TV shows are littered with terrible attorneys who would almost definitely lose your case for you. There’s Lionel Hutz, who can barely string a defense together, or Barry Zuckerkorn, who doesn’t know what is and isn’t a law and often gets two laws confused – for example, he doesn’t think that a husband and wife can be tried for the same crime when they definitely, definitely can. But there are also plenty of really great lawyers on TV who are good at their jobs. Here are 10 TV lawyers that we wish we could hire in real life to fight our cases for us.
10. Matt Murdock
Matt Murdock, otherwise known as the Man Without Fear or the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, has a history of being followed around by unlawfulness. When he was just a kid, his father who was a boxer was killed for refusing to throw a fight in the ring. That spurred him on to get a law degree and go into business with his college buddy Foggy Nelson. Steven S. DeKnight, who was the showrunner of the premiere Netflix Marvel series in its first season, said of the character’s “grey” moral compass, “He’s a lawyer by day, and he’s taken this oath. But every night, he breaks that oath and goes out and does very violent things.” You see, every night, Murdock puts on a red mask and runs around Hell’s Kitchen, dispatching bad guys as the superhero Daredevil. And not only that – as if that wasn’t impressive enough – he does it all while blind! He can’t see a thing and yet he can see the line between right and wrong more clearly than anyone else in New York. And he can also see Bullseye or the Hand coming like no one else can. He’s a pretty amazing dude, all things considered.
9. Blue Haired Lawyer
The Blue Haired Lawyer is the morally bankrupt lawyer who represents all the bad guys in The Simpsons. He represents Mr. Burns and the Disney corporation, among others. He is one of the many, many, many characters on the show who is voiced by Dan Castellaneta, the man of a million voices. His ethics aren’t all that fantastic, but if he’s managed to keep the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant open for this long, then surely he must be doing something right. The animation team initially based this character’s appearance on the actor Charles Lane, although his demeanor and his character traits and his personality are based on Roy Cohn, the top counsel for Joe McCarthy during the Communist witch hunts, so he actually has a very dark backstory. Still, his character is played for laughs in the show, and despite what a terrible and deplorable human being he might be, if you needed a lawyer to get you out of a jam, he would probably be the best guy in Springfield for the job. I mean, your only alternative is Lionel Hutz, and he has an office in a strip mall and barely understands what’s going on half the time.
8. Jeff Winger
Jeff Winger had a very successful career as a hotshot defense attorney working for the law firm Hamish, Hamish, and Hamlin. He specialized in defending people who were accused of ‘cool’ crimes, like juvenile and traffic offenses. However, it was found that Jeff’s degree did not in fact come from the prestigious Columbia University, but from a “less than legitimate” and “better than real” school in the country of Colombia. So, the bar association basically tells him that if he doesn’t get a real degree from a real university, they will have to disbar him. Luckily, Jeff had successfully defended a college professor named Ian Duncan from a DUI while he was still enjoying a fraudulent career in law practice by comparing the prosecution to 9/11, which was certainly an interesting approach. Still, it got him off, so Duncan owed Jeff a favor and he happened to be a professor at Greendale Community College where he could get him in as a student and helped him graduate quickly – and that’s where we meet him in the pilot episode of Community. If it wasn’t for all the formalities like needing a degree to practice law, Jeff Winger would be a great attorney.
7. Arnie Becker
There was a scene in an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry invites George up to stay in Los Angeles with him while he’s up there to appear in a guest spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno alongside George Wendt from Cheers – and Corbin Bernsen from L.A. Law. George approaches Bernsen and offers him a case to use on the show for his character Arnie Becker that had happened to him in real life where he accidentally killed his girlfriend’s cat and then didn’t want to pay for another one, which she demanded. Bernsen tells Leno, “People are always coming up to me trying to give me a great case for L.A. Law. Just a few seconds ago, right here, right outside in the hallway, this nut, some sick nut, comes up to me and says he’s supposed to watch this girl’s cat while she’s away out of town. Anyway, he forgets to feed the cat, the cat dies, starves to death, he kills the cat, refuses to get her a new one, won’t give her any money, won’t pay her – and he wants Arnie Becker to represent him! Nice guy.” Then he sarcastically says, “Yeah, that’d make a great case for L.A. Law. Thanks a lot.” Arnie Becker was a divorce lawyer who would call “dibs” on someone’s office instead of saying goodbye to them as they passed away. He was kind of an asshole, but he was a great lawyer.
6. Jack McCoy
We now know Sam Waterston as Sol from the Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie, but he spent a very large chunk of his career playing the brilliant attorney Jack McCoy. He played Jack McCoy on Law and Order for a whopping sixteen seasons, so he basically became the poster boy for law practice on the small screen. It ended up earning the guy a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Despite being a fictional character living in a fictional TV version of New York and practicing law in a fictional TV version of the New York court system, Jack McCoy was nevertheless named a “Living Landmark” by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He was initially the Executive Assistant District Attorney before finally being appointed to the role of District Attorney later on in his career. Entertainment Weekly’s TV critic Ken Tucker was always a fan of Jack McCoy, naming him the finest and most passionate attorney on the show. He said that the character rode “herd over a couple of stubborn young bucks – assistant DAs Mike Cutter (Linus Roache) and Connie Rubirosa (Alana de la Garza) – McCoy argues, bellows orders, and croaks with outrage when his charges disobey his legal advice.” This is a guy who really cares.
