We are back for the second part of our list. Tomorrow we’ll get to number 1.
9) The Paper Chase
- The Paper Chase is an older film about the first year of law school at Harvard Law. There is a great performance by John Houseman as the antagonistic Professor Kingsfield. I would also recommend One L by Scott Turow for prospective law students.
- Realistic Moments: The movie does capture the feeling of being a 1L although it does overdo it a bit on the drama and hijinks. Another is when a student is able to answer a tough professor’s question properly as when the main character, Hart, says, “It was a good answer – not a complete analysis, not a hard question – but the point is, I did it. I did it in Kingfield’s class, this is a goddamn dance.”
- This is high on most people’s lists of courtroom dramas. This is based off of another John Grisham novel about a, wait for it, young southern lawyer who is defending a man who killed the two men who raped his daughter. The movie is the closest thing to an action movie for lawyers, lots of legal action and light on the technical parts.
- Realistic Moment: Lucien Wilbanks: “I cannot promise you riches. What I can offer you the chance to save the world one case at a time.”
- A Few Good Men is a long time lawyer favorite. I’m really not going to get into the plot because the movie is on TNT all the time and it is worth watching.
- Realistic Moment: The direct and cross examinations are some of the better ones that could be filmed. There are certain moments that play out in a way they would play out in real court. It’s hard for me to put up a quote because the best moments are from the buildup of a good direct or cross exam. Just like in real court, you may get a gem from a witness sometimes, but most of the time the best stuff comes from comes from methodical questioning.
- Philadelphia is another great that nearly cracked the top 5. Tom Hanks play a corporate lawyer who is fired from his company after he contracts AIDS. Denzel Washington plays the small time lawyer who represents him. The movie earned Hanks an Oscar and is typically the top of most courtroom drama lists.
- Realistic Moment: At their first meeting Denzel Washington asks a question that many attorneys ask their clients in one form or another, “Now, explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old.” Sometimes the most logical, cogent story will come out of a client. The other is when Hanks’ character is asked what he loves about the law; he gives an answer that most lawyers could agree with: “It’s that every now and again – not often, but occasionally – you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”
And with that, I’ll see you tomorrow for the last 5 and then we will get back to the business of law on Thursday.