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Why Legally Blonde Is the Best Law Movie, According To a Lawyer

What, like it's hard?

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde'

One of the many downsides of going to law school and practicing law for years, aside from massive debt and having to spend way too much time with lawyers, is that most movies and television shows that portray the law or law school were absolutely ruined for me. I can’t watch How To Get Away With Murder because as interesting as it is, the legal aspects were so distorted and silly it made me want to scream. Don’t even get me started on Law & Order, which most lawyers think of as Constitutional Rights Violations & Order.

But there’s one iconic movie that gets things, shockingly, pretty right—and that’s Reese Witherspoon’s classic comedy Legally Blonde. This is a movie that does law school so well, it really went up to every other show and said “What? Like it’s hard?”

Legally Blonde‘s scenes set in law school classrooms, where professors use the Socratic method to dig into cases and teach students not just to memorize the material, but to argue for and against it, is the most accurate part of the movie. It’s tough. It’s competitive. It’s at times esoteric and very frustrating. And Legally Blonde gets that. It’s a very specific experience and vibe and the filmmakers do it right, which is amazing because most movies don’t bother with how boring and arduous the law is.

Sure there is a lot of creative licenses taken in this movie. It’s kind of illegal and certainly unethical to pretend to be a lawyer, but it was needed, and while law students can appear in court under certain rules, that’s not allowed until the third year and you need to have taken evidence. But clerkships and student appearances are a thing—it’s just a stretch to think it would be in a high-profile murder case.

But what Legally Blonde really got was the vibe of law school. It’s not college. It’s infinitely more high strung and competitive, and the sexism and shittiness of men, especially those in some sort of power, is on high display, either in the cases you read or in the asshole lawyers you have to deal with. It’s a hard place to be a woman, but it can also be rewarding and empowering.

With any profession or training, the way they are portrayed in television and in movies is always going to be heightened and inaccurate in some way. For instance, you’d be shocked at how many journalists can’t afford glamourous apartments in New York writing one article a week! But Legally Blonde is still the most accurate version of law school I’ve ever seen and by far the most fun and entertaining.

If you’re looking for a good movie that encompasses actually being a lawyer, that’s more difficult, but I’d say The Lincoln Lawyer hits pretty close to reality. For now, remember that it’s fine to show up in court wearing pink.

(image: MGM)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.