5. Bob Loblaw
This lawyer hired by the Bluth family in Arrested Development is the second one that they hire after the colossal disappointment of Barry Zuckerkorn, whose lack of knowledge about the law and shady doings and serious legal missteps land them in a lot more trouble than they needed to be in. His name, Bob Loblaw, is a play on words. It’s a tongue twister that sounds a little like “blah blah blah,” which is exactly what legal jargon sounds like to a layperson. The show would further this tongue twister with newspaper headlines like “Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb” and “Bob Loblaw Launches Law Blog.” Those were the kind of jokes that the writers would pepper in and most viewers wouldn’t even notice. Loblaw’s slogan on his TV commercials is: “Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?” The latest season of the show made a reference to the recent allegations made against the actor who plays Bob Loblaw, Scott Baio, with a meta joke in which Gob said, “I guess he likes them young.” Yikes! A lot of shows have had to deal with allegations made against cast members during the #MeToo movement, but few of them take it on the nose quite this much.
4. Jackie Chiles
Cosmo Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles, played brilliantly by Phil Morris, was introduced during the seventh season of Seinfeld in a storyline that parodied the Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants hot coffee lawsuit. Jackie himself as a character is a spot on parody of O.J. Simpson’s lawyer Johnnie Cochran. They’re both black, they both wear glasses, they both have mustaches, they both speak very quickly with wide ranging vocabularies, and they’re both brilliant lawyers. There were some specific parodies of the O.J. Simpson trial (“A bra’s got to fit right up against a person’s skin…like a glove!”), but Jackie was more of a caricature who was used in legal matters. The joke was always that he was a great lawyer, but Kramer’s idiocy would get in the way and cause “the most public yet of my many humiliations.” Jackie even represented Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer during their trial in the series finale that ultimately ended in them each receiving a prison sentence. At one point, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David were in talks with Phil Morris to give the character his own spin-off series, but they never made a pilot or even brought the proposal to the executives at NBC who could’ve made it happen, which is sad, because he’s such a fantastic character and a whole show about him and his associates is just brimming with potential.
3. Ally McBeal
In her personal life, Ally McBeal was always a little bit wacko. She would experience hallucinatory visions of a dancing baby that would remind her that she won’t remain fertile for much longer and of a bunch of men she had slept with. She would also often hear songs in her head and was always desperate to fall in love and searching high and low for her one true soulmate. But never mind all of that, because in her professional life, she was always a terrific lawyer. She went to Harvard Law School and took on many challenging cases throughout her career. She has been criticized as a poor role model for women and compared to Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. Entertainment Weekly called her a “fairy tale princess” who bears “about as much resemblance to real women as Barbie and Skipper.” A cover story in a 1998 edition of Time magazine compared Ally McBeal to many feminist icons, including Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem, and posed the question, “Is Feminism Dead?” But they’ve got her all wrong. Surely feminism would give Ally McBeal the freedom to be promiscuous and sleep around and be a bit of airhead.
2. Marshall Eriksen
As a lawyer, Marshall Eriksen from How I Met Your Mother denounced the idea of using his law practice for financial gain or to sell out to big corporations. Instead, when he was putting himself through law school, he was driven by a motivation to save the environment and use his powers to speak up for the little guy who doesn’t have a voice. And this drove him to actually pass the bar exam and graduate from law school and become qualified to practice law, which was awesome. But then, as his marriage and his rent and his baby all started costing a lot of money, he eventually did have to sell out and become a corporate lawyer with his environmentalist ambitions on the backburner. Still, by the end of the series’ run in its ninth season, he would be a judge for the state of New York. He would be fighting the good fight, finally! But no matter what case he was fighting or what reasons he had for fighting it, Marshall was always a fantastic lawyer. He has a B.A. degree from Wesleyan University and a Juris Doctor qualification from Columbia University Law School, which are some impressive stats.
1. Saul Goodman
As one of Saul’s top clients Jesse Pinkman once said, “When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer. You want a criminal lawyer.” We got to know Saul Goodman as a lawyer who had completely sold out his belief in right and wrong throughout the run of Breaking Bad, but now that we’ve gotten to see the earlier days of his career in the prequel spin-off series Better Call Saul, we know that he was once a wayward guy with strict morals named Jimmy McGill. Okay, he would sometimes fabricate evidence and bend the rules in order to secure his clients’ freedom, but on the whole, he was a good guy. He would later go on to represent drug kingpins and murderers and hitmen. He has a ton of contacts in the seedy criminal underworld, like crime scene cleaners and assassins, to help out his clients. Whatever happens between the events of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, Saul has never stopped being a terrific lawyer who would put himself on the line for the sake of his clients. The cops know him as a clown, but that’s just because they’re frustrated with how smart he is and how hard he makes their jobs because of it.