|Cultural origins||United States of America |
|Features||Courtroom,  equality,  justice,  lawyers  legal language,  social justice experience |
|Popularity||Britain, Australia, United States of America, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain |
|Formats||Books, television and films|
|Authors||Brian Stevenson, Harper Lee, Scott Turow, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Paul Levine Jilliane Hoffman, Mark Gimenez, Linda Fairstein, Marcia Clark, James Grippando, Vish Dhamija|
|Crime, thriller, mystery|
|Legal drama, social justice, films, novels, television|
The legal thriller genre is a type of crime fiction genre that focuses on the proceedings of the investigation, with particular reference to the impacts on courtroom proceedings and the lives of characters. 
The courtroom proceedings and legal authorship are ubiquitous characteristics of the legal thriller genre  In the genre, lawyers as legal professionals are featured as the supreme hero. Their actions in the courtroom affect the quality of character's lives, as they determine innocence prevailing against injustice. 
Many legal professionals such as judges and lawyers constitute the primary authorship of the genre, providing their own relevant experiences  The legal authorship experience is certified through the novel, Presumed Innocent written by the lawyer and author, Scott Turow.  American writers such as Harper Lee experienced her father's dealings as a lawyer. 
The author, John Grisham as a lawyer also contributes to the development of the legal thriller genre.  Legal language is also another characteristic of the legal thriller. The television shows, Suits and How to Get Away with Murder embody the legal thriller, characterised by legal language.  Novels and television shows of the legal thriller genre have impacted education.  Many address complex social justice issues such as racial discrimination and the death penalty. 
In Australia, Denmark, and Poland, 62% of law and justice shows were imported from the United States”.  Legal thriller television is mostly sourced from the American jurisdiction.
As American shows dominate the legal thriller genre, the characteristic of legal language has emerged. In the American legal drama, Suits, the character, Harvey mentions the term, “subpoena” consistently.  The legal language, commonly French and Latin expressions is central to courtroom proceedings in legal thriller television. There is also other legal language used in the show including terminology such as “affidavit”, “plaintiff”, “defendant”, “malfeasance” and “in lieu”. 
How To Get Away with Murder is an American television series, categorised in the genre of legal thriller.  In the courtroom proceedings of Episode 1: Pilot found within the List of How to Get Away with Murder episodes, legal language such as the term, “mens rea” is utilised. The television series features a legal professional as the leading teacher and a group of law students who devise tactics to combat a range of criminal cases and murder mysteries.  There is a difficulty for characters to balance personal life and professional success as women, people of color and marginalised individuals in legal thriller television shows. 
Other legal thriller television in America also consisted of the show The Defenders (1961 TV series). Social justice themes were prevalent within this show and police procedural elements in subsequent shows such as Arrest and Trial.  The development of these television shows led to the famous 1990's T.V show creation, Law & Order. There were different categories of legal thriller shows also developed such as courtroom drama, ensemble shows and police, detective dramas.  The characters in these shows displayed ardent personality traits when investigating and dealing with complex legal issues of the justice system. 
Australian legal thriller shows developed in the 1980s and 1990s are classed into categories of adjudication and punishment  The television shows concerning adjudication and punishment consist of the soap opera, Carson's Law and SeaChange. Both shows feature female lawyers who experience prejudice from males in their legal careers. 
There are thematic ideas of justice and equality associated with the female lawyer protagonist's fight for change to break the glass ceiling.  The inequality of men and women prevalent in the set time of the 1920s contribute to these themes present. In 2014, Australian legal thrillers developed were limited, compared to previous years that are tabulated with “45%”. 
In Britain, the most dominant form of legal thriller show is in the category of police and detective shows. Examples of these include the Dixon of Dock Green and The Sweeney. Women also played a role in these television shows as evident in Juliet Bravo and C.A.T.S. Eyes.  Courtroom drama in Britain featured the series Justice (1971 TV series) as a prominent show, where the courtroom drama played a big role in its characteristic of the legal thriller. As Britain has three legal systems, this distinction was made apparent in the television shows, also highlighting barristers and advocates in wigs as part of the show. 
