If you are currently preparing to go to university for the first time to study law, or simply going back to your course, consider watching my top five legal TV shows. You can try to convince yourself that it counts as studying!
Silk was anticipated as being the next big, hot legal TV drama and it did not disappoint! The show is based around Martha Costello, a female barrister going about her day-to-day business in the world of the criminal Bar. Martha has to deal with the daily problems criminal barristers face. She is also on the long, tough road to becoming a Queens Counsel (QC,) also known as ‘taking silk’.
During Martha’s time at her chambers she deals with multiple cases, impending deadlines, rivalry within chambers and an uncontrollable pupil. This is all on top of her own personal issues which include pregnancy, having a stalker and distrusting friends.
Silk is a fast paced show and has been highly rated by those in the legal profession.
It is entertaining, gripping and holds suspense well. It is a must watch and being one of my favourites I can’t wait for season three to begin in October this year!
The West Wing
Centred on the lives of the staff and personnel in the west wing of the White House, The West Wing is an American drama first aired on 22nd September 1999. It is an older TV series, ending in 2006 but it is certainly a classic! Mainly a political show, it still deals with many legal issues. It is simply a must see for anyone interested in politics or law.
The show spans twenty (or so) episodes in each season. Each episode containing its own little story with small links that intertwine and lead to a large narrative which runs through the entire series.
Set during the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) it details the day-to-day work of the US government. It also describes the strategies in place for state emergencies and terror threats. It re-creates how the White House may have dealt with these situations if they were to have arisen in real life. The show itself was not only praised highly by political science professors but also by former White House staff. It won nearly 30 awards in total during its original runtime.
If you haven’t seen any of The West Wing then I suggest that you do. All seven seasons are available as a box set and although a little pricey for the student budget it is well worth it!
This is another American TV show and is based in New York in a fictitious Law firm named ‘Pearson Hardman’. The show follows Michael Ross (also known as Mike), a college dropout with no law degree, who unexpectedly lands an associate position in a law firm after impressing partner Harvey Specter in an unplanned interview. Whilst Mike has a lot to learn about the law he is a genius with raw talent and is not afraid to show clients sympathy and concern.
Episode one gives a very real insight into a lawyer’s life including the stresses and strains of the legal world.
Suits season one and two are available to buy.
The Briefs is a factual legal programme where cameras follow lawyers from Tuckers, a well-known English law firm, as they go about their daily routine. It gives an insight into the English legal system and the concept of justice from the perspective of a defense lawyer. We see what being a ‘real life’ lawyer involves, including phoning clients and courts, interviewing clients and following the case to the very end.
The Briefs is split into two episodes, the first dealing with a house burglary and violent fight in which one of Tuckers’ regular clients is accused of criminal damage to a car and another violent attack on a suspected paedophile. Episode one gives a very real insight into a lawyer’s life including the stresses and strains of the legal world.
In episode two we see how the team deal with a double fraud and blackmail charge in which the client is spinning a web of lies, leaving his legal adviser to work out the truth from fiction. The team also has to deal with a client being charged with grievous bodily harm and the breaking and entering of a caravan. The same client is then further charged with stealing a van putting further pressure on him and the team.
Alongside the case workload we also get an insight into how the firm itself works with discussions of budgets, the cuts to legal aid and how this will affect the team.
Although this is no longer available on BBC iPlayer, it is available to purchase online. It is hugely insightful to those wanting to go into practice as it gives you a good picture of what life as a lawyer is really like.
Law and Order UK
Currently in its seventh series, Law and Order UK dramatises the British police and criminal justice system. Originally adapted from the American TV drama of Law and Order, the program dramatically, but with factual accuracy, tells the story of both sides of the criminal justice system. On one side, the police who investigate the crime and the lawyers who prosecute the suspected criminal.
We see how the police investigating the crime gather evidence, use forensic reports and interview witnesses, suspects and family members. This is all to try and piece together what happened when the crime was committed and to ensure an arrest is made. We then see how that information is passed onto the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS).
The CPS decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute and if any other evidence is needed before taking the case to trial. We see the CPS working with the defense lawyers to try and “bargain” for an early plea. If unsuccessful, the substantive case will then begin. Presented mainly from the prosecutions point of view we see the case play out. Witnesses in the dock give evidence, other material evidence is then examined and the jury’s verdict given.
The box set of season one to four is available with the other seasons available to buy on their own.
Did we miss any good TV shows out? Let us know in the comments! You can also check out our definitive rundown of the top legal movies here.