The best shows for law students to stream, including a bunch you’ve probably never heard about
Research shows that downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, and increases productivity, creativity, and happiness.
Unfortunately, law students are notoriously bad at embracing downtime. Perhaps this is why, according to the Dave Nee Foundation, 96 percent of law students experience significant stress, compared to just 70 percent of medical school students and 43 percent of graduate students.
At Enjuris, we want law students to be as healthy and happy as possible. With that in mind, we’re going to meet you in the middle by presenting our list of 10 must-watch shows specifically for law students. So, put your books away, get the popcorn ready, and let your mind wander—you might even learn something.
Note: Most law students are familiar with shows like Law & Order and Suits, so we tried to present a list of some of the more underrated legal shows you might have missed.
Boston Legal (2004-2008)
Boston Legal wasn’t a smash hit, but it was critically acclaimed, racking up 26 Primetime Emmy Awards. The show follows the exploits of partners at a high-end litigation firm in Boston. Much of the show's success is due to the hilarious and often touching relationship between Alan Shore, played by James Spader, and Denny Crane, played by William Shatner.
Although Boston Legal takes a somewhat comical look at the law, the show was written by a former attorney, David E. Kelley, and the show frequently rings true.
Anchored by the performance of Paul Giamatti, Billions tells the story of United States Attorney Chuck Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti, as he attempts to prosecute hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis.
Some of the plotlines in the show mirror real-life prosecutions of financial crimes in the United States, including Preet Bharara’s prosecution of Steven Cohen of S.A.C. Capital Advisors.
The Practice (1997-2004)
The Practice, which earned an Emmy in 1998 and 1999, was the precursor to Boston Legal. The Practice, which starred Dylan McDermott, served as a rebuttal to shows like L.A. Law, which tended to romanticize the legal system. Law students will likely relate to the ethical and moral conflicts raised in The Practice.
Ally McBeal (1997-2002)
Women outnumber men in law school classrooms, but in 1997 it was unusual for a television show to revolve around a female attorney.
Ally McBeal starred Calista Flockhart in the title role. The show was set in a Boston law firm and examined the main character’s career and personal life.
While some praised the show for having a professional woman in the lead role, others criticized the show’s characterizations of women as annoying, demeaning, and flighty. On June 29, 1998, Time magazine featured Ally McBeal next to Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinman and posed the question, “Is Feminism Dead?”
In August 2022, ABC reported that it was in development to create a sequel series.
Goliath stars Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride, a brilliant lawyer who left his law firm and became an alcoholic after a murder suspect he got acquitted went on to kill an entire family. Goliath may be of particular interest to University of California Berkeley School of Law students, as Billy McBride attended the school in the show.
HBO’s Staircase, starring megastars Colin Firth and Toni Collette, is based on the Netflix documentary The Staircase.
The show follows Michael Peterson, a writer convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home. Although the show is based on a true story, the show had to take some liberties based on the fact that no one knows exactly what happened to Kathleen.
As director Antonio Campos explained, “Our intent was to explore the real elusive nature of truth and how ultimately the truth gets kind of caught up in storytelling, and everyone trying to tell their version of the story.”
Night Court (1984-1992)
For law students born in the 1980s and looking for a piece of light-hearted nostalgia, Night Court might be the best option.
The show follows an eccentric judge who presides over a Manhattan municipal court. The petty crimes that come before the judge are bizarre, but the clerks and district attorneys in the show are even more bizarre. Keep an eye out for famous guest stars, including Michael Richards, Michael J. Fox, and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk).
Your Honor (2020-present)
How does Brian Cranston follow one of the most successful shows in the history of television (Breaking Bad)? By playing a well-respected New Orleans judge.
Your Honor follows Judge Michael Desiato, played by Brian Cranston, and his efforts to protect his son, who accidentally killed the son of a mafia hitman in a hit-and-run accident.
If you’ve taken a first-year law class (or spent any time on Enjuris), you’ve certainly heard the term damages before. The show Damages features a cut-throat attorney and her newest protegee (recent law graduate Ellen Parsons). Each season features a different case that’s examined from the point of view of both the law firm and its opponent.
Damages has received numerous awards and features an all-star cast, including Glenn Close, Ted Danson, William Hurt, Timothy Oplyphant, Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, John Goodman, and Ryan Phillippe.
Defending the Guilty (2018-2020)
America isn’t the only country producing high-quality legal dramas. Defending the Guilty is a British television sitcom that follows an idealistic London barrister who navigates a bad case of imposter syndrome (we suspect law students can relate).