5 Ways Law on Television is Different from Reality

Civil Litigation

5 Ways Law on Television is Different from Reality

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good legal drama. Between television and movies, there’s a plethora of good options. First it was Perry Mason, then Matlock, then Law and Order, then Ally McBeal, The Good Wife, Suits and Silk. And I haven’t even mentioned the movies!

The problem with these shows is that they don’t represent the law in reality, and especially not in Canada. Here are 5 ways that the law on television is different from in reality:


  1. On TV, Legal Disputes Are Resolved In 42 Minutes.

To be fair, the episode is meant to cover more than a 42 minute period in time, but still – the story line in a tv legal drama is usually resolved in a few short days or weeks. Lawyers on tv are usually able to get into court on a moment’s notice, and it always appear trial starts a short time later.

REALITY: When litigation is involved, a resolution to a legal dispute in Canada can take months or years.  A lawyer must do a lot of preparation and work to first assess the file, then draft and file court materials, negotiate back and forth with the other side, attend various pre-trial motions and processes, and then prepare and attend trial. A complex trial (like the ‘interesting’ cases we see on tv) can take weeks or months on their own!


  1. Lawyers on TV Never Appear To Do Any Research Or Draft Any Documents.

REALITY: In reality, more than 50% of a lawyer’s time is spent doing research and drafting documents – even if the lawyer is a litigator. A litigator never spends all their time in court. They have to do a lot of work ahead of time to prepare a case. A solicitor spends the majority of their time drafting and researching. Of course both types of lawyers would also meet with clients, but this usually takes place at the beginning and end of a file, with short meetings in between. Researching and drafting wouldn’t make for good tv, which is I guess why it’s not portrayed on tv.


  1. Practicing Law Is Interesting.

In order to keep viewers interested and watching week after week, the writers of legal dramas concoct juicy story lines that sometimes appear far-fetched and unrealistic.

REALITY: Depending in your area of legal practice, this one can be 100% true! Practicing as a solo or small firm lawyer exposes you to many interesting and sometimes unreal life stories and circumstances. It’s not uncommon to hear stories that would be fit for tv, but keep in mind such stories are completely protected by solicitor/client privilege (something that doesn’t always seem to be observed in legal dramas on tv).


  1. Lawyers Are Fact Finders.

The story lines on legal dramas often entail the lawyer doing some sleuthing on their own to solve the case.

REALITY: It’s true that lawyers sometimes have to collect evidence by conducting legal searches and talking to witnesses, however lawyers in Canada are not the police and they’re not a judge or jury.  The process for collecting evidence is usually formalized through court procedures and particular laws. Outside of criminal law, such rules and procedures are a bit less formal but still need to be respected. The ultimate fact finder in a case is usually the judge (or a jury in some criminal matters). The job of a lawyer is simply to mount the best case possible for their client by putting the facts together with the law (their legal argument).


  1. Lawyers On TV Seem To Know Everything About Everything When It Comes To The Law

REALITY: The law is incredibly complex and detailed. No one lawyer can know everything about the law at one time. New cases come out every day, and legislatures pass new laws every few years. Lawyers have a professional duty to be informed and up to date in the areas that they practice in. For all these reasons, lawyers tend to specialize in a few areas. This isn’t always the case on tv, where big firm lawyers seem to take on cases of every possible nature under the sun.

If you’re looking for a strong law firm in Vancouver BC for family lawwills and estate planing & litigation, car accident or personal injury, civil litigation, or professional regulationcontact Kushner Law Group to discuss how we may assist you.


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