Posted on September 22, 2009
Legal films – even the funny ones – teach valuable lessons
Films are a wonderful way to teach the legal profession. Unlike casebook reading, they allow students to immerse themselves in the role of the lawyer, client or judge and ask the question, “How would I handle myself?” A simple search on the Internet will turn up a list of films usually including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Amistad,” “Twelve Angry Men” and so on. But there are some overlooked films out there that I believe warrant some recognition.
“Legally Blonde” is about a fashion merchandising student, Elle, who attends Harvard in an attempt to win back her boyfriend. She ends up being really good at law and even wins a case during an internship.
What can be learned from “Legally Blonde”? Elle promises her client that she won’t divulge her aliby: She was getting liposuction during the time her husband was getting murdered. Elle sticks with her promise and gets her off using her knowledge of perms.
“Rounders” is about a poker-playing prodigy law student who is trying to work his way through law school when his old partner is released from jail. To help his old partner out, he joins him in a round of poker-playing, cheating style. Bad things happen.
What can be learned? Playing the game by the rules and using your talents is how you win. This is true in poker, life and law school.
“The Devil’s Advocate” is about a small-town defense lawyer, Kevin Lomax, who is romanced by a large firm in the big city. Come to find out, the head partner, John Milton, is Lomax’s dad. And the DEVIL!
What can be learned? Regardless of the stage set, you always have free will to choose how to handle yourself, your clients and your career.
In “Liar Liar,” a boy’s wish is granted and his father, a very prosperous attorney, cannot lie. What can be learned? Family life is the highest priority, and honesty wins out over deception.
In “Miracle on 34th Street,” a man who thinks he is Santa Claus is brought before the court in a commitment hearing. Surely a guy who thinks he is Santa Claus is insane!
What can be learned? Certain kinds of disputes ought not be submitted to the court. In particular, disputes about belief should not undergo judicial scrutiny. Whether or not Santa Claus exists is a matter of personal belief, not something the courts should decide.
In “Jury Duty,” Tommy Collins, an unemployed stripper who lives at his parents’ home, is sequestered for jury duty. He decides to cause the trial to drag out as long as possible so he can live in the lap of luxury.
What can be learned? There are imperfections in the legal system. The film also delivers the message that because we are human beings and not machines, it’s natural that justice demands such a system. Note: This is an adaptation of “Twelve Angy Men” but stars Pauly Shore.
So go out, rent some movies and see what you learn. And let me know if there are any other movies you like that are law-related.