Is Being a Law Student Like the Film Legally Blonde
I’m just going to say it – Legally Blonde is one of the best films of all time. It is for that reason that I watch it before every exam season, whenever I get stressed with workload, or generally need a pick-me-up.
It is inspiring to everyone, whether they study law or not, at any age and, despite being overwhelmingly 2000s, it is completely timeless.
But is it actually like studying law? Well, not quite…
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The Application Process
As a disclaimer, the writer of this is very, very English, so we won’t be considering the finer points of the educational system in America or the content of the actual law. I believe, and will not fact check, whether Massachusetts law actually allows law students to advocate under a lawyer’s supervision, so please take this article with a pinch of salt.
Let’s start with Elle’s iconic application to Harvard. It’s a fantastic montage (and not the last we’ll see!); we find out that Elle is actually really smart (“Oh, I have a 4.0!”) and even though no one in her life thinks it’s a good idea or that she should go for it, she does it.
She actually sits and studies and doesn’t go out with her friends. She gets a poor score on her practice LSATs but that doesn’t stop her. She makes her friends test her in between their Pilates and clearly got another girl to tutor her.
This is a very realistic aspect of studying law – almost certainly if you have friends who do not study law. Of course, having a social life is a matter of balance, but law is an intense course and more often than not, the seminar prep or revision will take precedence (if you’re as committed as Elle Woods that is).
The video is another great part of her application. Even though Harvard do not accept video entries in place of a personal statement, the way she recounts what happened on Days of our Lives to illustrate her ability to remember information feels like something straight out of the first draft of a UCAS application.
She ends up getting a 179 on her LSATs, an incredible score. Her studying pays off, and she gets into Harvard. I can’t help but wonder how I’d feel if my application got rejected in favour of Elle’s admission video…
She makes it to law school and is met with resistance (and, quite honestly, bullying) but we’ll discuss that later on.
Seminars at University (Or Harvard, to be Precise)
Her classes are so realistic but so entirely fictitious at the same time. We never really find out what the modules are this semester (ovester?) but she has one class on criminal law, one class on – maybe – the Legal System (?), and Royalton teaches products liability. We never know what Levinthal teaches.
When she enters Stromwell’s class and sees the laptops, I can’t help but relate. I remember reading online that writing helps your brain to retain the work – that seems accurate, but I also remember how hard it was to try and get everything down without a laptop.
Her teacher asks her a question on pre-semester materials and, when Elle doesn’t know the answer, she’s kicked out. I would say the accuracy of this depends on the lecturer. I’ve had tutors who barely care for your answers, tutors who accept whatever you say, and tutors like Stromwell. I’m honest enough to say I’ve been both Elle and Vivian in this situation, I imagine almost everyone has too, I also imagine you will too!
I also wouldn’t feel that bad about getting questions wrong. I know Callahan and the class giggled when Elle said “I’d rather have a client who is innocent!” but honestly when you laugh at yourself, no one will care you said a ‘silly’ question, they’ve likely thought or even said something just as bad.
I’ll now move onto the elitism. Elle cannot do right by these people. She’s nice, she is trying to fit in.
I get that to Vivian she’s just here to steal Warner, but I hate seeing this girl-fight-cattiness. Not to spoil the movie, but when they become friends, it’s such a welcome relief and change. She befriends David Kidney, who seems to also be ostracised and they help each other out in different ways.
There’s always a chance a situation like this will happen. Importantly, Elle was not hated by the entire law school. She was disliked by some of her classmates because of what they thought about her. We clearly saw people like the guy giving out schedules be rude to her, but honestly, everyone would’ve been indifferent, rude only when directly confronted by someone different.
Chances are someone, somewhere, won’t like you. You might have done nothing to them, you might have never spoken to them, but, just like school, people make snap judgements.
Elle’s got the right idea — though people were rude to her, and the group of people she wanted to befriend wouldn’t take her seriously, she was never cruel. She was nice to David Kidney, who was nice to her in return. Eventually people saw the real her, and it didn’t matter that her stereotype meant she was horrible, because she was not.
In the Courtroom
The court scenes in this movie are to be watched with the eye of a layperson. The examinations in chief and cross examinations are all over the place, and I’m not sure it would be politically correct to trick someone into coming out (sorry Emmett!).
Please do not watch this and decide that’s what court is like, especially UK courts. The dramatics would be shut down, and the sheer media attention would likely get the case dismissed or sent for retrial. I would not recommend learning how a perm works but I can’t really talk because I do have the dialogue memorised.
The harassment is a touchy subject, but in the current climate I think it’s important to discuss. Though I would hope that no tutor acts the way Callahan did (and report, report, report if they did), harassment is a real issue in most industries, not just law.
Many professional women find themselves encouraged to wear skirts and heels to be more “feminine”, and there is a real culture of the impropriety in the legal profession. I hope that you never face this, and if you do, you act as Elle acts and shut it down.
Overall, this movie is unrealistic in places and really relatable in others. The very fact of it’s American reduces the realism in half for English and Welsh law students, but honestly? It’s a fantastic motivational, empowering, feminist movie that I think should be a go-to must-see for anyone wanting to study law.
Published: 15/01/18 Author: Caitlin Ord
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