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When I was an associate dean at Washburn University School of Law, I used to speak to new students during orientation week about keeping law school in perspective. I addressed how law students are depicted in the movies. Popular cultural references are something we all share, and they can build excellent bridges for illuminating and understanding concepts and situational challenges — including law school. To illustrate this point, I would discuss one film per decade, from the 1970s to the new millennium. These films were The Paper Chase (1973), Soul Man (1986), The Pelican Brief (1994) and Legally Blonde (2001).

By a show of hands, I’d ask the students whether they had seen these films. Not surprisingly, typically most had watched Legally Blonde and The Pelican Brief, a handful had seen The Paper Chase and the fewest hands were raised for Soul Man. I’d ask volunteers to provide synopses of each film.

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