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Legal Drama Series & its Effect on Students on India

A variety of legal dramas (like Suits or Boston Legal) have shown a grossly inaccurate picture of what lawyers or the practice of law is like. Maybe they are right about a few things of the background in which they are set (in Western countries), although not entirely. But, none of these TV shows remotely reflect what lawyers in India are like.

A scene from Suits, a popular legal drama series

For starters, the lawyers in these shows are almost always well-dressed. Secondly, they are extremely eloquent and witty. Then, they are almost always familiar with the laws they are dealing with (magically so). One might almost think that that they finish their legal research within a matter of minutes. Fourthly, these lawyers are only seen dealing with humans, not with the whole mundane process that goes into the practice of law (and this is an important point); this includes legal drafting. Finally, the legal research that is a part and parcel of the whole legal profession is not at all portrayed in any form whatsoever in any of these shows.

A still from Boston Legal, a legal drama series that gained popularity in the early 2000s

Most of what is portrayed in these shows is not at all true about the lawyers of India. Primarily, this is because the practice of law is not always that dramatic – one is mostly just dealing with mundane paperwork most of the time (and legal writing, is, in fact, quite mundane). Secondly, you don’t just happen to know the law – there’s a lot of legal research you need to do, after knowing the facts of a dispute that a client brings to you; and there’s only so much you’ll have learnt in law school (it’s never enough).

Then, most of the lawyers practising in courts (especially lower courts) are not at all like the lawyers shown in these TV shows when it comes to their demeanour – whether it’s in the way they have dressed or in the way they talk. Their dressing barely passes off as elegant. A lot of them have their mouths full of gutka most of the times. Their blazers are unkempt. There are patches of dust on their black trousers.

Even the setting in which the plots of these TV shows have their backgrounds in is different from the reality of the profession. The courtrooms and offices in the show are neat. So are the roads around these buildings. And so are the people. That can’t be said about the courtrooms of India; or the roads surrounding them either. The courtrooms are congested and dirty; sometimes, you get to see scrawny stray dogs prowling around on the premises. A lot of downtrodden people of the society are part of the crowd that congests the courtrooms. A lot of them carry disease with them. And all of them carry their misery. Both have a tendency of rubbing off on you.

The parking lot at the Sessions Court, Ahmedabad; also an area where independent typists sit with their typewriters on the table. They partially perform the role of paralegals as well.

The truth about the profession of law that no TV show or movie (like Adalat, Pink or Damini) ever shows is the general drudgery of the profession. There’s a lot of running about from one courtroom to another and from one filing room to another. There is a lot of paperwork and legal drafting that needs to be managed – that alone takes a while to learn and it’s excruciatingly boring. It’s also a never-ending process because trials can sometimes take years to get over. The people that need to be dealt with, too, can often be unpleasant – from dishonest peers to unpleasant clients. And most importantly, the conscientiousness ending of a plot that is assumed in various TV shows and movies is rarely the end – the truth often does not prevail; a lot of idealism learnt while drafting legal assignments in law school goes out of the window.

TV shows and movies involving legal drama are exactly what they are meant to be – fiction.

-Siddhant Parikh & Mitsu Parikh