Films and television shows that inspire careers in the legal industry* Image credit Nigel Parry/USA Network

Films and television shows that inspire careers in the legal industry* Image credit Nigel Parry/USA Network

The Hollywood movie industry has been no stranger to productions featuring nail-biting legal dramas, heated arguments and the fighting of injustice.

Along with productions based on law enforcement - legal themed productions are both popular and topical. Television dramas have also picked up on this trend, making the examples of theatrical legal escapades quite plentiful...

A Few Good Men - it is almost a cliché to use this as an example. However it is a mixture of a good investigative styled movie with the courtroom antics that takes it further than just a military drama. The scene with Jack Nicholson arguing with Tom Cruise is especially quite cool because no one can shout at Tom Cruise better than Nicholson! It gets a solid 10 out of ten!

Fracture - Here we have a mix of an almost police drama with a legal one whereby the hero is actually a lawyer. It is an interesting mix of a thriller with a legal twist and a corporate ideology - as the lead role played by Ryan Gosling, tries to make his move into a big league law firm. Good feature also starring Anthony Hopkins and Rosamund Pike and scores a 7 out of ten!

Erin Brockovich – Julia Roberts shakes off the romantic comedy stereotype and takes on the Steven Soderbergh directed legal drama based on a true story. Roberts plays a legal assistant who challenges bad guys just like Batman would but without a cape or any violence and instead uses the law as her utility belt. An Oscar nominated and winning (for Roberts) 8 out of ten.

...And Justice for All – if there ever is a case of a lawyer shouting in a courtroom it could be attributed to Al Pacino. A loud argumentative performance that either inspires the lawyer in everyone or could on the contrary make anyone petrified of being a judge that has to deal with a hyperactive lawyer. A classic 7 out of ten.

Philadelphia – A hard hitting legal drama with Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks at the time arguing the topical agenda of HIV. It had the depth to create a good courtroom drama with the relevance of a disease that needed a bigger voice. Full marks - 10 out of ten!

The Firm – this one doesn’t inspire anything but not wanting to work as a lawyer or in a legal practice at all…it’s like the ‘Freddy Kruger’ of legal Dramas so not rated by us!

Primal Fear – A fresh faced Edward Norton is the case study of a legal thriller starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. It is good entertainment but not quite the inspiration one needs to join the legal system – however still gets a good 8 out of ten.

Amistad – This is a courtroom drama that goes back in time but not like in the 80’s and 70’s but 1800’s! The argument of slavery is put before a Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams who is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. A Spielberg Hollywood master class which backs up the reasons why a fair legal systems exists. This gets a solid 10 out of ten.

The Lincoln Lawyer - tough one, because it has an ethical twist of why an individual would pursue the proffesion. Big cast (second film with Matthew McConaughey following his role in Amistad) and it does entertain. 8 out of ten.
The television shows:

Suits – It is more about what happens before going into the courtroom or avoiding going to court. From politics, negotiations and business, it is a career roller coaster of sorts. There is one also very important catch to the series - all employees of this firm have gone to Harvard, except for one. Fresh, current and sexy – it inspires a bunch of careers not just in litigation but everywhere, plus it makes going to work in a suit mandatory! A quality 7 out of ten.

The Good Wife – While Suits tries to avoid the courtroom, this series (produced by Ridley and the late Tony Scott) is positioned as a heated courtroom drama. Themed around a messy marriage and an ambitious career change, Julianna Margulies stars as the all rounder who balances her career, family and life. An equally entertaining 7 out of ten.

The Good Fight - a hard hitting spin-off from The Good Wife, with a bit more of a bite... (yet to be rated by the team).

L.A. Law – this was the show that made the idea of becoming a lawyer fashionable. Similar to what shoulder pads did in the eighties and Top Gun did for the aviation industry. An interesting mix that touched on topical issues in America including the infamous L.A. Riots. A ground-breaking show that will always remain memorable classic for years to come. Also one of the series where David E. Kelley gained notice for his work in the television industry. 10 out of ten for setting the benchmark.

The Practice – this was a very intense look at the inner workings of a Boston-based legal firm. It also brought about the start of the cult comedy drama Boston Legal. Both created by David E. Kelley – a nicely paced 8 out of ten for both.

Ally McBeal – Another David E. Kelley creation, though its popularity was extremely high during its 5 seasons, The Good Wife draws a perspective of it not being as deep as it could have been. Though it did feature a unisex bathroom, creating a different workplace environment than most could only imagine. It still provided an interesting view into the workings of another (yes another) Boston based legal firm…! 4 out of ten…mainly because it didn’t go further than 5 seasons!

The Law and Order franchise – Breaking away from the David E. Kelley creation box, this is a franchise that balances police investigations as the starting point with lawyers wrapping up the cases. An interesting juxtaposition and its different franchises allow for a bouquet of spinoffs similar to the CSI idea but with less puffery. Thus creating broad insights into the legal and criminal system in America, gets a solid 8 out of ten.

Silk - Good solid British legal drama that takes the viewer into the courtroom, the office and the lives of barristers. 10 out of Ten, as it checks all the right boxes for the team!

We didn't forget Matlock, Night Court or Perry Mason...we promise. They are just super old school and L.A. Law kind of overshadowed them with game changing career inspiration. However Matlock did study at Harvard - just like the people in Suits - so maybe there is a little bit of career inspiration...

These film and television shows are examples that can help inspire individuals with their career and education paths. If you want to find out more about movies, well then keep track of the industry on, Yahoo! Movies and Empire Magazine!

*Image source and credit: Nigel Parry/USA Network movie and television ranking criteria

10 out of ten entertaining, informative and inspiring
9 out of ten informative and inspiring
8 out of ten entertaining and informative
7 out of ten entertaining and inspiring
6 out of ten informative
5 out of ten inspiring
4 out of ten entertaining
3 out of ten worth a reference
2 out of ten it could have been better
1 out of ten it sparked an interest


Inspiring - did the production provide motivation to pursue a career or education in this industry?

Informative – did the production provide industry insight?

Entertaining – did the production capture the audience with a dramatic or comedic theme?

Reference – there is some merit to watching this production as it provides some form of inspiration, information or entertainment towards the relevant industry.

Could have been better – had potential but lacked in-depth entertainment, information and inspirational value.

Sparked an interest – the production was related to the industry but had no entertainment, information and inspirational value.