Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Legal Studies BA
Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs
Dana Fennell, Ph.D
William R. Newman, J.D.
Anthropology and Sociology; Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs
The legal profession is a crucial institution of American society that impacts the lives of millions of Americans each day. Films act as an agent of socialization that can shape the public’s expectations of the legal field and its lawyers. Therefore, this study focuses on the levels of accuracy, impact, and quality of the representations that are found in films portraying the legal profession. It does so through two methods. More specifically, practicing attorneys reviewed film clips and completed a survey indicating their perceptions of the accuracy and impact of film representations. Second, a content analysis was performed to determine the quality of the portrayals of lawyers and the legal profession in modern movies. Previous studies have concluded that these depictions of lawyers or legal procedures are often inaccurate and unfaithful to the legal system of the real world; however, the majority of these studies focus on films from the mid-twentieth century, and so it is unclear if these conclusions apply to contemporary films. This thesis demonstrates that the trend of negative depictions of American litigation in movies has decreased. As for the influence of media depictions, surveyed lawyers argued that films did impact clients and jurors. They felt that films helped reveal aspects of the legal world in some useful ways, but also at times inaccurate or misleading ways.
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Reeves, Bryson, "Depiction of American Litigation in Movies" (2023). Honors Theses. 890.