‘Better Call Saul’ better than most legal shows?


Fatima Rosales

Popular shows and movies add their own spin to law and criminal justice films that may not always be an accurate portrayal.

When watching a show about criminal justice it should draw you in with the dramatic court cases and intense decision making scenes. But what makes people get drawn to these portrayals of law?

Shows like “Better Call Saul” and a newer show, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” portray the drama involved in the daily lives of lawyers and criminal justice workers.    

Despite how the job is portrayed, both shows seems to be popular. “She Hulk” currently has 1.5 million U.S households viewing the series in just four days and “Better Call Saul” has 2.7 million viewers watching the series finale, according to both SambaTV and the AMC Network. 

On Rotten Tomatoes, both shows have been praised with high reviews. “Better Call Saul” earned a 98% and “She-Hulk” got a 94% from critics as of this article.

Cal State LA Assistant Professor of Business Law Michael Runnels shares his past with law shows and films he watched such as “Devil’s Advocate.” He said the show that accurately portrays lawyer experiences is “Better Call Saul.”

“I think with particular regards to document review, the most unglamorous portion of any attorney’s work, somehow ‘Better Call Saul’ made that dynamic and exciting,” Runnels said.

The first law film that he saw was “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997) and although he loved it, it did have some problems with how they portrayed lawyers. 

“This is before I went to law school and there’s very little in that particular movie that is realistic about the legal profession,” Runnels said. “I think ‘Law & Order’ is interesting, but I don’t find it particularly a good example of how these dynamics play out in the real world.”

Praise for ‘Better Call Saul’

“I think ‘Better Call Saul’ is the only show that I’ve seen that depicts the culture [of law] somewhat accurately….as far as the show that depicts firm culture, and the psychology of lawyers working in that culture, that would be Saul,” Runnels said.

Others praise “Better Call Saul” for things other than the accuracy. Some people praise it for other aspects like its story and character development.

James Refalo, a professor for the department of finance and law at Cal State LA and a trained actor, said that “Better Call Saul” is also his favorite show. He said he often goes back to it during his free time. 

“I think it’s not just the law that’s praised, it’s the writing and having the right actor,” Refalo said.  “This series has tremendous writing and tremendous actors.”

Women in Law

When talking about “She-Hulk” and how it’s unique compared to other shows, Refalo explained that it does show how women are treated during their jobs as attorneys and lawyers and how they are more sexualized than in most workplaces.

In 2019, out of 110 female lawyers, 54% had dealt with being sexualized, and subjected to inappropriate behavior, according to Law.com International

“I found, anecdotally, that it’s difficult to be a woman in a firm particularly if you want to have a family, in addition to the sexualization of women,” Runnels said.