Law Mentoring inside “How to Get Away with Murder”

The American drama television series “How to Get Away with Murder” that tells the story of a law teacher and the cases she and her five students work on. Annalise Keating, the main character,  is a prominent criminal defense attorney and a law professor at Middleton University in Philadelphia. She selects five students to intern at her firm: Wes Gibbins, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, Asher Millstone, and Laurel Castillo. They work with Annalise’s employees, Frank Delfino and Bonnie Winterbottom, an associate lawyer. Despite the cases the lawyers work on get immediately the public’s attention, the way Annalise advise her students concerning about how to manage adversity in personal and professional life is what this post is about.

Keep calm:

This could be said that is what all lawyers must never forget. In court, cases could take an unexpected direction however, lawyers attitude and body language might influence the jury, the client, and the defense. During the first season, two or three cases had an unexpected change and non Annalise neither her students or associate lawyer could predicted. Nevertheless, she never freaked out. She for example, asked for a recess and talked to her team, using a language that convinced not only her but her students that they could won the case.

Accept you will not win all the cases you have:

Despite the fact that a lawyer always fight and do his or her best for success all the cases, at some point they have to accept that there is always a possibility to lose a case. This does not mean that if a case is about to be lost, you should not look for more options. What I try to say is that your self-esteem as a professional should not be affected and it will not mean that you are a bad lawyer. For instance, when she had a client who was a priest and was accused of murdering, she tried so hard to defend him until he accepted in court the crime and at that point there was nothing she could do. Accept fails as they come and once you feel better, take note about the highlight points of that case. Who knows if you will have a similar case in the future.

If you want to improve your mentoring practices in your company, do not miss my recentest post “Become the Best Mentor in Your Company”.

Never ask you client if he or she is guilty:

Although this lesson could look unusual, she has a point. She say this  because we can not ignore our human nature. And, as lawyers we look for justice. Hence, the fact that you know your client has committed a terrible crime might make you stay subjective instead of objective. You ask your client for details that could be used in his or her defense but try to allow your professional side be the only one who set a point during the case.

Never get involved with your client:

This is not something new. This is a matter of ethics. In law, as in many other professions, it is not recommendable and in some cases forbidden to have an external relationship with your target audience (students, patients, clients). It supposes that once you started your studies, you incorporate some of your beliefs at your professional practicum. Those beliefs characterize you and differentiate you from your colleagues but, the limit of you as a man or woman has to be clearly established from who you are in the professional field. In “How to Get Away with Murder” Annalise realized that one of her students, Wes, is in loved with her client, Rebecca. Hence, she decided to maintain some details hidden from Wes. The emotional enrollment a lawyer could have on his or her client, will affect the case.  

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER_Pilot Gallery_VIOLA DAVIS_law mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Disney/ ABC televison Group at

As a mentor, always show your students that you can manage any situation:

Your students are learning from you and they see you as a model. Having said this, try to support your students and advise them as much as they need it. They do not only learn from theory, in fact they learn more from you in situations that allow them to participate either as a spectator, either as a participant.

Ask your mentees for their opinion:

Even if you have more experience than them, you can learn something from them. And, if the case is not about learning, you can guide their opinion in order to find the answer or possible solution.


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