Written by Joanna Hughes

Students choose law careers for a variety of reasons, including everything from wanting to change the world to the desire for a high salary. Now comes news of a lesser-discussed but powerful motivator for many female law students: Elle Woods. Here’s a closer look at the impact of Elle and the actress who portrays her, Reese Witherspoon, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Being Elle Woods

The plucky heroine of the popular Legally Blonde movies, Elle Woods is a sorority girl turned successful law student and lawyer. Witherspoon told WSJ that the “Elle Woods mentality” is still with her years after doing the films. “You can be unapologetically feminine,” she says. “But also smart and driven.”

This attitude has not only propelled Witherspoon forward in her career, but also countless others into law careers of their own.  Continues Witherspoon, “At least once a week I have a woman come up to me and say, ‘I went to law school because of Legally Blonde. It’s incredible.” 

In other words, Elle’s signature move, “The Bend and Snap” wasn’t just entertainment; it was inspiration. Perhaps one California law student (and sorority president) encapsulated it best in telling People, “Elle embodies fighting for what is right, staying true to yourself, and defeating the odds. It’s crazy that one movie can do that, you know?””

The Ambition Imperative

Of course, Elle Woods is just a character. But Reese Witherspoon is a real-world force of nature and inspiration whose accomplishments recently landed her the honor of being named of WSJ’s “Entertainment Innovator of the Year.”

Witherspoon credits her ongoing success to a combination of confidence and ambition. “I was never going to be an actor who lives in their car because their dream was so big. [If acting didn’t work] I would have gone from Stanford to medical school and become a surgeon. Right now, I’d probably be the premier surgeon and pediatric cardiologist at Vanderbilt University … What? I’m just being honest. I’m ambitious, and I’m over hiding that,” she told WSJ

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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