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Legal Drama Cliches That Would Make Any Lawyer Object

List RulesVote up the tropes that should get movies and TV shows disbarred.

Whether it's the "simple country lawyer" Atticus Finch, or a fast-talking corporate suit like Harvey Specter, fictional lawyers adhere to their own legal system: Hollywood law. Most of these courtroom drama cliches function by adding shock and awe to a stuffy real-life setting. The verdict? Millions of viewers consider themselves legal experts because they watched seven seasons of The Good Wife. While many of these legal tropes are laughable to real-life attorneys, they do make for some highly entertaining legal dramas that never seem to get old. Read on for the most eye-roll-inducing cliches from the legal genre we all love. 

  • 1

    Witnesses Confess On The Stand

    If you're a courtroom witness in a film or television show, there's about a 50% chance that you committed the crime and will confess on the witness stand in a weepy and dramatic moment. Never mind that they made it through a whole police investigation without drawing suspicion; a couple minutes on the stand is enough to make them buckle.

    In real life, witnesses on either side are typically coached by their lawyers on what to say and what questions to expect. Usually, the content of their testimony has already been examined with a fine-toothed comb. Even if something surprising is asked, the fifth amendment of the constitution specifically safeguards people from incriminating themselves in the courtroom. The only response necessary to Elle Woods's (Reese Witherspoon) perm-shower tangent is "I plead the fifth."

  • 2

    Good Lawyers Vs. Evil Lawyers

    If you're tuning into Law & Order SVU, every defense lawyer is a money-grubbing slime ball who loves to watch bad guys run free. Conversely, if the hero is on the defense team, everyone from the prosecutor's office is a corrupt egotist who encourages shoddy police work and evidence tampering to put a warm body in jail. 

    In reality, people who go into law generally believe in the justice system, and therefore understand the merits of both roles. A good lawyer presents the best case possible, regardless of their personal feelings toward the defendant. Many lawyers will also work for both sides at different times in their careers.

  • 3

    There's A New Trial Every Week

    Photo: Fox

    Being a TV lawyer, every day of work is a new trial for a different scandalous and headline-grabbing crime. They usually do maybe a day or two of prep work, and poof, they're in front of a jury! How does Ally McBeal (Calista Flockheart) keep all her weird short-skirted suits clean?

    Unfortunately for anyone who spent three years in law school because they "like to argue," much of the day-to day work of a lawyer is, like most jobs, paperwork. Only 10% of cases even go to trial, and the ones that do can take years of preparation and pretrial hearings.

  • 4

    Talking Over Objections

    Legal drama lawyers love to raise objections almost as much as they love to talk through an opposing counsel’s objection to finish making their point. Sometimes, on shows like Suits, the lawyer's argument is so enthralling that the judge doesn't even rule on objections at all, allowing the council to continue to loudly badger their witness. Apparently Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is so charming, the law does not apply.

    In reality, an objection acts as a pause button in a trial. When an objection is made, the other lawyer immediately stops talking and waits for a ruling from the judge. The judge must rule on the objection, as this ruling goes into the official record.