Three ways to prepare yourself to watch lawyer tv shows

(Para português, clique aqui)

A great way to improve your skills with Legal English is using tv series that have law as a theme.  Below are three very useful things you must do before starting to watch a new show in order to turn it into a great learning opportunity:

1. Learn about why this series was given this name:

You know the saying "everything happens for a reason"? Well, in most cases with TV series that is true. After all, the name is the first thing you use to catch your prospective audience's attention. Bearing that in mind, always take interest in learning about that. Sometimes this in itself is an excellent clue to the overall context. For instance:



How = the way / to get away = escape punishment / murder = killing someone 

This series is about killing someone and not getting punished for it. 

Here's another one:

Suits can mean three things: what lawyers wear at work, a way to refer to business executives (as in, the top people in a company), or a (law)suit. 

Voilà! Suits is certainly going to feature lawyers, white collar crimes and court hearings. 

When in doubt, you can ask google about it. Someone has probably written about it. 

2. Read the summary and study new vocabulary:

For example: How to get away with murder

The setting of this series is a law school where a group of students starts to work with a high profile criminal lawyer, who is also their professor. The plot revolves around a number of homicides that incriminate all of them and their effort to escape punishment.

You've just learned the core theme of this series is criminal law, more specifically murder (as the title suggests). Therefore, the next thing to do is to work on is learn vocabulary about it. Make a list of terms related to the topic and look them up. Without them, you will most likely get lost and think you don't understand anything.

Example 2: Suits

A former law student-to-be who got kicked out of college for selling a test to a classmate (the dean's daughter) ends up landing  an interview with a very successful lawyer by accident. His intelligence is so impressive that he winds up getting a job at this high profile firm in NY, even though it only hires people who graduated from Harvard. They agree to lie about the fact he actually doesn't even have a degree, and find ways to have people believe he fits into the profile. 

Pause here: getting people to lie about you having a qualification you actually don't have is conspirancy to commit fraud; high profile lawyers usually work with white collar crime cases when/if they're tried in court. Study the vocabulary about it. They will discuss those issues. If you don't know words that can be related to this type of thing, you will struggle much more to cope and follow what's happening. 

And yes, 99.9% of Legal English shows talk about criminal law, more specifically about court cases regarding murder and white collar crimes. And, of course, procedural law on tv = hearing (the rest would bore most people). 

3. Read the summary of the episode you are about to watch

Before you watch a new episode, read its summary (the short text under the thumbnail) and translate the title. This will help you to have a clearer picture of the context, which ultimately makes a whole a lot of difference when we need to understand language. You can use websites like rotten tomatoes or even Netflix:

Have fun learning Legal English!

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