Legal TV dramas “influence career choice” of law firm staff

Suits: An inspiring tale

Just over half of UK law firm staff in a survey believe TV legal dramas influenced their career choice, the most influential being US series Suits.

However, when asked about their “primary influence”, a larger proportion (56%) said it was their “true passion for law”. Money was cited by less than a third (31%).

Neil Williamson, founder and sole director of London commercial firm EM Law, said he was inspired to commission the research when recruiting an executive assistant for the firm. EM Law, based in Shoreditch, has 12 solicitors, mostly working as consultants, and three support staff.

Mr Williamson said the successful candidate for executive assistant, Olivia Wilson, had never worked for a law firm before.

“I asked her why she wanted to work for one, and she said she really liked Donna from Suits, which I thought was fine as an answer. I liked her honesty.”

The firm’s marketing team suggested an online survey and obtained 500 responses from a variety of staff at UK law firms, including a small number of partners. Most respondents were female (59%) and two-thirds in the age range 18-34.

Nearly 40% agreed that their favourite TV dramas swayed their decision to pursue a career in law, while 11% strongly agreed about their impact.

When it came to which had most influenced their career choice, 30% said Suits, followed by Law and Order (22%). The third most popular was Ally McBeal, followed by How to Get Away with Murder.

Mr Williamson said BBC drama This Life, mentioned by only 2.8% in the survey, was watched by everyone when he was at law school.

“It wasn’t trying to make people look like superheroes, it was a look behind the scenes at what these young people were doing, showing them as human and really fallible. It showed lawyers in a different light to the usual one.

“By that time, I had already made my decision. I remember really enjoying it. I don’t think it put anyone off.”

Most of the respondents (57%) said their chosen TV shows were “realistic”, with scenes mirroring those they had encountered in real life. The remainder said the ones they selected “veered off from reality”.

Mr Williamson said he was “surprised” by this finding, as shows like Suits were not “terribly realistic”.

He was also surprised by how many said that “true passion for law” was their main influence.

At the same time, significant minority of law firm staff (30%) said that if they had the opportunity, they would change their career to one that was no longer associated with legal services.

Mr Williamson said he believed that finding was fair reflection of those in the profession who “thought the grass was greener” on the non-legal side.

He added that, in his opinion, the younger generations of law firm staff were “more willing to say what they feel about things”, which was a “good thing”.

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