +)
Wheels up in 30!
While I might be stretching to include (another) police procedural amongst my list of legal dramas, how could I not? It’s one of my all time favourites (and it’s one of the reasons why I decided to study Law!).
Over 15 seasons, join the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit as they investigate crimes and identify UnSubs through profiling. If you’re interested in behavioural analysis and criminal psychology, I also recommend Instinct (Paramount +), Mindhunter (Netflix) and Prodigal Son (Binge)!
Erin Brockovich (Prime)
A dramatisation of the true story of paralegal Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), who takes on (and takes down) an energy company accused of contaminating the local water supply (the Hinkley Groundwater Contamination Incident for those playing at home). The perfect reminder that the hard work that you are doing, and long hours that you are putting in, do pay off.
A Few Good Men (Prime)
Known for its iconic line ‘you can’t handle the truth”, A Few Good Men follows Daniel Kaffee, a US Military lawyer, as he defends two US Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine at the Guantanemo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. People say courtrooms aren’t this dramatic in reality, but I have visited my nearest Local Court and I beg to differ.
The Good Wife (Stan)
At this point, The Good Wife is well and truly a classic legal drama. After her husband is embroiled in a sex and corruption scandal, Alicia Florrick (great name) returns to her former career as a attorney. The show tackles the narrative arc of Alicia’s personal life and also the legal issues of her professional life. Acclaimed for its portrayal of politics, affairs and top tier law firms, the show was so popular, it has a spin-off, The Good Fight that is still airing new episodes. Fun fact: if you like K-dramas, a Korean version of The Good Wife was released in 2016.
How to Get Away With Murder (Netflix)
While How to Get Away With Murder sets the bar unrealistically high for First Year Law Students, the student struggles are certainly relatable! What sets it apart from other series in this list is the fact that it focuses on criminal defence - it’s time to put all your Criminal Law A knowledge to the test!
To Kill a Mockingbird
If you haven’t seen To Kill a Mockingbird yet, this is your sign. The film is a timeless classic for so many reasons, but most importantly it’s central message: justice can never be achieved in a society that doesn’t respect all people without prejudice. All before the court must be considered innocent until proven guilty. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read the book, you’ll find that spending a couple of hours watching the film will be absolutely worth it. And if none of that convinced you, the wonderful Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his performance in the film.
Law & Order Franchise (ie. Original, SVU, Criminal Intent, Trial By Jury) (Binge)
*dun dun* Law & Order has a cult following for good reasons. The blend of police procedural and courtroom drama is unmatched anywhere else on television. SVU is often considered the best of the bunch for both Benson & Stabler and its ability to tackle sex crimes, crimes against children and the murky world of criminality in NYC - a city for the richest and poorest Americans. Start with season one of Law & Order: SVU for chilling crimes, exceptional prosecution, and 10/10 banter (not to mention the serious 90s vibes).
Rake (Netflix, ABC iView)
A Keith Thompson favourite, Rake is absolutely the most iconic Australian legal drama on TV (noting of course that The Castle is a film). Cleaver Greene may be a brilliant Barrister but he’s got serious issues; and as is the name of the show, is a total rake (noun: man “a man, especially one who is rich or with a high social position, who lives in an immoral way, especially having sex with a lot of women”). Known for its complex main character, witty dialogue and political parody, Rake is perfect for anyone looking for a lovable legal anti-hero.
I started watching Suits in my First Year of Law School - it motivated me to study hard if I wanted to make name partner before I was 25, inspired me to upgrade my corporate wardrobe, and I felt really smart when they discussed the concepts and cases that I was learning about. BUT I think we can all agree that Suits is slightly unethical and unrealistic - if anything, I’ll be lucky to be in the bullpen by 25.
Unbelievable is perfect for fans of Law & Order: SVU and the BBC/ITV style serial crime drama. Following the true story of Marie Adler’s rape from crime scene to court, it highlights the most sensitive issues in proving sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt. The acting and cast are A-Grade, serving the complexity of such a story with sensitivity and grit. Unbelievable is the perfect show if you’re in the mood to get fired up about the justice system and questioning your own though process.
…And Justice For All
The American Pledge of Allegiance ends with “...and justice for all,” a line satirised by the classic film. The story follows Arthur Kirkland, an idealistic defence attorney who finds himself increasingly disillusioned by the American ‘justice’ system. It questions the legitimacy of a legal system that does not achieve justice, leaving vulnerable people vulnerable and protecting the wealthy and powerful. Truly …And Justice for All is for those looking to ask serious ethical questions of the modern legal system and feel some outrage at the lack of justice.
12 Angry Men (Stan)
Everyone's a little curious about what goes on in the jury room... This classic (yes, it’s even in black and white) has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%! A jury of 12 members deliberate, following the closing arguments in a murder trial. One juror casts considerable doubt on several elements of the case, creating conflict within the jury room and forcing the other jurors to reevaluate their morals.
Do you have any recommendations?
I'd like to give a special shoutout to Maria Howard (Law Student and connoisseur of legal dramas) for her contribution to this post!
About the Author
Alicia is studying her fifth year of a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts (Applied Psychology). In addition to her position on the NDSLS as Education Director, Alicia has a passion for reading, rules, and roses. #law #studentlife #bingeduringthebreak #midsemesterbreak #netflix #snacks #uni NotreDameAus #NotreDameSyd #ndsls #lawstudent #lawschool