Top 25 Fictional Lawyers


It’s not that it is a slow news day, but I was reading the August 2010 edition of the American Bar Association Journal and it had an interesting article listing the top 25 greatest fictional lawyers of all time from film, television and literature.  I thought I would share the list with you.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch.  Since the time Harper Lee’s novel was published 50 years ago, Atticus Finch has represented an image lawyers crave to emulate.  And Gregory Peck didn’t do a shabby job in the movie either.
  2. The Verdict’s Frank Galvin.  Paul Newman playing a self-loathing alcoholic lawyer who finds redemption when he stumbles on a case of a lifetime.  I’ll always remember the jury coming back and asking the judge if they can give the plaintiff more money than they sought.
  3. Anatomy of Murder’s Paul Biegler.  Otto Preminger courtroom drama where Jimmy Stewart shows prosecutor George C. Scott why you never ask a question unless you know the answer.
  4. Perry Mason’s Perry Mason.  It must be nice to have the career he had and only lose one case.  It must be even better to be a criminal lawyer and your clients are always really innocent.
  5. The Paper Chase’s Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.  John Houseman became the embodiment of how a law professor can terrify his students just by asking them a question in class.
  6. Inherit the Wind’s Henry Drummond.   Spencer Tracy playing Clarence Darrow … need we say more.
  7. The Defenders’ Lawrence Preston.  One of the first T.V. lawyers to confront timely social issues.
  8. Law & Order’s Jack McCoy.  Sam Waterson’s McCoy claims to be uncomplicated, but the rule of law in his hands is anything but.
  9. Rumpole of the Bailey’s Horace Rumpole.  The Perry Mason of British television.
  10. Judgment at Nuremberg’s Chief Judge Dan Haywood.  Spencer Tracy is both empathetic and just in this human tale of horror and moral failure.
  11. Witness for the Prosecution’s Sir Wilfrid Robarts.  Charles Laughton is unforgettable as an aging barrister defending a client of murder where neither the client nor his wife are as they appear.
  12. Boston Legal’s Alan Shore.  Alan Shore is smart, unscrupulous, funny and utterly unpredictable … a pretty good depiction of a lawyer.
  13. My Cousin Vinny’s Vinecent “Vinny” Gambini.  Joe Pesci’s fish out of water lawyer cracks me up every time I see it … “I’m through with this guy.”
  14. A Few Good Men’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee.  Tom Cruise deals with injustice in the military and discovers a passion for the courtroom when all he really wants is the truth.
  15. L.A. Law’s Arnie Becker.   A stylish and untrustworthy lawyer, but you would want him on your side if your getting divorced.
  16. And Justice For All’s Arthur Kirkland.  An over the top Al Pacino takes a bitter look at justice and gives one of the most memorable closing arguments in film history.
  17. Judgment at Nurember’s Jans Rolfe.  Maximilian Schell defends Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
  18. The Sweet Hereafter’s Mitchell Stephens.  Ian Holm’s lawyer finds compassion that forces him to rethink his reliance on revenge and compensatory damages.
  19. Ally McBeal’s Ally McBeal.  Calista Flockhart’s character became a lawyer to do justice, meet guys, and buy expensive shoes.
  20. Presumed Innocent’s Sandy Stern.  The late Raul Julia was simply wonderful.
  21. Damage’s Patty Hewes.  Glenn Close plays a tough and complicated lawyer who we like and hate at the same time.
  22. Michael Clayton’s Michael Clayton.  George Clooney is a cynical fixer lawyer who does not look like he is negotiating.
  23. A Time to Kill’s Jake Brigance.  Matthew McConaughey confronts racial realities in a movie based on John Grisham’s first – and some still think best – novel.
  24. Presumed Innocent’s Rusty Sabich.  Harrison Ford is a lawyer living a nightmare – he is being pursued by other cutthroat lawyers.
  25. I’ll Fly Away’s Forrest Bedford.  Sam Waterson is a prosecutor in a small Southern town that is just beginning to see racial inequities.

Some notables who didn’t make the list:

  • Philadelphia’s Andrew Beckett and John Miller
  • Seinfeld’s Jackie Chiles
  • Boston Legal’s Denny Crane
  • The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick
  • The Godfather’s Tom Hagen
  • Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law’s Owen Marshall
  • Matlock’s Ben Matlock
  • The Devil’s Advocate’s John Milton
  • Body Heat’s Ned Racine
  • The Accused’s Kathryn Murphy
  • Almost any lawyer in a John Grisham novel

What do you think of the list?  Did the American Bar Association miss anyone? Contact us and let me know.