The Legal Beat
Somehow The Characters On ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ Are Still In Law School
Posted on Thursday October 12, 2017
Why are the characters on How To Get Away With Murder still in law school? This question was at the forefront of my mind while watching the first two episodes of the fourth season of the ABC hit legal show. Somehow, despite four seasons, the main characters are still just 2Ls. As described in the past and further below, the show’s law school storylines are notoriously unrealistic. Given that the vast majority of storylines on the show are about the students’ work with Annalise Keating, the best course of action would be to have a time jump forward to a point in which they are full-time employees. Alas, no one at the show is listening to my opinion (this column will contain spoilers up through last Thursday’s episode).
When we last left the law student murderers, we had just learned that Laurel’s wealthy industrialist father was responsible for killing Wes. In the season’s opening episode, Annalise gets her law license back (though she has to attend mandated therapy), but fires Laurel, Connor, Michaela, Asher, and even Bonnie. As a full-time employee, Bonnie takes the news poorly and obtains a job at the District Attorney’s Office. The students take the news differently, but soon become focused on law firm interviews, which apparently in the HTGAWM universe take place in the middle of 2L year. The students struggle to get jobs due to their middling grades, except for Michaela, who scores an “internship” at one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious firms. Laurel is apoplectic at the potential of her father’s involvement in Wes’s murder, and once she finds out that Michaela’s firm also represents her father’s company, she attempts to enlist Michaela to spy for her. And as is typical for How To Get Away With Murder, this season contains a flashforward in which (as we have learned so far), Laurel’s baby is missing and Annalise’s apartment is covered in blood.
How To Get Away With Murder is certainly not known for its verisimilitude, so I am not surprised that its depiction of law firm interviews lacks realism. First of all, everyone calls law firm jobs “internships” even though they are clearly interviewing for summer associate positions. The interviewers ask wildly inappropriate questions, particularly to Connor; they essentially berate him after he cannot come up with a good answer to the question of why he wanted to become a lawyer (a question that I imagine many lawyers have difficulty answering). One interviewer even flat-out tells Connor in the interview that he won’t get the job. As someone who has both been interviewed and interviewed others for summer associate positions, these questions are out of line with reality. And then when Michaela and Asher score a callback at a prestigious firm, the “callback” merely consists of a cocktail party in which they mingle with the firm’s attorneys; there are no actual callback interviews.
I understand that Laurel would be so upset about the revelations about her father that she basically tanks her interview process, including not showing up for certain interviews. But the scenes in which she attempts to dig for dirt on her father’s company are laughably bad. She literally types the company name and “tax evasion,” “antitrust,” or “fraud” in a search engine. What was she expecting? A Reddit page dedicated to whether or not the company complied with tax laws?
Annalise returns to the practice of law by successfully defending Jasmine (L. Scott Caldwell), her friend from her time in prison, who has been charged with soliciting prostitution. Despite the slam-dunk case against Jasmine, Annalise is able to get the charges dismissed by proving racial bias by the police department in its treatment of Jasmine when she was essentially sold into prostitution as a teenager. It’s a typically strong scene for Viola Davis, though the judge is convinced with surprising ease by this strategy.
How To Get Away With Murder has made it a pattern to include a flashforward at the end of each episode, teasing something that is going to happen in the future (such as someone dying in Annalise’s house or Annalise being shot). I have often complained about these flashforwards as pointless, and this season is no different. My threshold is whether nor not the flashforward makes the show better than it would have been if the flashforward did not exist. This is a high bar; I am hard pressed to think of any instance where this is true (maybe on Lost, but even there it was only because of the surprise and the novelty factor). It does not make How To Get Away With Murder a better show if the audience knows in advance that Laurel’s baby will disappear and that there will be blood in Annalise’s hotel room.
I will definitely be checking in on How To Get Away With Murder as the season progresses, but I do not have high hopes. At the very least, it’s inspired me to Google every company I know and “tax evasion” to see what happens.
Harry Graff is a litigation associate at a firm, but he spends days wishing that he was writing about film, television, literature, and pop culture instead of writing briefs. If there is a law-related movie, television show, book, or any other form of media that you would like Harry Graff to discuss, he can be reached at [email protected]. Be sure to follow Harry Graff on Twitter at @harrygraff19.