'LA Law' Favorite Show of Many Lawyers; Most Say Hollywood Glamorizes Legal Field

After its debut on late-night television in 1986, the legal drama, "L.A. Law," quickly became one of America's favorite TV shows with audiences and critics. The winner of numerous Emmy® awards, the show tackled hot-button topics with a mix of seriousness and outlandish humor. And more than two decades later, the program remains a sentimental favorite within the legal community, with nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of lawyers we surveyed citing "L.A. Law" as their favorite legal TV show of all time. The runners-up were "Law & Order," with 16 percent of the survey response, and "Boston Legal" (13 percent). Twenty percent of lawyers interviewed said they have no favorite legal TV show.

When asked to describe how they feel the entertainment industry portrays the legal profession, 31 percent of lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal said Hollywood glamorizes it, while 28 percent said the depictions are too far-fetched. Just 2 percent of lawyers felt that the small screen accurately depicts the legal world.

Lawyers were asked, “Which of the following, if any, would you say is your favorite legal TV show of all time?” Their responses:

L.A. Law


Law & Order


Boston Legal


The Good Wife


Perry Mason


Ally McBeal




None/don’t have a favorite legal TV show


Don’t know/no answer





Lawyers were also asked, “Which best describes your feelings about how these TV shows depict the legal profession?” Their responses:

Glamorizes the profession


Too far-fetched


Misrepresents the law


Accurate/fairly accurate


Hits too close to home


None/no feeling about TV shows’ depiction of the legal profession


Other/don’t know/can’t choose just one




Source:  Survey of 350 lawyers among the largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada.    


Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, notes that there’s “no denying that pop culture influences people’s perceptions of lawyers. While some legal shows have glamorized the lives of attorneys, the TV industry also has helped to demystify the legal profession and make it more accessible. And beyond providing entertainment, these shows also have motivated many individuals to pursue legal careers.”

In its heyday, “L.A. Law” was credited for driving an unprecedented number of law school applications. Other legal TV shows have been influential over the years. In fact, Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, said that watching “Perry Mason” influenced her decision to become a lawyer.

But, what's it really like to be a lawyer? As these legal TV dramas demonstrate, there are many preconceived notions about the legal profession and what being a lawyer actually entails. Your monthly salary, for example, probably won't be as generous as the pay that the senior lawyers from "L.A. Law" took home or your wardrobe as fashionable as those of the law firm partners on the "Good Wife," especially if you are just beginning your career, starting up your own practice or employed in the public sector. And while litigation is an adversarial process, unlike on TV, chances are that most of your cases will be settled through mediation or alternative dispute resolution rather than a courtroom "argument." Even the most successful trial lawyers rely on top-notch research and persuasion skills and information gleaned from the discovery and deposition process rather than verbally sparring with opposing counsel to win a judicial or jury decision.

If you're a student or professional who's interested in pursuing a career in the legal profession, you'd be well advised to gain insight into the day-to-day realities of a law practice – either at a law firm or a corporate legal department. Conduct in-depth research and informational interviews with attorneys and legal support professionals to gain their insights so you can make an informed decision. Access complimentary industry resources available from Robert Half Legal, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics or the American Bar Association, among other organizations.

What's your favorite legal TV show? And if you're a practicing lawyer, what advice would you offer to those who are interested in pursuing a legal career? 

(Photo source: "'L.A. Law' cast members testify to the effect the series had," Susan King, The Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2014. Original photo from NBC.)


Tags: Legal News