OK I admit it. I loved Legally Blonde and I really like Elle Woods. I’m a sucker for a kitsch, cheesy Hollywood flick and I can very easily suspend my disbelief. I can also watch films like these several times without losing the initial enjoyment I experienced with the first viewing. Tragic? Maybe, but that’s just who I am.
And even if you’re not a tragic fan of the 90s cult film like me, when you put aside the Paris Hilton dog and the fluffy pens, you can actually learn a bit about life and the law from Ms Elle Woods.
Yes, we’re not all caucasian, blonde, rich and beautiful but Elle did offer up a few universal nuggets that you can carry with you, as you study law or as work on the front lines as a legal practitioner. It’s her determination and tenacity in the face of adversity that I love most (but only slightly more than her cute one liners). Elle taught us to ignore the naysayers, work hard to achieve you goals, be yourself and to never let anyone tell you’re not smart enough.
Here’s 6 life (and legal) lessons from the pink-pumped lawyer herself:
1. If you put your mind to something, you can achieve it
You can do anything with a bit of hard work, commitment and persistence. When Elle set her sights on Harvard Law School, she worked tirelessly to achieve her goal, studying around the clock and missing out on social events to nail her LSATs. If you’re willing to make an effort, put in the hard yards and go the extra mile, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Oh, and try try out poolside videos in your sequinned swimwear. That might work too.
2. Lawyers need real life experience
You can rote-learn all the legislation and case law in the world but what’s going to make you a superb lawyer is your ability to use real life experience to help your clients and argue cases.
Elle would know. As she pointed out in court, the cardinal rule of perm maintenance is that you’re forbidden to wear your hair for 24 hours afterwards, a fact which secured a case-winning admission in cross examination. (OK so admissions of guilt are pretty goddam rare in court but who doesn’t love an on-screen witness box confession?)
‘The rules of hair care are simple and finite. Any Cosmo girl would’ve known.”
Elle used real life knowledge to test the opposing case and it worked. She also knew how to work the ‘bend and snap’. So whether it’s that bar job you had at university, the eccentric teacher you learned from in high school or what you’ve gleaned about food presentation from Instagram feed, what you know about life and people is just as, if not more, important as how you learn and apply the law. Hey, you never know when that tabloid magazine you read at the doctor’s surgery may just help you win a case! (But maybe don’t try the ‘bend and snap’ in the courtroom).
3. It helps to think outside the box
Don’t be a copycat and regurgitate tired old arguments that you think other lawyers or judges want to hear. When Warner Huntington III makes a stock standard class contribution about legal precedent during a law lecture, Elle takes the opportunity to use her own powers of deduction and form of logic:
“Well, unless the defendant attempted to contact every single one night stand to determine if a child resulted in those unions, he has no parental claim over this child whatsoever. Why now, why this sperm?”
Even if the argument or thought process isn’t perfect, you’ll get a big gold star for thinking outside the box. Apply your own logic and critical thinking like Elle did at law school. Look beyond the textbooks and the limits of your formal law training and you’ll reap the rewards in life and in legal practice.
4. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and always have faith in yourself
I don’t know how many times I’ve been told I don’t act, look or speak like a lawyer. It always baffles me – why on earth would I want to be like everyone else? Why would I want to confirm to an industry stereotype?
What makes the world (and the profession) an interesting place is that we are all different – we all think and work differently (and thank goodness for that!).
So it might sound like a cliche but don’t lose yourself as you train to become a lawyer or as you develop your legal skills and professional career.
If, like Elle, the colour pink, shopping, shoes and scented paper are your thing, then don’t be ashamed – embrace it! If your favourite thing to do on a weekend is to sit and watch re-runs of Mash and eat jars of pickles in your undies, that’s fine too. (Pop on a suit on for court: it’s just more hygienic that way.)
Just because you like quirky or frivolous pursuits or snort when you laugh doesn’t negate your intelligence or legal skills and you don’t have to be serious or two-dimensional. Going to law school and becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean you have to give up you everything you love or quell your burning desires. Find a way to combine what you love along with your legal practice and above all, have self-confidence. Elle was laughed out her first law lecture, humiliated in her bunny outfit, rejected by a study group and you know what? She never gave up and never lost her sense of self – she just became more determined to succeed.
Elle’s graduation speech, as uplifting and predictable as it is in true Hollywood style, highlights the point that you should always have faith in yourself. Don’t try to change yourself to achieve success – just be you and be the best version of ‘you’ that you can be.
5. Using the phrase “I object!” is about the only time it is appropriate to use legal jargon used outside the courtroom
We laugh when Elle says it and there’s a reason for that. Don’t start feeling comfortable using legal phrases at parties or the crowd will part quicker than the Red Sea. In fact, try to stay away from legalistic language – trust me, your friends and clients will thank you for it.
So for all the budding law students or busy lawyers out there, take a (pretty pink) leaf out of Elle’s glossy book. You can reach your dreams if you really try (cue rousing orchestral music!)
What dreams do you have for your legal life or law practice? What do you love to do outside of the law?
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