Over the years, we’ve seen countless TV lawyers. Some have earned their fame winning case after case in dramatic trial scenes, while others have entertained us with their less-than-legal sides. Whether they are admirable characters who always fight for justice, or scoundrels who we love to hate, TV lawyers are rarely dull.
Below is a list of our 10 favorite TV lawyers:
1. Ben Matlock, Matlock
Following his unforgettable days playing the Sheriff of Mayberry, Andy Griffith stepped into another legendary role as criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock. When it came time to defend his clients, Matlock was dogged yet gentlemanly, and he was notorious for scoping out clues that others missed at the crime scene and making the true perpetrators incriminate themselves on the stand in dramatic fashion. His skill in his craft, complemented by a down-home, folksy style, trademark light gray suit, Ford Crown Victoria, and appetite for hot dogs made his hefty fee well worth it, and secures Matlock a spot among TV’s greatest lawyers.
2. Perry Mason, Perry Mason
With the best success rate in TV lawyer history, there’s little doubt that Perry Mason deserves a spot on our list. When the unyielding defense attorney was on a case, it was almost expected that he would reveal the true criminal in the end, as few to this day can match Mason’s ability to extract a confession. The exploits of this exemplary lawyer were originally found in novels and shorts stories, but Raymond Burr’s portrayal for the television series was what sealed Mason’s place among the most influential TV lawyers in history.
3. Saul Goodman, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul
If our 10 Best TV Lawyers list was based solely upon ethics, Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul might not make an appearance. Behind low-budget “Better Call Saul!” TV spots shot from his strip-mall office, Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, earned his fame as an over-the-top, snake-oil-salesman of a lawyer with no scruples about crossing legal boundaries. Although an intermediary in a vast network of criminals, the anti-hero Goodman is veritably competent in the law, seeking out loopholes to solve even the most difficult problems for his clients.
4. Harvey Specter, Suits
Few lawyers have the guts to earn a title like “Best Closer in New York City,” but Harvey Specter, played by Gabriel Macht on the show Suits, is one of them. With a penchant for winning at everything he does, the lengths that Harvey will go to ensure a victory rarely fail to surprise. After all, we barely know Specter before he jumps at the chance to hire genius Mike Ross – a miraculous mind with the chops to make it big, despite secretly lacking a law degree – as his associate. While in the emotional throes of keeping Mike’s secret, Specter stays true to his game as a refined charmer/stiff-necked bruiser of an attorney with an appetite as voracious as any for taking home a win.
5. Louis Litt, Suits
The second lawyer from Suits to make our favorites list, Louis Litt has the talent – and ego – to rival Harvey Specter. With a striking knowledge of the law and fierce, scourging command of the associates, Litt, who is played by Rick Hoffman, is a valuable asset to a superstar firm, even if he has been a source of many headaches for Specter and his associate, Mike Ross. Outside of Litt’s unquestioned ability are the politics of the job that have always seemed to be out of reach, but his notorious bullying persistence has at least earned the professional respect of his fellow partners, as well as a spot on our list.
6. Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show
One of the most beloved TV moms of all time, Phylicia Rashad’s character Clair Huxtable was an accomplished lawyer in addition to being a loving wife to Cliff and mother to Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. In the elegantly tough fashion she earned her success as an attorney while raising five children, Huxtable’s subversion of the gender norms of the time period paid a strong contribution to the progressive politics of The Cosby Show that remain culturally influential today.
7. Ally McBeal, Ally McBeal
On her first day at Boston law firm Cage and Fish, young attorney Ally McBeal finds out that her ex-boyfriend also works there, kicking off a series centered on the law career, love life, and antics of its namesake. Although Ally McBeal might be known more for the drama taking place in the personal lives of its main characters rather than on the legal front, the life and times of Ally McBeal place her among our favorite TV lawyers.
8. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family
Although he’s earned more recognition as the eccentric patriarch of the delightfully spooky Addams family, Gomez Addams is in fact a lawyer. He may not have been an altogether successful one, but a hefty inheritance, as well as a variety of business ventures helped Addams provide a lavish living for the rest of his widely known relatives. Other than his sublime knife-throwing skills, what lands him on our list is his hysterically unorthodox, Addams-family perspective regarding his law career – namely his strange fondness for losing cases, boasting that he put numerous criminals behind bars while acting as their defense attorney.
9. Marshall Eriksen, How I Met Your Mother
A TV lawyer who may be more famous for his contribution to How I Met Your Mother’s hysterical group of best friends, Marshall Eriksen, played by Jason Segel, is an ambitious attorney with a big heart who makes us laugh. Along the same lines as his love for food, game night, and dancing, there is no shortage of passion for Eriksen’s law career. His kind and caring nature, highlighted by his dream to save the world through environmental law, makes it difficult not to include Eriksen on our list.
10. Lionel Hutz, The Simpsons
Another ethically challenged lawyer to make the list, the Phil Hartman-voiced Lionel Hutz is included solely for his ability to make us laugh. Hutz was an incompetent but hysterical attorney on The Simpsons, famous for his legal ineptitude among other numerous attempts to make money. With a rich history of comedic exploits, including his claim to a law degree from Princeton (which hasn’t had a law school since the mid-19th Century), a shopping-mall practice called “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm!”, and attempts to entice potential clients with gifts of “smoking monkey” dolls and business cards that “turn into a sponge in the water,” how could we exclude Hutz from our list?