It’s Sunday! It’s a day of rest (even for us law students), so thought I’d write something a little less dry and a little more fun.
Whilst browsing on Amazon recently, I came across a book entitled Movie Therapy for Law Students by Sonia Buck — which, apparently, helps you to prepare for law exams… by watching classic drama!
Sounds good, and I was tempted to buy, except that two things occurred to me. Firstly, the book is aimed at American students. Secondly, it’s obviously too good to be true! Not to mention, if my legal buddies spotted such a get-rich-quick title on my shelf, slouching idly between the likes of Michael Mansfield and Clive Stafford-Smith, then my reputation for due diligence could be over before my career begins.
However, I also thought: What a splendid idea for a Sunday blog post!
Therefore, I have adapted Miss Buck’s idea to present a selection of ‘smart’ movies for the aspiring British lawyer. In nerdy fashion, I have placed recommendations under related subjects from your law degree — so you know what kind of mindset to bring to each movie. I have decided not to recommend movies on criminal law as there are literally thousands to pick from, and the subject matter is so engrossing that students are likely to switch-off and enjoy the story rather than try to think critically about the legal bits.
If this list had to include just one ‘criminal’ title, let it be Twelve Angry Men (1957), so you can see how a trial jury reaches a verdict as to guilt or innocence.
* Legal Disclaimer:
Watching movies about the law will not turn you into a lawyer. But it’s better for your future career than vegetating in front of Emmerdale!
CONTRACT LAW —
The Paper Chase (1973).
A young student, played by Timothy Bottoms, gets into America’s prestigious Harvard Law School, but soon finds himself struggling with his class on contracts. This story is good for two reasons. Firstly, because it involves a lot of discussion in class about contract law. Secondly, because the points of law being discussed are mostly taken from English cases (American contract law is founded upon English contract law, which goes back centuries). Not to mention, watching this movie will introduce you to an important contract case that you will undoubtedly need to learn… Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company!
My Cousin Vinny (1992).
This is a terrific comedy starring Joe Pesci as a hapless lawyer called-in to represent his cousin who stands accused of murder. However, I’m recommending it for another reason. Throughout the story, Pesci is confronted by a local thug who wishes to fight him. Pesci promises to fight the thug in return for the $200 which he owes to Pesci’s girlfriend. But the dialogue between these two characters is “on the money” from a contract law perspective. Pay close attention whilst Pesci schools the thug on the difference between an offer and a counter-offer! For me, watching this sequence made remembering the rules of contract formation easier.
TORT LAW —
The Verdict (1982).
A drunken lawyer, played by Paul Newman, turns down a settlement offer and decides to fight for his client, a young girl whose life was destroyed by the negligence of a hospital that treated her. The lawyer must prove that his client was given the wrong type of anaesthetic during surgery. Things take a terrible turn, though, when his expert witness goes missing on the eve of the trial. Hence, proving negligence will take everything this lawyer has got. But has he got enough left?
Tom Hanks portrays a brilliant lawyer who suddenly finds himself sacked when colleagues discover his secret — that he is living with AIDS. Whilst this story is not based strictly on tort, it serves as a good reminder that all civil cases are about getting justice as well as money.
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (human rights) —
Strip Search (2004).
Starring Glenn Close as a ruthless interrogator, this movie begins with the question: If giving-up all of your rights would end terrorism forever, would you do it?
In The Name Of The Father (1994).
The true story of the ‘Guildford Four’ who were accused of bombing a pub, and wrongly convicted as IRA terrorists. Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional as Gerry Conlon, the young man from Belfast who was tortured into signing a false confession at a British police station. I think this movie is relevant because these events occurred after the UK had signed the European Convention on Human Rights, but before Labour had passed the Human Rights Act. Hence, it proves that just being signed-up to international conventions will not ensure that our rights are protected. Indeed, we should all think carefully before saying we want the Human Rights Act to be scrapped.
… And that’s all for now as my Sunday roast awaits!
Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot think of any movies to inspire you for land law and trusts. But if anyone knows of delightful titles that could spread a little butter on these dry-as-toast topics, feel free to add a comment for the rest of us.