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Does ‘Suits’ resemble real-life law?

The US television industry has always had a way of making law look like a glamorous and dramatic industry to work in. From Ally McBeal to Law and Order and, more recently, Suits, there’s no doubt the drama that’s portrayed has inspired many students to hit the books in pursuit of a career as a lawyer.

Deakin University Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws student Josh Shub, 22, knew that his passion for English and debating made law a desirable option, and watching Suits certainly added to the appeal. But how much of Mike Ross and Harvey Specter’s fictional careers represent the reality of life as a lawyer?

The appeal of Suits to real life students 

It was the ‘immaculate suits, shiny offices and high-profile clients’ on Suits that increased the appeal of a career in law for Josh. Before enrolling, he recalls watching Harvey Specter’s smooth moves and ability to effortlessly beat his competition using his remarkable legal knowledge. ‘Becoming an expert in something that people rely on heavily each day really appealed to me, and being able to logically argue things through against another highly-trained individual seemed like a no-brainer career move for me,’ Josh says.

Reality vs TV

According to Josh, who is majoring in criminology and working towards a career in criminal law, some of the most misleading components of shows like Suits are the constant action and over-the-top glamour. Josh’s experiences as a law student have provided a far more realistic look at the industry. One of the first subjects he encountered in his degree was contracts. ‘I remember being excited to learn about an area of law that reminded me of Suits, such as the episode where Harvey negotiates the contract of an elite basketball player,’ Josh explains.

But burying himself in the fine details of contracts has come with its challenges. ‘When studying subjects like property law, it can be hard to see similarities between a glossy New York law firm and elements of adverse possession,’ Josh explains. But, when he’s challenged by the complexities of law, Josh remembers: ‘Harvey got to where he was by mastering the law and study is the first step towards that.’

While Josh knew that there was more to law than high-rise offices and million-dollar lawsuits, completing an internship at a Victorian community legal centre re-affirmed his realistic perception of the industry. ‘I came to learn how crucial research, preparation and file management is in the legal profession,’ he says. But Josh did see parallels between Suits and his experience when he witnessed unpredictable and complex legal issues that required quick action and accurate advice.

'Harvey got to where he was by mastering the law and study is the first step towards that'

Josh Shub,
Student, Deakin University

‘This is what is most interesting to me about work in the legal profession – you never know what issue a client will have, and each individual case has its own complexities and requirements. You are always learning,’ Josh says.

The ‘suitable’ difference between Australia and America 

Josh has noticed that culturally there are big differences between what’s portrayed in US shows and what happens in Australia. ‘We don’t have grand juries, which always makes for a great third-act suspense builder in films and television shows,’ Josh points out.

Australians also don’t appear to sue as willingly as those in the US, Josh has noticed. ‘I feel that in Australia we aren’t quite at the same level of overly dramatic and unnecessary legal action,’ he adds.

But some of the personality traits required to be successful in law are crucial, no matter where an aspiring lawyer is based. ‘Being able to handle rejection is important. As is knowing there will always be someone with better grades, experiences and connections than you. Working hard and taking every opportunity that you get will ensure that you are always still in the race,’ Josh says.

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