Books of the legal thriller genre include the memoir, Just Mercy (book) by Bryan Stevenson and the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Major authors of this genre include the following:
Legal thriller films provide introspection into the life of a lawyer and legal professionals. Within films, the central character is often engaged in professional work and experiences an obstacle that they have to overcome such as a client's case.  The character confronts problems with their personal life and work, as it is under threat by the complex case, creating a series of action and courtroom battles. 
The problems that characters faced are evident within reviews of films such as The Judge , where family dynamics are strained after a lawyer returns home for his mother's funeral.  Reviews from the New York Times comment on the film's transformation into a crime story, characteristic of the legal thriller. The film itself unfolds the legal thriller's ideal courtroom drama style and the film is taken place in what is deemed as a "nostalgia-tinged town".  Further films such as The Lincoln Lawyer have also met similar reviews from Roger Ebert, commenting on the love of three elements in the film: courtroom scene, old cars and tangled criminals.  The 2019 film, Dark Waters raises an ethical dilemma of lawyers often choosing sides within films, as the defence lawyer has to switch sides to defend a poisoned community. He risks his own future, community and life through dealing with the case, characteristic of the legal thriller. 
By combining the elements of film and law together, the relationship becomes central to the audience. It is through film techniques, images, symbols and social functions that legal thriller films can make an impact on the audience.  The film Mangrove shows the inequalities and injustices prevalent through Britain's Caribbean history. Steve McQueen was the first black director of an Academy winning best picture with 12 Years a Slave .  The five-part anthology, featuring Mangrove as the first visualises courtroom drama and heroism, characterising the legal thriller genre.  McQueen made his film resemble a landmark of the civil rights trial against black activists.  The film uses the characteristics of the legal thriller genre through a powerhouse courtroom drama and focusing on racial justice.  The power divide between two opposing sides is intended to shape transformative victory, as audiences can learn about diversity. 
A Fall from Grace also features the challenge often taken by lawyers in legal thriller films.  For example, a young public defender has to handle the challenging case of a woman charged with murdering her husband. The film features elements of a conventional courtroom drama such as the heroic lawyer, shady characters and a law firm setting. Within the film, there are plot twists, characteristic of the legal thriller genre.  Furthermore, the film Law has ample court scenes and features a character taking on the fight for justice.  The film defies the stereotypical expectations of women through featuring the main character as a woman who wants to speak openly about gang rape victimisation. 
The recognition of injustice is another emerging aspect of legal thriller films.  Marshall is another example of a legal thriller film, where the lawyer is feature as the main character, travelling the country on behalf of the NAACP to defend black men who are accused of crimes.  The film features a courtroom scene where violence occurs in retrieving the confession of a client and the difficulty to obtain the truth. Flashbacks are used as a key film technique to craft outrage as revealed by a film review.  The courtroom scenes are considered suspenseful and the setting of the 1940s shows a stage where people threw a facade with fake costumes and bright lights. Racism is exposed as a key social justice issue explored where the truth demands a voice. 
The following table summarises films that are categorised in the legal thriller genre:
|1959||Anatomy of a Murder||English|
|1992||A Few Good Men||English|
|1993||The Pelican Brief||English|
|1993||Guilty as Sin||English|
|1996||A Time To Kill||English|
|1997||The Devil's Advocate||English|
|1998||A Civil Action||English|
|1998||Shadow of Doubt||English|
|2011||The Lincoln Lawyer||English|
|2017||The Third Murder||Japanese|
|2019||Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile||English|
|2020||A Fall from Grace||English|
|2020||The Trial of the Chicago 7||English|
The legal thriller genre has impacted culture, schools, and universities. As an example, the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird is acclaimed for inspiring American culture.  Harper Lee has provided a new understanding of the Southern women voice, as Eichelberger, Professor of Southern Literature at the College of Charleston stated people “didn’t really understand the South and looked down upon it…” 
In addition, the novel as a legal thriller worldwide sale topped 40 million and won numerous prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize.  The novel also translated into a film, receiving nominations in various categories such as best actress, music and cinematography and won the 1963 Oscars. It has impacted schools through becoming a part of the syllabus reading list for learning, as it addresses timeless concepts of racism and social injustice, relevant to America. 
