‘Legally Blonde’: Elle Woods Committed a Huge Ethical Violation That Would’ve Ended Her Law Career in Real Life

Legally Blonde is a fan-favorite comedy that is partially responsible for making Reese Witherspoon a superstar. A hit from the moment that it was released, Legally Blonde has only become more beloved over the years, and these days, more fans than ever before are discovering the charm and fun of the girl-power comedy.

In spite of the movie’s popularity with fans, it is not the most accurate depiction of life in law school — and over the years, several critics have slammed it for some big red flags, including one incident that would almost certainly have ended Elle Woods’ budding law career. 

Elle Woods goes to Harvard Law

By the time Legally Blonde was released in 2001, Witherspoon had already been acting for many years. She made her screen debut in 1991 and throughout the ’90s, she acted in a number of movies, including Fear, Cruel Intentions, and Election. Legally Blonde, however, served as Witherspoon’s introduction as a star of romantic comedies, and after the film was released, she became a Hollywood superstar.

Witherspoon dove headfirst into preparations for her role as Elle Woods, the sorority girl who determines to earn a degree through Harvard Law School in order to prove her intellect to the man who dumped her. Reportedly, Witherspoon hung out with real sorority girls in advance of filming, in order to get a better understanding of life within a sorority organization. The actress also had a hand in choosing Woods’ wardrobe, a vital part of her onscreen characterization. 

What major ethical violation did Elle Woods commit?

Legally Blonde is, at its core, the story of how a young woman discovers the power within her, using it to forge her own path in the world. As inspiring as the film is, however, it contains a number of improbabilities as well as overt inaccuracies. Some real-life law students have pointed out the biggest error in Legally Blonde as the moment when Elle, who was only a first-year law student at the time, posed as a lawyer in an attempt to get Paulette Bonafonté custody over her beloved pet dog.

While Elle’s actions ultimately help out her friend, if any law student was to pull a stunt like this in real life, it would almost certainly result in a swift and immediate end to their law career. There are some other major inaccuracies in Legally Blonde as well. 

How accurate is ‘Legally Blonde’?

Reese Witherspoon acts in a scene from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures'' comedy "Legally Blonde."
Reese Witherspoon | Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures

The way that Elle Woods gets accepted into Harvard is in and of itself highly improbable. While Elle’s bikini-clad video essay is certainly eye-catching, it would almost certainly not ensue into admission into Harvard Law School — primarily because the institution favors written essays.

When it comes to her LSAT score, one of the biggest determining factors of admittance to Harvard Law Schools, Elle scores 179, which is considered to be a near-perfect score. So, based on test results alone, Elle would have a fighting chance of being admitted.

However, one major admission from Legally Blonde makes the film pretty inaccurate. Jameyanne Fuller, a student at Harvard Law School, pointed out that “the movie totally skipped first semester exams which is like the most stressful time in law school ever. Elle is not seen taking tests throughout the movie because, in law school, they’re often only given at the end of the semester, where you’re expected to regurgitate and analyze the entire semester’s work.”

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