Suits - Matt Dale

Here’s What You Don’t See on Suits

For those who don’t know, Suits is a very popular TV legal drama starring, among others, the legendary fictional lawyer Harvey Specter. For many years I have been asked if Suits accurately portrays life as a practicing lawyer. Full disclosure here – I’d never seen Suits and I think I was one of the last people in the developed world to sign-up for Netflix so I had to admit that I had no idea.

Shortly after I finally got Netflix (way easier than I’d imagined, by the way) I resolved to watch Suits, mostly so I would finally be able to have a meaningful answer when people asked me about the accuracy of the show. I’ve now watched six full seasons and parts of Season 7 and here’s my answer: “No, Suits is not like real-life legal practice.”

Here are five reasons why:

  1. Blue Folders: everything any lawyer in Suits needs to know is contained on a single piece of paper in a blue folder. At a quick glance at that single piece of paper, the lawyer is up to speed on all the details of the case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The real way to get up to speed on a file would put viewers to sleep and deter a generation of would-be lawyers from joining the profession.
  2. Jack of All Trades: a single lawyer in Suits might handle a landlord-tenant dispute in the morning, a hostile corporate takeover in the afternoon and a matrimonial dispute in the evening. This is probably the single least accurate portrayal of real-life lawyering in Suits. In reality, the law is so specialized that most modern lawyers typically only practice in one or two areas. I practice in the fields of personal injury and health law. If you were to ask me a question about corporate law or real estate, you’d be very disappointed by my response. I’d have no idea.
  3. Fluid Schedule: in Suits, the lawyers pick up at the drop of a hat and go visit people like witnesses, clients or other lawyers. It doesn’t work this way! Scheduling is a very real challenge in real life and most meetings are booked weeks and sometimes months in advance.
  4. 100% Law: the lawyers in Suits seem to have very little else going on in their lives other than lawyering. One of the biggest challenges for a practicing lawyer in real life is managing a healthy work-life balance. In reality, we can’t stay at the office until 10:00 pm every night because we have to (and want to) coach hockey or drive to gymnastics or just be home for a family supper. Unlike Harvey Specter, I can’t sit in my darkened office sipping scotch and listening to records all night until an epiphany strikes me that helps me win my case.
  5. Office Size: no one has an office that big!

For these and many other reasons, Suits is not an accurate portrayal of life as a practicing lawyer. It’s nonetheless a good show. And I wish that some aspects of it were true in real life. Not even the scotch and listening to records part necessarily (although I’m open to new ideas), but the ease and timeliness of everything. Unfortunately, it’s fiction. So until they clone a Harvey Specter artificial intelligence lawyer robot to take over my practice, I’ll keep slugging it out in the trenches. I’m ok with that. Now where did I leave that blue folder…

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