Scott Turow's novel, Presumed Innocent was an explosive bestseller in 1987. His story introduced the sub-genre of the legal thriller through incorporating aspects of the criminal trial process. The core inspiration of Turow's work is the examination of a witness during a trial, the story stemming from the lawyer's own experiences. 
Legal thriller books instigate the need for equality. The National Public Radio provides coverage of the legal thriller memoir, Just Mercy (book). Brian Stevenson provides insight into shaping the need for equality within America, as there has been a hundred years of supremacism and violence against black people in America. 
The film, Just Mercy raises the themes of equality and justice for the racial injustice against black African Americans in the United States of America.  It has introduced the social issue of the death penalty, as American people disapproved of it after watching the film. The legal thriller enlightens hope that complex social issues such as the death penalty have the potential to change. 
Suits, as a legal thriller has shaped “interpersonal loyalty” wrecked by American pursuits of power and wealth.  There is progressive impact  on depicting race and gender equality, as they made the head an African American woman  and use female lawyers. 
The television show, How to Get Away with Murder depicts the complexities of race and the LGBTQ community.  Characters in the series such as the African American lawyer, Annalise Keating, played by the actor, Viola Davis represents racial diversity. The character, Oliver Hampton, (Conrad Ricamora) advocates for the marginalised members in the LGBTQ community. 
The film, Marshall was based on the history of a lawyer named Marshall who created the NAACP Legal Defence fund.  He was devoted to identifying cases that would change history.  The film has made a great impact on audiences, as it has a turned a real-life hero to the all-time star of a courtroom drama.  This is revealed in a film review, where it states the legal thriller has a created a real-life superhero for audiences to gain inspiration. Furthermore, using the idealistic approach of a young lawyer creates a compelling courtroom drama.  The elements of historical racism embedded within the film dates back to the 1950s and has created a riveting, touching tale on audiences. 
Throughout the popular culture of legal thriller films, there have been variations in the character representations of lawyers. The character representation of lawyers affect audiences both negatively and positively.  The positive impact is the level of heroism performed by lawyers in saving their client's case. Negative representations are associated with the representation of lawyers as villains and distrustful. The representations are reflective of lawyers declining after the American Revolution.  As many films, novels and shows are produced within the genre, audiences have the ability to choose the images of the lawyer that they like.  The process of revealing these images is through showing the beginning action, the action itself and the consequences of the lawyer's actions. 
Robert Norman Reiner is an American actor and filmmaker. As an actor, Reiner first came to national prominence with the role of Michael "Meathead" Stivic on the CBS sitcom All in the Family (1971–1979), a performance that earned him two Primetime Emmy Awards.
Client(s) or The Client may refer to:
John Ray Grisham Jr. is an American novelist, lawyer and former member of the 7th district of the Mississippi House of Representatives, known for his popular legal thrillers. According to the American Academy of Achievement, Grisham has written 28 consecutive number-one fiction bestsellers, and his books have sold 300 million copies worldwide. Along with Tom Clancy and J. K. Rowling, Grisham is one of only three authors to have sold two million copies on a first printing.
A legal drama is a genre of film and television that generally focuses on narratives regarding legal practice and the justice system. The American Film Institute (AFI) defines "courtroom drama" as a genre of film in which a system of justice plays a critical role in the film's narrative. Legal dramas have also followed the lives of the fictional attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, or other persons related to the practice of law present in television show or film. Legal drama is distinct from police crime drama or detective fiction, which typically focus on police officers or detectives investigating and solving crimes. The focal point of legal dramas, more often, are events occurring within a courtroom, but may include any phases of legal procedure, such as jury deliberations or work done at law firms. Some legal dramas fictionalize real cases that have been litigated, such as the play-turned-movie, Inherit the Wind, which fictionalized the Scopes Monkey Trial. As a genre, the term "legal drama" is typically applied to television shows and films, whereas legal thrillers typically refer to novels and plays.
Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom drama film produced and directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Wendell Mayes was based on the 1958 novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name of Robert Traver. Voelker based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.
Mystery is a fiction genre where the nature of an event, usually a murder or other crime, remains mysterious until the end of the story. Often within a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character is often a detective, who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader. Some mystery books are non-fiction. Mystery fiction can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.
