Judith Boza - Teen Aspect - July 18th, 2022
As a prospective law student and lover of all things pink, it should come as no surprise that the 2001 American comedy, Legally Blonde has played a prominent role in my pursuit of a legal career. Many remember the early 2000s nostalgia film for its blonde protagonist, Elle Woods, or her Gemini, vegetarian dog, Bruiser. But despite how entertaining it is to follow Elle as she applies to Harvard Law School, some watchers might overlook numerous legal inconsistencies woven into the movie’s dramatic plot. Is it really that easy to get into Harvard Law School? Would Elle Woods be that successful at breaking a witness at the stand in a real-world trial? And is wearing pink in a courtroom appropriate? I will continue to explore these concerns in my attempt to determine how authentically Legally Blonde depicts the law.
Credited as one of the world's most prestigious law schools, (1) Harvard Law is reported to have an acceptance rate of 15.6% with an average GPA of 3.75 and an average LSAT (Law School Admission Test) score of about 170 or higher. The film utilizes an extensive montage to show Elle Woods rigorously studying for the LSAT as her sorority sisters hold her accountable for staying focused. Once the long-awaited exam results are dropped off at the mailbox of her sorority house, Elle and the sisters of Delta Nu jump with joy once it is revealed that Elle Woods scored a 179 on the LSAT. (2) The LSAT scale ranges from 120 to 180, with 120 being the lowest possible score and 180 being the highest. With one point away from a perfect score, achieving a 179 on the LSAT leaves Elle Woods in the 90th overall percentile of all LSAT takers. While watching the film it is apparent that Ms. Wood's decision to go to law school was impulsive, as it was decided the final week of her senior semester. Her lack of time and preparation makes it impossible to attain a nearly perfect score on her first attempt at the entrance exam.
Many law school applicants will tell you to make bold choices in your application in order to leave an impression on admissions officers. Elle Woods took this advice a little too far when she submitted a video essay as her personal statement to Harvard Law. Although a personal statement is intended as an opportunity to give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are as a person, there is no way for an applicant to upload a video on their admissions portal. As entertaining and convincing as Elle’s video essay was, the likeliness of this happening is almost unheard of. In one scene of the movie, Harvard Law admission officers are seen observing Elle's application as they discover that she has a degree in fashion merchandising. Many might assume that majoring in a field unrelated to legal studies would make it more difficult for an applicant to be admitted into law school… but this is actually untrue! (3) Because there is no pre-requisite to law school, it is proven that studying criminal justice or pre-law as a major will not boost your chances of acceptance. Instead, admission officers look for a good student who is an involved member of an academic community, and the type of informed and well-rounded human being they would expect to find practicing law.
After her admission into Harvard Law, Elle Woods is taken as a first-year intern to help her professor, Mr. Callahan, on a high-profile homicide case. After attempting a sexual advance on Ms. Woods, Callahan is fired and instead replaced by Elle. While the odds of a first-year law student contributing to a high-profile case are extremely slim, they are rather less likely to take part in a criminal trial without any prior legal expertise. Elle conducts a cross-examination on one of the most important witnesses of the homicide trial before being certified as a licensed lawyer. Throughout her cross-examination Elle turns to the jury and states, “You know, a girl in my sorority got a perm once? We tried talking her out of it… curls weren’t a good look for her.” (4) It is important to note that under Model Rule 3.5(a) direct communication with jurors on a case by a party’s lawyer is prohibited as it can make way for “Jury Tampering.” This is known as communicating with a juror to influence the outcome of a case. Elle’s comment could have come off as an opportunity for her to present herself as a more ‘likable’ person, interfering with the case's final verdict. While interrogating the witness, Elle states, “And if in fact, you were washing your hair, as I suspect you weren’t as your curls are still intact, wouldn’t you have heard the gunshot? And if in fact, you had heard the gunshot Brooke Windham wouldn’t have had time to hide the gun before you got downstairs, which would mean that you would have had to have found Mrs. Windham with a gun in your hand to make your story plausible, isn’t that right?” Although Elle Woods seems to be proving a point through her interrogation, this long-winded question would normally be the cause for an objection from the opposing counsel. (5) During a trial or deposition, a witness may be asked a compound question, which combines multiple questions into what appears to be a single inquiry. A compound question can be objected to by the other side's attorney since it is confusing to the witness, who has the right to respond to each question independently. Despite her lack of attorney etiquette, Elle Woods still manages to break the witness at the stand, making her the hero.
Despite some legal inconsistencies and plot holes, It would be wrong of me to end this analysis without commending Legally Blonde for its contributions to our society. Elle Woods is a powerful and essential example for many young women who desire to pursue law, even if I believe passing the LSAT and breaking a witness at the stand will be somewhat more difficult in the real world. In a field that is primarily dominated by men, we women must remain true to ourselves despite criticism, even if it means showing up to our first law school lecture in a pink dress and a dog in our purse. We must tackle every obstacle this unexpected profession presents to us, stay persistent, and once it's all over, ask ourselves... "What, like it's hard?"
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