Lessons from TV attorneys

I’ve always been intrigued with how the law is portrayed in the media, specifically in television shows and movies. I’m even more intrigued with how female attorneys are portrayed and how their personal lives intersect with their professional life. It seems the media likes to show female attorneys as cold, closed off, mean women with little time for anything other than their job. But, each fictional attorney takes on these challenges in a different way and thrives. I got to thinking of the fictional lawyers I frequently come across in my life and what I can learn from them. Is their fictional life applicable to mine and how can I take what they go through and use it to become a better person?:

-Julia Graham (Parenthood)-Julia Graham, played by Erika Christensen, is exactly the type of attorney I would want to be. She starts as a brilliant attorney working her way up the partner track, but knows to step back when her family needs her. When she becomes a stay at home mom, she struggles with filling empty time and stepping out of her “career shoes”. I think as attorneys we’re all very hard on ourselves and don’t know when to pull back and focus on what’s really important. There’s the idea that attorneys should focus on work first, family second and anything short of that is failing to do your best. It’s refreshing to see a primetime example of how we can all work to balance our life just a little better.

-Alexandra Cabot (Law & Order: SVU)-Alex Cabot embodies a strong prosecutor fighting for justice but what really sets her aside from the other L&O:SVU ADAs is her resilience and ability to focus on the victims. Stephanie Marsh perfectly portrays the ideal prosecutor, focusing not only on what’s right but realizing her limitations as an attorney. More frequently than not, she reminds the detectives of her need for evidence, proper interrogation, and other issues that may derail a conviction. Even after being placed in witness protection, she comes back strong and continues to fight for the victims, eventually going on to join the prosecutor’s office for the International Criminal Court. Alex Cabot shows us that passion for law goes a long way. Despite all the problems that stood in her way, she kept coming back pursuing the thing she loved most.

-Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City)-Miranda Hobbes shows us that power is sexy and letting things stand in your way is so last season (yes, that was meant to be a fashion joke). Cynthia Nixon‘s character is another high powered attorney working toward lofty goals. Never intimidated by the men in her office, she surrounder herself with friends who support her and help her become a better her. She faces some unique challenges in her personal and professional life wondering how to be a mother and an attorney, feeling insecure about adult braces, and not being taken as seriously as she should. But, through all that, she continues to kill it in the office and her personal life. With good friends and some ambition, we can take on everything.

-Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)-Who can forget Elle Woods? The Beverly Hills barbie doll turned lawyer and animal rights activist. Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, doesn’t exactly jump to the top of the list of “Attorneys I can learn from”, but, there’s a lot that can be said about her journey from sorority girl to passionate advocate. Throughout her journey, Elle focuses not only on what she is saying but how she presents herself as a whole. She shows that personal style can still be used in the legal field (albeit not quite as bright as her clothing) and that a person’s capabilities cannot be judged by their outfit or how pretty they are. It’s a good lesson in taking a step back and hold back snap judgments for both clients and other attorneys. Plus, if that doesn’t work, it’s a good lesson in the “bend and snap“.

-Jessica Walters (She-Hulk)-Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is the kick ass attorney we all need to see. Although clearly her storyline doesn’t focus on her career as an attorney, she has a pretty bad ass story. As Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk’s, cousin she recieved a blood transfusion from him and inherited a milder form of his superpower.  While keeping the world safe, she acts as a lawyer for many superheros and works in the SuperHuman Law division of a New York law firm. Of course, superhero stories aren’t reality but there’s something to be said for Jessica Walters. Even as an attorney, she still finds time to help make the world a better place, even if it’s in a way we could never hope to. She has the internal struggle of right v. wrong, good v. evil, and how her actions impact the world around her. It goes to show that even superhero attorneys are willing to do what it takes to fight the bad, even when it’s themselves.

So, fictional attorneys can teach us a wide array of skills and nearly every woman can find a role model within these characters. While I won’t be wearing bright pink to court or taking on out-of-this-world supervillians, I can take these lessons and work to become a better lawyer and a better person.



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