Scott Frederick Turow is an American author and lawyer. Turow has written 13 fiction and three nonfiction books, which have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. Turow’s novels are set primarily among the legal community in the fictional Kindle County. Films have been based on several of his books.
David Edward Kelley is an American television writer, producer, and former attorney. He has created and/or produced a number of television series including Doogie Howser, M.D., Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice and its spin-off Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Goliath, Big Little Lies, and Big Sky. Kelley is one of very few screenwriters to have created shows that have aired on all four top commercial U.S. television networks as well as cable giant HBO.
Crime films, in the broadest sense, is a film genre inspired by and analogous to the crime fiction literary genre. Films of this genre generally involve various aspects of crime and its detection. Stylistically, the genre may overlap and combine with many other genres, such as drama or gangster film, but also include comedy, and, in turn, is divided into many sub-genres, such as mystery, suspense or noir.
The Defenders is an American courtroom drama series that ran on CBS from 1961 to 1965. It was created by television writer Reginald Rose, and stars E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed as father-and-son defense attorneys. Original music for the series was scored by Frank Lewin and Leonard Rosenman. This series is not related to the 2010s CBS series of the same name.
Judith Susan Sheindlin, known professionally as Judge Judy, is an American court-show arbitrator, media personality, television producer, author, women's advancement philanthropist and former prosecutor and Manhattan family court judge.
Like many institutions that draw public interest, the Supreme Court of the United States has frequently been depicted in fiction, often in the form of legal drama. While early depictions of the Supreme Court in fiction tended to be reverential, over time depictions became more critical and melodramatic. In some instances, real decisions rendered by real courts are dramatized, as in Gideon's Trumpet and the seminal trial in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Other depictions are purely fictional, but center on realistic issues that come before the court. Despite the comparative dearth of material on the Supreme Court in popular culture as compared to other branches of government, such depictions are "the primary source of the public's knowledge about the legal system as a whole, including the Supreme Court".
The Pelican Brief is a 1993 American legal thriller film based on the 1992 novel by John Grisham. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film stars Julia Roberts in the role of young law student Darby Shaw and Denzel Washington as Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham. The film, which features music composed by James Horner, was the last film that featured Pakula as both writer and director before his death.
Law firms are a common element of fictional depictions of legal practice. In legal drama, generally, they create opportunities to depict lawyers engaged in dramatic interactions that are reflective of the real-world drama of the profession. The portrayal of law firms varies by the media in which they are presented, with law firms in novels and in films being presented in a negative light, while law firms in television series tending to be presented more positively.
David Feige is an American lawyer, legal commentator, and author. He is the author of the memoir, Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice, and co-creator of the TNT legal drama Raising the Bar, both of which center on the life of the public defender. He is also the co-founder and board chair of The Bronx Freedom Fund, a charitable bail organization in New York State. In 2016 he won the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award for "Untouchable" a documentary feature he wrote, produced and directed. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Trial films is a subgenre of the legal/courtroom drama that encompasses films that are centered on a civil or criminal trial, typically a trial by jury.
In film and television, drama is a category or genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods. To these ends, a primary element in a drama is the occurrence of conflict—emotional, social, or otherwise—and its resolution in the course of the storyline.
A court show is a broadcast programming subgenre of either legal dramas or reality legal programming. Court shows present content mainly in the form of legal hearings between plaintiffs and defendants presided over by a judge, often in one of two formats: a scripted/improvised format performed by an actor; or an arbitration-based reality format with the case handled by an adjudicator who was formerly a judge or attorney.
The Firm is a legal thriller television series that began airing on January 8, 2012, on Global in Canada and NBC in the United States and in February 2012 on AXN, and is a sequel to the 1991 John Grisham novel of the same name and its 1993 film adaptation. The television adaptation is set ten years after the novel and film.
Illegal - Justice, Out of Order is an Indian legal thriller web series directed by Sahir Raza, starring Neha Sharma, Akshay Oberoi, Kubbra Sait, Piyush Mishra and Satyadeep Mishra. A courtroom drama where an idealistic lawyer finds herself trapped in the murky world of criminal law. The web series premiered on Voot on 12 May 2020.