Over the past few months, I have recommended that lawyers check out two TV series — The Paper Chase and Better Call Saul — in order to binge entertaining legal shows to break the monotony of the quarantine. My articles on these shows were extremely popular, and I received numerous emails from readers seconding that these shows should be viewed by people within the legal profession. Although Better Call Saul and to a lesser extent The Paper Chase are already well-known series among lawyers in the United States, I am willing to bet that few people in America are familiar with the TV show Rake (unless you saw the suggestions to watch this series on Netflix like I did). Nevertheless, I recently binged all five seasons of Rake, and I can say unequivocally that this amazing legal show should be on every lawyer’s quarantine watch list.
Rake is an Australian TV show about a disheveled criminal barrister who represents an interesting cast of characters and deals with his shady personal life along the way. It is hard to describe the show’s charm succinctly, but suffice it to say that Rake has all of the eccentricities of the legal profession shown in Better Call Saul, the grumpy humor of House, MD, and the courtroom drama of (the original) Perry Mason or Matlock (I assume. I’m too young to have seen those last two shows!). In addition, Rake has all of the intrigue, surprises, and other drama that viewers are accustomed to seeing in a top-notch legal series.
I would not ordinarily take a chance on watching a series like Rake, since I rarely view foreign shows. I do not like watching shows with subtitles, because I usually view streaming programs casually and do not like to be forced into viewing the screen at all times. Also, I have an extremely hard time understanding British accents, and I had to watch the British Office twice in order to understand what was going on. However, I was easily able to understand and appreciate what the Australian characters in Rake were saying. Maybe it is because I had a lot of Aussie and Kiwi camp counselors growing up, or maybe it is because I love the Outback Steakhouse (Outback, I would gladly be paid for an endorsement deal in Thunders from Down Under or Bloomin’ Onions!). In any event, I had no problems understanding the dialogue of Rake, and Australians have some incredibly colorful expressions. In fact, I hope some of their expressions make it into the American lexicon (except for calling college “uni,” that seems kind of weird).
Regardless, you might be wondering why an American audience would want to watch a show about the Australian legal system. Well first of all, many of the pop culture references and other discussions between the characters in Rake involve the United States. Rake premiered about a decade ago, so some of its pop culture references are dated, but the show contains many funny references to American singers, politicians, television shows, and other parts of American culture. Some seasons even have American characters, which definitely makes it easier for American audiences to connect with the show. I am not sure if Rake intentionally tried to market itself to an American audience with all of these references, or if Australians are more connected to American pop culture than I previously thought, but the show is very relatable to people in the United States.
Moreover, individuals within the American legal profession might uniquely appreciate Rake. I do not know anything about the Australian legal profession aside from what is depicted in Rake. However, suffice it to say that the series seems to show how the Australian legal profession is very different from the legal system we have in the Untied States. I still have no earthly idea what an instructing solicitor is (please someone explain this to me!) and lawyers and judges in Australia wear wigs and robes that make them look like they are playing characters at Colonial Williamsburg. Moreover, constitutional rights, courtroom setups, titles, and other aspects of the legal profession in Australia seem very different than the American legal system.
However, the courtroom drama depicted in Rake is extremely entertaining, especially for people within the American legal community. Cross examination, impeachment, and many of the mainstays of the courtroom are pretty universal, and no matter the technical procedures, viewers will appreciate Rake just as they appreciate My Cousin Vinny or any other classic American courtroom media. Moreover, the characters depicted in Rake, such as the down-on-his-luck solo practitioner, the uptight government lawyer, and others will be extremely familiar to American audiences. In addition, the richness of the dialogue, storylines, and acting depicted in Rake is appealing to any audience, even if viewers are not entirely familiar with the foreign procedures depicted in the show.
All told, I encourage everyone, especially individuals within the legal community, to put Rake on their quarantine watch lists. I enjoyed watching this show immensely and am pretty bummed it got canceled after only five seasons. Not only will Rake provide much-needed entertainment during the quarantine, it may teach legal professionals something about another legal system that is somewhat different, but also similar, to their own.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected]