Stephen Hasner | Personal Injury | August 13, 2020
From small-town drama to the prestige of Manhattan firms, Hollywood has given us a treasure trove of lawyers to love and love to hate.
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
Let’s get this one on top of the list because its TV fame only comes from the multiple TV airings of the original 1962 motion picture. Nonetheless, for those of us who read the book, watched the movie, or did both, it was an eye-opening look into the Civil Rights Era in the Deep South.
Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, takes on the unpopular job of defending a black man accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The story explores the place where racism, small-town life, and the law meet.
Harvey Specter of Suits
The powerful world of Big Law is on glorious display at this large Manhattan firm. Harvey, who graduated near the top of his class from Harvard Law, has gained a notorious reputation feared throughout the hallowed hallways of big firms in NYC.
Gabriel Macht does a glorious job in convincing you that he’s the untouchable perfectionist that can close any deal, usually with a drink in one hand and a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline outside his window. The USA Network show has nine seasons worthy of binge-watching.
Ally McBeal of Ally McBeal
Played by Calista Flockhart, McBeal gave an excellent TV example of the life of an influential, competent female lawyer. The series that ran from 1997 to 2002 focused on the romantic and personal experiences in the dramatic comedy from Fox. Ally’s courtroom exploits would never fly in real life, but that makes them all the more fun to watch.
Saul Goodman of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad
Goodman makes his appearance in the second season of Breaking Bad. The charisma and skill of Bob Odenkirk, the actor that plays Saul, left such an impression that it became clear he needed to become a regular.
The character of Saul Goodman was so well-liked that the spin-off of Better Call Saul was born. Saul is the king of snarky humor and everything you wouldn’t want in a real-life attorney. Well, maybe you would, but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Rachel Zane of Suits
Zane plays a role familiar to many who practice law. Her father, a high-powered NYC attorney, has big aspirations for his offspring, but she is determined to do things her way. The irresistible character, played by Meghan Markle, before her marriage to Prince Harry, works as a paralegal for a rival firm. She spends years working on getting her LSAT score high enough for Columbia Law School, but during that time, she gives us a peek into the life of a paralegal professional in the big leagues.
Perry Mason of Perry Mason
Mason first appeared in a series of novels, but once adapted to a TV show, the success far exceeded the books. Mason not only excelled at proving his client’s innocence but could also single handly identify the real perpetrator. The series ran from 1957 to 1966 and formed an entire generation’s view of how the practice of law should look.
Ben Matlock of Matlock
Matlock proved successful at freeing Andy Griffin from the shadow of Sherriff Taylor in Mayberry. The small-town lawyer combined folksy allure with sheer brilliance to win the hearts of fans, especially when the casts of characters included his former deputy, Don Knotts.
He was also an expensive attorney, who charged 100k to take a murder case, but included in his services was the Perry Mason style ability to catch the real killer. Matlock ran for nine seasons between 1986 and 1985.
Will Gardner of The Good Wife
On The Good Wife, Gardner won the hearts of women everywhere he went. He was what is commonly referred to as a ladies man, and probably increased law firm applications with his success in the romance department.
The character development is not shallow, however. The show details his ambitious side as well as his struggle with loyalties and friendships. The actor, Josh Charles, played the role flawlessly, leaving fans devastated by a development in season 5.
Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons
Hutz is a case-study in what not to do as an attorney. He is the culmination of every lawyer joke ever told and makes a mockery of the stereotypical attorney. He is a literal ambulance chaser who loses most cases but reminds you to remember to laugh at yourself occasionally. The voice of Hutz belonged to Phil Hartman, who was murdered by his wife in a murder-suicide.
While the above list offers some of television’s most iconic lawyers, there are others who deserve an honorable mention in forming the court of public opinion about lawyers. Jackie Chiles of Seinfield, played by Phil Morris, only appeared infrequently defending Kramer. However, the legal shenanigans are some of the most memorable of the show.
Dan Fielding, of Night Court, was an unabashed lecher that women of the world avoid at all costs. The characters comical obsession with the opposite sex landed the actor who played him, John Larroquette, four consecutive Emmy awards.