Famous TV lawyers
Everyone loves a lawyer - on TV.The legal profession is a favorite entertainment topic in the United States. Legal thrillers are popular both on the big screen and on television. We may like to tell our jokes about sleazy lawyers, but the truth is this: we are fascinated by the inner workings of our American legal system. TV series about attorneys have given us some of the most memorable characters in our pop culture history.
Perry Mason (1957-1966)
What would a list of famous TV lawyers be without the granddaddy of them all? Perry Mason was the epitome of the perfect defense attorney: his clients were always innocent, and he was always able to get a confession on the stand from the actual perpetrator. Played by Raymond Burr, Perry Mason was assisted in his quest to keep the innocent out of jail by his beautiful secretary, Della Street (Barbara Hale). Watching Perry Mason is comforting. We always know what the episode will end with: a courtroom confession and a grateful client.
Sticking with the older, but wiser category, next we have Ben Matlock. Think Andy Griffith in the courtroom. Matlock followed the already-proven formula made popular by Perry Mason – Matlock's clients were innocent and Matlock proved it in court, using his folksy demeanor to put people off their guard.
L.A. Law (1986-1994)
L.A. Law was a big hit with the ladies, thanks to the three handsome male attorneys: Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernsen), Victor Sifuentes (Jimmy Smits) and Michael Kuzak (Harry Hamlin). In reality, L.A. Law was less about their trials in the courtroom and more about their relationships with each other in the office – and in the bedroom.
Night Court (1984-1992)
On the comic side of things, Night Court gave us two great TV lawyers. Dan Fielding (John LaRoquette) was a district attorney who felt he was above the law in the courtroom, and would do anything to get the ladies in bed. On the other end of the spectrum, we have too-compassionate-for-her-own-good public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post).
JAG gave us lawyers, military-style. The handsome and cocky Navy Commander Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott) is a fighter pilot turned Navy lawyer. He works alongside Marine Lieutenant Colonel Sarah 'Mac' MacKenzie (Catherine Bell). While the romantic tension between the two is a major continuing plotline, each episode focused on various military court cases. Harm won his cases by doing whatever it took while always straddling that fine line between legal and illegal. Mac was more by-the-book, and their different styles made for some great confrontations, both in and out of the courtroom.
The Practice (1997-2004)
The Practice gave us the compassionate Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott). Bobby was always conflicted by the ethical compromises he was forced to make in his profession. This inner struggle led to a breakdown, and the character's exit from the show. His replacement, Alan Shore (James Spader) had no such moral compunctions, and was the epitome of the unethical lawyer. His character, of course, went on to practice law for Crane, Poole and Schmidt, the fictional law firm of Boston Legal.
Ally McBeal (1997-2002)
Calista Flockhart played the title character of this hour-long comedy. Ally was the perpetually unlucky-in-love attorney who is haunted by visions of a dancing baby, a reminder of her biological clock winding down. While Ally is an attorney, Ally McBeal focused primarily on the characters and their relationships over the actual practice of law.
If you were ever to find yourself on the wrong side of the law, which of these famous TV lawyers would you want on your legal team?