5 life lessons we learned from Chicago Justice

CHICAGO JUSTICE -- Pictured: "Chicago Justice" Horizontal Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
CHICAGO JUSTICE -- Pictured: "Chicago Justice" Horizontal Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal) /

Chicago Justice aired its last episode a year ago today, so in its honor we’re recounting the five life lessons we learned from Chicago Justice season 1.

It was one year ago that Chicago Justice aired its season finale, and we left the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for what would be the last time.

We had no idea last April 14 that “Tycoon” would wind up being the series finale after NBC ran out of space on its primetime schedule, but what we did know was that Chicago Justice was more than a TV show.

In 13 episodes it not only delivered first-rate courtroom drama, but it taught us a few things about law, modern society and life along the way. In honor of the One Chicago series we still miss, we’re counting back the five most important lessons we learned from Chicago Justice.

Take a look at them below. And if you haven’t watched it yet, check out our reasons you should watch Chicago Justice.

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5) Ask questions

If you learned anything at all from Chicago Justice, it was that it’s okay to ask questions. Not only that, but you should be asking questions.

Every episode of Justice was centered around an issue that is really affecting our society. Not just in Chicago, but throughout the country. It brought those issues to our attention. And the best thing the show did was present them not as a one-sided script, but as a dialogue.

All the characters asked questions about not just what was happening, but why and how. They had us thinking about things we don’t think about, and they motivated us to think about those things and talk about them.

The show might not be here anymore, but we can carry its inquisitive spirit with us for as long as possible, and in any situation, not just in the legal space. Anywhere we are, whatever we do, we can always ask questions and educate ourselves and become smarter people.

4) You can make mistakes

We didn’t get to spend a lot of time developing the characters of Chicago Justice, but one thing that we took to heart was the show’s willingness to let them be flawed, and show that they were still accepted even after making a mistake.

Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) stood up in court and publicly apologized for making a mistake, and he wasn’t any less of a prosecutor, or a person, for it. Laura Nagel (Joelle Carter) had her past demons, including an addiction to painkillers. But that didn’t stop her from being part of the team, and Peter encouraged her when she wasn’t sure of her self-worth.

When there’s so much pressure and so much desire to be perfect, to be the best, to be what we’re supposed to be, it was refreshing for Chicago Justice to show us characters who were human for more than “a very special episode” and demonstrate that they’d still be part of the family even if they fell on their faces. In fact, their mistakes made their victories mean more.

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3) It’s okay to be a jerk

The conventional line of thinking is to play well with others, and avoid conflict, and try not to upset people. Chicago Justice taught us that there’s an appropriate place for conflict and you’re not a bad person if you push somebody’s buttons.

Peter Stone annoyed every single person he worked with at least once during the course of the season. But that didn’t make him a bad co-worker. In fact, it made him a great co-worker, because he didn’t just say what people wanted to hear. He wasn’t afraid to disagree and then to explain why he was disagreeing.

Everyone on Chicago Justice not only had an opinion, but they were willing to voice it. And most importantly, even when they didn’t agree, they all treated each other with respect. They proved that disagreeing doesn’t mean you’re not a good colleague or a good friend.

2) Have an argument once in a while

Along that same line of thinking, Chicago Justice told us we should disagree every now and then. It demonstrated that arguments aren’t just sources of conflict—if they’re well thought out and they treat everyone with respect, they can be constructive dialogues for solutions and change.

There’s a great line from an ABC show called Sports Night that we quote around here all of the time: “If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.” That’s because the disagreeing exposes you to new ideas and new perspectives. Justice accomplished that in spades.

Each one of the thirteen episodes had at least one argument, and each of those scenes had points of view that it brought to the table. They weren’t just people fighting to have a fight. Through the disagreements, characters presented different perspectives. And the same people weren’t always right. Sometimes no one was right and the solution was somewhere in the middle.

But what made the State’s Attorney’s team a great team was that they came together. Justice didn’t depict Stone always knowing what to do and going off to get a conviction, and everyone else supporting him. Each case was a process, and that process involved every character contributing their voice toward a common goal.

1) Be an idealist

The most important thing we came away with from Chicago Justice was hope. The world we live in now can be a cynical, short-sighted place, and many TV shows reflect that in their worlds. But the world of Chicago Justice was different. It was the world we could get to be.

The show was led by a character, in Peter Stone, who was aspirational and never settled for less than his best no matter what was in front of him. He pushed others around him to be better, too, most notably in “Lily’s Law.” And that attitude of working for something bigger than the victory was prevalent throughout the show.

We saw how each case was about more than winning or losing—the precedent it could set, the lives that would be affected way after the credits rolled, the effects it could have in the greater community. When Stone won a case, it was always about more than just putting a bad guy or girl away.

And every character was doing something to make things better, whether it was for the city of Chicago or trying to better themselves (or often both). They were looking ahead, not just to the next day or the next case but the big picture. Chicago Justice put the big picture in front of us and encouraged us to go after it, and that’s a new way of looking at the world that we’ll always have with us now and for the rest of our lives.

Next: Here's what Chicago Justice's Peter Stone is doing now

You can watch every episode of Chicago Justice season 1 on iTunes and DVD. For the latest news on everything related to Chicago Justice, follow the show category at One Chicago Center.