By DebbieH 05 Feb 2015 7 min read

ABC’s Suits. An accurate portrayal of the legal industry?

American legal drama Suits is an award-winning primetime legal drama which centres around the fictional New York legal firm Pearson Spector. The twist in the plot is that the main character, senior associate Mike Ross, has never attended law school.

But, when compared to the realities of the legal industry, how does fiction fair? Here are two of Suits biggest myths.

You can become a lawyer without attending Law School

According to Suits

In the pilot episode of the show, Harvey Spector (Dubbed the best closer in New York) is made senior partner and, as a requirement, is told to find an associate to work exclusively for him from a pool of Harvard Law graduates.

Mike Ross, a brilliant but unmotivated college dropout, is in the same hotel delivering a briefcase full of cannabis on behalf of his wayward friend, Trevor Evans. When the dealers he is due to meet turn out to be undercover police officers, Mike bolts and ends up stumbling into Harvey’s interviews when a candidate fails to appear.

Impressed with Mike’s explanation – the suitcase falls open during the interview – and his incredible memory and detailed knowledge of the law, Harvey hires him on the spot despite Mike having never attended neither college or law school.

In Reality 

Certainly, a law firm would never hire an associate who has never attended law school, no matter how impressive the candidate. Summer associates, however, are generally consisted of law students who have completed their second year of school and who are interning at the firm for the summer.

Like in Suits, a senior partner will hold interviews to find an associate, but the final decision will rest with the named partner – the person with their name on the door. This is because, unlike Mike’s job role in Suits, an associate will not work exclusively for one partner.

Depending on the size of the firm, an associate will work with nearly all of the partners across their career. They may work with one partner specifically during a case, but only for the duration of the case.

And no, turning up for an interview with a briefcase full of cannabis isn’t the way to go about impressing your potential employer.

Law Firms pay for law school

According to Suits

Both Harvey and paralegal Rachel Zane have had their law school fees paid for during the course of the show.

Working in the mailroom of the firm, Harvey impresses named partner Jessica Person enough to convince her of his potential and is sent to Harvard Law on the firm’s expense. After graduating 5th in his class, Harvey returns to the firm and rises up the ranks until he is promoted to named partner alongside Jessica.

Rachel Zane, on the other hand has a far tougher time in attending law school. Working as a paralegal for five years due to the fact that she does not test well and has failed the bar, Racheal eventually succeeds and attends Columbia Law. Convincing Jessica to hire her back after law school – Pearson Spector only hires from Harvard Law – her fees are paid for as part of a comeback settlement after Rachel is unjustly fired for an offence she was framed for.

In reality

Whilst the promise of a generous salary is a tempting reason to become a trainee solicitor, the flipside is that qualifying is an expensive business. Non-law graduates need to cover conversion course (usually known as the CPE or GDL) fees, which range from £3,000 to £10,200 full time, and all graduates who want to become a trainee solicitor need to fund the legal practice course or LPC, which costs from £7,500 to £14,750 full time, depending on course provider and location.

It is, therefore wise to start thinking about how you’re going to finance this while still on your undergraduate degree.

Suits is correct in portraying Pearson Spector as paying for their staff to attend law school. Many law firms, such as CMS Cameron McKenna or Dentons, will fund course fees and provide upwards of £5,000 for maintenance. However, not every law firm will pay and even those that do will only select certain candidates for such a program.

If selected, the candidate may also find that they are limited in where they can attend as often a law firm will have a specific school in mind. Though, unlike Suits, most law firms will not lean towards one law school in particular.