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Legal TV shows influence career choices, says firm research

Shows like Suits and Law & Order play a role in determining the vocational decisions of legal professionals, according to research conducted by a UK-based law firm.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 13 January 2023 SME Law
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London-based multi-service firm EM Law recently undertook a survey of 500 professionals who work in law firms — “about half” of whom are practising lawyers — to determine the extent to which media’s influence over the public extends to the career decisions of individuals.

The research — titled, The Influence of Legal TV Shows on Career Decision-Making — was specifically interested in understanding how impactful legal shows on television are in swaying career choices, EM Law director and author of the research Neil Williamson (pictured) wrote.

“Legal TV shows often depict law professionals as those who earn big in high-stake cases, never tire of intense work-related dramas, and live a lavish personal life outside of the courtroom, he noted.


These shows, the firm went on, “often portraying lawyers as intelligent, confident — and most importantly — successful”.

The findings were as follows:

  • Fifty-six per cent of respondents declared their “true passion for the law” as being the primary factor in pursuing a career in law;
  • More than one in two (over 50 per cent) respondents said that legal TV shows had played a role in influencing their career choices;
  • Three in 10 (30 per cent) of respondents said that Suits was the TV show that influenced their career choice, followed by Law & Order (22 per cent);
  • Almost three in five (over 57 per cent) respondents disclosed that they felt that their TV show of choice was a realistic depiction of a legal career; and
  • Thirty per cent of respondents said that, if given the opportunity, they would change their career to one that is not associated with legal services.
Reflecting on what the findings say about the vocational motivations of lawyers and other legal professionals, Mr Williamson said, in conversation with Lawyers Weekly, that “plenty of lawyers are human too”.

“They are just as influenced by the power of television as everyone else,” he mused.

When asked what takeaways we have from the firm’s research, he issued a reminder that TV shows are fantasy.

There is, he said, “nothing wrong with dreaming a little and being inspired by TV — like I say, it’s a human thing to do”.

“But, if you believe that your career is going to skyrocket if you carry yourself like Harvey Specter [from Suits], then I don’t see that ending well,” he warned. 

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