The 6 Favourite Fictional TV Lawyers Ever

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…” Lawyers on television are rarely realistic, but the best ones are damned compelling!

Television law exists in its own universe. A universe where Miranda Rights wax and wane depending on whether or not our favourite TV cop wants to get a cheeky one-liner into the dialogue, and where the lawyers themselves can be anything from charming to pure evil.

As someone who is an actual lawyer in Jersey, my favourite television lawyers aren’t necessarily the ones who make the job seem the most glamorous, nor are they the ones who are the most accurate portrayals of the job. No, just like everyone else, my favourite TV lawyers are the most entertaining ones. So here’s my list of the best fictional lawyers on television. Some I’d happily love to see working at my own firm and others who I’d rather keep my distance from.

6. Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons

By far the goofiest choice on this list, Lionel Hutz is hard not to like, just because of how much of an utter failure he is. After all, no matter how bad you might think your law career is going, you can always say to yourself, “well, at least I’m not Lionel Hutz.”

Lionel Hutz is the lawyer who drinks scotch from the bottle at his shopping-mall-based office in the morning, right in front of his clients. He’s the lawyer who can’t afford a belt. He’s the lawyer who forgets the word “lawyer” and instead calls himself “the law talking guy”. He is all things to all people, the ultimate screw up, and a great way to start this list.
5. Oliver Babish from The West Wing

From the lowest place a lawyer can be to, arguably, the very highest; meet Oliver Babish, the White House Counsel. This real-life job is portrayed in fiction by a straightforward Oliver Platt, whose performance shows excellently how law bends to no man — not even the President of the United States of America.

Over the course of The West Wing, we don’t meet many characters who get to properly put the President in his place. However, Babish’s unique position as a legal adviser to the White House means that he answers to something more powerful than the President: the law of the United States.

4. Maurice Levy from The Wire

Of course, being a good lawyer is not the same as being an ethical lawyer. If it was, Maurice Levy wouldn’t be such a realistic portrayal of the kind of lawyers using loopholes in the legal system to protect murderers and drug dealers in the city of Baltimore.

Sadly, he is. David Simon, the creator of The Wire, spent more than a decade working for the Baltimore Sun and covering the drug trade in his articles, while co-creator Ed Burns worked in the Baltimore police department for two decades. Their collective experience gave us the despicable Maurice Levy and his ruthless methods for allowing his clients, drug lords and other criminals, to make a killing by — well — killing.

Still, Levy isn’t the only character Burns and Simon’s collective experience gave us…

3. Rhonda Pearlman from The Wire

Because Simon knows that not all Jewish lawyers working in Baltimore are crooked, we have Rhonda Pearlman. While she may be a little too focused on her career from time-to-time (according to the cantankerous McNulty, at least), she does the right things for the right reasons when it comes to law.

She’s not infallible and her mistakes make her human, but she’s a damn good lawyer. More than that, after watching Levy weave his evil magic, Pearlman is there to bring back our faith in humanity — the humanity of lawyers, specifically.

2. Ally McBeal from Ally McBeal

Despite being a lawyer for the entire course of Ally McBeal, the show focuses much more on her life than it does her career. In this sense, she is arguably very different to the career-minded Pearlman and most of the other people on this list as well. For most TV lawyers, what we care about most is whether or not they win their case. For McBeal, what we really care about is how she’s doing. Is she happy? How’s her family? Are she and her friends still close?

For some, this perhaps makes McBeal easier to relate to. After all, not all of us are lawyers, but we are all people. By showing the human side of McBeal, we can appreciate her character as more than a lawyer.

1. Saul Goodman Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

For a man who has an episode of Breaking Bad and a spin-off named after him, Saul Goodman or his firm are not exactly flashy. After all, being the kind of lawyer who likes to work with the owners of large drug empires, he needs to keep a low profile.

Still, while Levy is able to keep something of a distance between himself and the criminals he works with, Saul is not. It’s how he ends up bound, gagged and ready to be shot in the first episode we see him. He might be a savvy lawyer, but he’s not Maurice Levy savvy. Perhaps that makes him somehow more likeable than Levy, or maybe that’s just down to Bob Odenkirk’s brilliant performance.

About the author

Rebecca Morley-Kirk is a partner at the Jersey-based law firm Parslows, where she and her associates assist clients with a variety of legal services — from criminal law, to property law and everything in between.
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  1. My personal favorite out of all these is definitely Saul Goodman from Breaking bad. Have not seen some of the other shows so can't say for sure, great post though. Hope to see more soon.

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