Fun + Lifestyle

What Rings True About Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s “Don’t Be a Lawyer”

  • The tongue-in-cheek song is catchy and upbeat, giving the narrative a high-energy vibe despite its message
  • Between law school debt and the perception of limited options, several things about this song will ring true for lawyers
  • Despite her existential crisis, Rebecca’s job has brought her friends and joy while giving her a deeper purpose

This witty music video is wickedly relevant—and you don’t have to be familiar with the show to “get” it.

First, some background: For four seasons, The CW’s hit musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has taken audiences on a rollercoaster ride through the life of lawyer Rebecca Bunch, who starts the series by following her childhood crush across the country (turning down a lucrative position at a New York law firm in the process). The show gives equal time to Rebecca’s love life and career, often showing her interactions at the office, and has even included a storyline focused on the office’s head paralegal, Paula, who enrolls in law school part way through the series.

In the fourth and final season, while questioning all of her life choices up until this point, Rebecca stops at a soft pretzel restaurant in her office building and finds out that the manager at the counter is a former lawyer from her office—and since this show is a musical, he immediately bursts into a late-80s style, Bobby Brown-esque song about why he’s slinging pretzels instead of arguing in court. “Don’t Be a Lawyer” was an immediate viral hit, and it clearly struck a chord with both lawyers and friends of lawyers alike. We loved it, and also found much of the song to provide solid, useful advice to those considering law school, as well as affirming the gripes of practicing lawyers.

The Song Makes You Laugh While Making You Think

 Yes, the song might be poking fun at an entire profession, but that doesn’t mean any lawyer should overlook how fun it is. Despite its musical numbers and sharp sense of humor, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is ultimately a show that covers dark topics by balancing them with a light-hearted approach (usually in song). This song is no exception, taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to a message that is, ultimately, kind of a bummer. Even with that, you’ll certainly appreciate how clever the lyrics are, and might even find yourself humming “you’ll never be on the Supreme Court” without even realizing it. By giving what could be a tough warning a bright, happy tone, it makes you laugh while driving home the message that those considering law school should think hard about whether they’re truly cut out for what practicing law actually entails, as well as expressing many of the common complaints modern lawyers have.

Several Points Made in the Song Will Ring True for Lawyers

As with all dark humor, there are certain nuggets of truth—wide-eyed, first-year law students might not realize immediately that there could be years of tedious work consisting of “mergers between pharmaceutical companies,” or that virtuous fields like environmental and human rights law might not be the most lucrative options. Between working off your law school debt and taking a job that might not be your first choice, lawyers must make a lot of tough professional calls, and this song is pretty hilariously realistic about some of the ups and downs of the legal profession.

The biggest takeaway is just how different the actual practice of law often is once you’re employed versus what you thought it would be like when you were a starry-eyed undergrad. Do you remember when it first hit you how different practicing law is from how you thought it would be?

It’s a testament to why informational interviews and mentors can be so helpful at every step of your educational and professional career: The more you know about the nuts and bolts of a job rather than the idealized or fictionalized version, the more likely you will be to make a decision that will lead to your happiness.

The lyrics of the song allude to so many issues that can give rise to the negative feelings some lawyers may have about their jobs:

“Your only expertise
Is runnin’ up fees”

The pressure to bill ever more hours is a common source of stress to many lawyers.

“Speakin’ legalese like a dick…

Sure, your parents might think you’re a failure
But no one’s ever said, ‘First, let’s kill all the tailors.’”

We’re all well aware that lawyers aren’t always seen in the most positive light, and those who drop a bunch of unnecessary legalese into any conversation are not helping. And who doesn’t know the famous “First, let’s kill all the lawyers” Shakespeare line?

Despite Her Existential Crisis, Rebecca’s Job Has Given Her a Lot

The number comes back to Rebecca, who is questioning her life choices and eventually decides to take over the pretzel restaurant rather than return to the firm—but you could read this decision as having little to do with the difficulties of being a lawyer and more to do with Rebecca’s personal struggles. Realistically, while the show has not shied away from showing the tough sides of the legal profession, Rebecca does care about her job, and between her best friend Paula, her romantic entanglement with fellow partner Nathaniel, and professional pride, her job has given her more than it has taken away. Perhaps the best example of this is in the fourth season as well, when Rebecca, recently released from prison on a murder charge (which is its own story), returns to visit her fellow inmates and offer them free legal assistance, giving her a purpose when she feels entirely lost. Like many who choose to leave the legal profession, using her expertise to help others is satisfying to Rebecca in a way that the daily work of a firm no longer is.

Since a YouTube clip probably won’t dissuade passionate and driven people from pursuing a career in law, go ahead and cue this song up a few times, and enjoy its loving, comical take on lawyers. And please note: The character who sings the song and lists all the reasons why no one should be a lawyer ultimately decides to keep his legal job—he’s unwilling to give up the generous salary!