I saw Legally Blonde when it came out in theaters, and watched it many times before I started at USD. I thought it would be interesting to go back and see the film now that I am about to finish my first year, and look at it through the perspective of someone who has actually experienced law school.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film—it’s adorable so you really should—here is a short summary:
Elle Woods is a blonde, bubbly sorority girl from Beverly Hills whose East Coast Ivy League boyfriend Warner dumps her when he heads to Harvard Law School because she isn’t “suitable” for being a future senator’s wife. Elle decides to go to Harvard to win him back. After working hard and getting a 179 on her LSATs, Elle is admitted. Once she realizes Warner doesn’t respect her or her abilities, she decides to focus all her efforts on her studies. Elle gets a prestigious internship with her Criminal Law professor’s firm when he decides to hire 1Ls. Elle works on a murder case where the firm is defending Brooke Taylor Windham, a rich young widow who built her fortune on exercise videos who is accused of murdering her husband. Elle and Brooke bond because they are both from the same sorority, and Brooke respects Elle’s integrity and intellect. Brooke fires Elle’s professor as her counsel because he is a lecherous jerk who does not believe she is innocent. Brooke then hires Elle as her defense. Elle wins the case by using her knowledge of hair care to poke a hole in the alibi of Brooke’s stepdaughter and reveal her as the murderer.
So how accurate is the film about law school and the legal field? Here’s the rundown:
*LSATs: When Elle is practicing, at first she gets a 140. Then she practices more and more and ends up with a 179. I’m not sure if the practice is likely to increase your score by so much.
*Admissions: Elle Woods submits as her personal statement to Harvard a video with her lounging around in a bikini. Harvard, like every other law school, requires a written personal statement for admissions, so they would be unlikely to admit her based on a video, especially one where she is in a bathing suit.
*Housing: Elle lives in the dorms but has her pet Chihuahua with her; there is no way that she would be allowed to have her dog there.
*Classes and Studying: The film shows Elle spending all her time reading and in the library, and also shows the professors using the Socratic method in class, so that is portrayed accurately.
*Sections: Elle and Warner are in some of the same classes but have a different Civil Procedure professor. Every law school divides its students up into sections their first year, and they typically all share the same classes, so they would most likely either have all of their classes together or none.
*Internship: It is also not likely that a professor would hire 1Ls to work on a case. Also, most schools prohibit students from working more than 20 hours, and the film shows the interns working long hours into the night on the case, so this is inaccurate.
*Working Brooke’s Case: In the film, Massachusetts law allows a law student to work a case if a licensed attorney supervises, so Brooke hires Elle. Brooke is a very rich woman and on trial for murder, so she could potentially be put in prison for life (Massachusetts does not have the death penalty). Considering her financial resources and how much is at stake, Brooke probably would not have hired Elle and instead would have found another attorney.
Overall, although Legally Blonde has its inaccuracies and isn’t the most accurate portrayal of the law school experience, it is definitely an entertaining film worth watching.