Darby and Callahan discuss Bowers v. Hardwick, a real Supreme Court case that ultimately upheld a state's right to make homosexual activity illegal. Darby passionately argues that the Supreme Court was wrong. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that such laws were unconstitutional.
Director Alan J. Pakula pulled a prank on the set, involving the then-couple Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett. Roberts was filming a scene where she is supposed to talk on the phone with the character played by John Heard. Pakula sent Heard's lines to Lovett (who was touring and away from where the film was being made), allowing him to speak to his wife. Roberts played the scene normally, though she didn't recognized the voice over the phone. It was only after Pakula yelled "Cut!" that she learned that it was Lovett who was acting with her.
The Georgetown Law library scenes were filmed on location, in the main reading room and one of the study rooms on the third floor. In addition, the scenes at the Registrar's Office and the Career Services Office, and of Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts talking in an open area outside of those offices, were all shot in the main building of the Law Center (McDonough Hall). You can see Georgetown Law security officers as extras, in the background of those scenes.
The President questions Coal's idea of addressing the nation while wearing a cardigan sweater; this is based on a real-life incident in which then-president Jimmy Carter addressed the nation in a cardigan during the height of the fuel shortages in the 1970s.
The characters that Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington play in the film, become lovers in Grisham's novel. Although Roberts was interested in bringing that romance to the screen, Washington disagreed, and felt that the target audiences did not want to see an interracial romance. Thus, the romance never takes place in the film.
The Region 1 and Region 4 DVD release was a flip sided disc that contained the movie split into two parts. You had to eject the disc and turn it over to continue watching. When the Blu-ray disc was released on February 10th, 2009 it was the first time since its VHS release that somebody could watch the movie straight through without stopping it.
Although the Tulane Law School has moved to a new building since this film was released, the room where Julia Roberts and Sam Shepard meet for class early in the movie is still a classroom: Jones Hall Room 102.
There were scenes filmed of Verheek (John Heard) in D.C., showing his colleagues 'The Pelican Brief'. These were cut from the final film, but a brief glimpse of them is still visible in the theatrical trailer.
The suspenseful underscoring played during the bank/parking garage scene (with chaotic piano track) is reused in "Apollo 13" (1995) when the crew attempts to build a filter. James Horner is the composer for both films.
Director Voyles' greeting to Darby Shaw, "So you're the little lady that started this great brouhaha", is likely an allusion to President Lincoln's famous (apocryphal) greeting to Harriet Beecher Stowe (who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin"): "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war".
The television show that John Heard's character is watching, when he is shot (and blood splatters on the screen), is Coach (1989), a situation comedy about football. Nine years later, Heard starred in Monday Night Mayhem (2002), a television movie about football.