TV lawyers aren't meant to represent real attorneys. They're larger than life and willing to do whatever it takes to win. I’ve worked for a law firm in Fresno and while we can root for the small-screen lawyer, we do mumble at the fantastical. In that regard, here are 10 top television lawyers that get away with murder.
10. Ben Matlock, Matlock
What's more comforting than the image of warm and cozy Andy Griffith? How about warm and cozy Andy Griffith with a degree in law? Dressed in a simple suit and a tie that was almost always askew, Matlock's unassuming manner hid immense skill and intellect. He was a modern-day Perry Mason, always winning. But in Matlock's case, utilizing sheer wit as opposed to Mason's stoicism.
Quote: All I'm sayin' is there's somethin' about this town and that boy's death yesterday that just plain don't feel right. And now that somebody's put my undershirt into it, I'm gonna find out why!
9. Patty Hewes, Damages
Regardless of the ambiguity or how low any lawyer on this list may get, none hold a candle to Patty Hewes. She was fierce. Hewes was capable of shocking acts to win a case. Glenn Close came into the role after appearing on The Shield, the show that changed the game on what's good versus evil.
Quote: Everyone's looking to play an angle.
8. Alan Shore, The Practice / Boston Legal
Shore emitted arrogance from every pore. It allowed him to be the showman every lawyer needs to be. He gave passionate statements in front of juries and managed to juggle condescension with empathy. We'd put his friendly adversary Denny Crane, played with impeccable style by William Shatner, on this list, but Shore would only prove in court we were wrong.
Quote: You have a job to do, and so do I. Yours is to sell socks and suspenders. Mine is to cross-examine people like you and crush them.
7. Annalise Keating, How to Get Away With Murder
A professor at Middleton University, Keating was a ruthless shark peppered with gray areas. Her students scrambled to work with her anyway. The bodies kept piling up and Keating scarily managed her agenda. But at the end of any case, you were glad Keating was on your side.
Quote: Whatever you say to the police can and will be misconstrued to support the prosecution.
6. Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman, Better Call Saul / Breaking Bad
Jimmy McGill was unstoppable. Saul Goodman was a shady figure with no apparent past. But it didn't matter which one represented you, you had a fine lawyer who protected clients regardless of their moral fiber. McGill/Goodman had an unparalleled knowledge of the law and brilliantly manipulated it.
Quote: That is the truth! I'm a lawyer! Guys, I passed the bar! Ask me anything! Not contract law, okay?
5. Joyce Davenport, Hill Street Bills
She was one of television's first strong women in a position of power. On the Hill, the gorgeous Davenport was a public defender at odds with everyone, including lover/husband Frank Furillo. Davenport fought tooth and nail to defend the shadiest and most dangerous felons, even when it conflicted with what she knew was wrong.
Quote: Look on the plus side. The station's still standing, a prostitute killer's off the street… and somebody decked the Chief.
4. Lionel Hutz, The Simpsons
Shady, desperate, ambulance-chasing Hutz was the epitome of Springfield's legal system. A lawyer of low morals in a town of moral ineptitude. Played to comic perfection by the late Phil Hartman, Hutz worked out of a shopping mall. Once, he prepared for court by watching an episode of Matlock. Without the sound.
Quote: I move for a bad court thingy.
3. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Saturday Night Live
Keyrock fell into some ice. Centuries later, scientists thawed him and he went to law school. The humble caveman used his simple, thick charm to navigate modern tech and connect with jaded jurors. He was “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,” one of many memorable Phil Hartman characters on SNL.
Quote: Your world frightens and confuses me. Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW and run off into the hills or whatever.
2. Jack McCoy, Law & Order
McCoy was unfalteringly committed to protecting the streets of New York via the justice system. He'd cut corners, disobey orders, (legally?) withhold critical evidence, and on and on and on. And do so without compromising our love for him. The New York Landmarks Conservancy named Jack McCoy a “living landmark.”
Quote: You're an adult. Your victims are children. There's nothing you could say that would make me feel sorry for you.
1. Perry Mason, Perry Mason
When it comes to defense, you won't do better than Perry Mason. Strait-laced, hard-working, and determined, Mason got more perpetrators to admit their guilt on the stand than any lawyer in history, fictional or otherwise. (At last count, fictional or otherwise amounted to about zero.) There's no more iconic attorney than Mason. He managed to go against the same prosecutor every week and kick the crap out of their case!
Quote: I'm a lawyer, not a detective.