They are twisted, sharp, witty, and extremely strategic. And that’s what makes lawyers great at what they do. The ones that live and work by the books, are the “good ones”. But the ones who make good stories are the those who bend the rules to their and their client’s benefits. Like Charles Lamb said, “He is no lawyer who cannot take two sides.” Not that it makes them “bad”, they are just crooked, wiggling their ways through the loopholes of law and still helping people and winning the day. That’s exactly why we love these groundbreaking lawyers of television, who make bad look so good that they deserve special admiration. From the morally conflicted Jimmy McGill from Better Call Saul to the suave and masterly Alan Shore from Boston Legal, each of these lawyers is far from ideal, but they’re all exceptional in what they do anyway.
Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill – Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad
Played by: Bob Odenkirk
First appeared on:Breaking Bad Season 2, Episode 8, “Better Call Saul”
Where to watch: Watch both series on Netflix
What we love about the character: The first name that comes to mind at the mention of a shady lawyer is Saul Goodman (not Jimmy McGill). Even when he was a small-time lawyer, working out of his matchbox office in the back of a nail salon, and trying somewhat to be decent, he was never a straight arrow. So, when circumstances made him become Saul Goodman, it wasn’t a surprise. If as Jimmy he was clever, as Saul, he became a master of bending laws. Whether he is Jimmy or Saul or Gene, this is a bold and gutsy man, who throws caution to the wind and can change his own fate, as well as the law, for better or for worse. There may be many unsavory sides to his character, but you cannot ignore his wit and dark sense of humor, and personality that gets him through every situation and save his clients, even if they are dangerous people.
Played by: Viola Davis
First appeared on:How to Get Away with Murder Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
Where to watch: Watch it on Netflix
What we love about the character: One of the most powerful female lawyers on television, Annalise Keating will remain a memorable name in the history of fictional lawyers. In her own words, she is “ A 53-year-old woman from Memphis, Tennessee named Anna Mae Harkness…ambitious, black, bisexual, angry, sad, strong, sensitive, scared, fierce, talented, exhausted.” As a professor, Annalise is equally admired and feared by her students, judges and her opponents alike. One of the most prolific lawyers in the city of Philadelphia, Annalise has solved some of the most impossible cases and helped hundreds of people. But when she gets entangled in a murder, she chooses to cover it up with the help of her five top students. As more dead bodies keep piling up in their lives, Annalise chooses the tough road to protect herself and her students, whatever it takes. From making life-threatening decisions to betrayal, more deaths, legal cover-ups, and dangerous liaisons, Annalise continues to power through the never-ending maze of law enforcement, even if it makes her corrupt.
Patty Hewes – Damages
Played by: Glenn Close
First appeared on:Damages Season 1, Episode 1
Where to watch: Watch it on Hulu
What we love about the character: She’s often described as “ruthless, master manipulator, and brilliant”, all wrapped in one personality. Meet Patricia “Patty” C. Hewes, a high-stakes litigator and partner at her own law firm, Hewes & Associates. The daughter of a judge with an abusive childhood, Patty has never shied from being unscrupulous and devotes her life to taking down those who misuse their power and position, even if it means she has to become one of them. Thus, Patty’s professional persona remains in a moral gray area. She stops at nothing to win her cases, including betraying her allies or befriending her enemies and sacrificing innocent people along the way. Her ruthlessness, however, doesn’t remain limited to her enemies. She is known to betray her friends and family, alienate people who get close to her, double-cross people, and even threaten the lives of those who stand in the way of her goals.
Alan Shore – The Practice/ Boston Legal
Played by: James Spader
First appeared on:The Practice, Season 8, Episode 1 “We The People”
Where to watch: Watch both series on Hulu
What we love about the character: Alan Shore is a lawyer and counsel at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt. He is brilliant with a strong moral code. However, he would not shy away from unethical means for an ethical end, like illicit liaisons, cyber hacking, blackmail, or bribery, which are just tools that Alan uses without hesitation. At the same time, he would relentlessly defend the underdog. As much as he enjoys his profession, he is highly disenchanted by the country’s legal system and yet uses his methods to work around it. From annoying his opposing counsel to harassing witnesses and even insulting judges and other people in the courtroom, Alan Shore is a much-hated character. He is everything that you would not imagine a legal professional to be, but he is also someone who can also be admired for his wit and clever methods that he uses to save his clients.
Billy McBride – Goliath
Played by: Billy Bob Thornton
First Appeared on:Goliath Season 1, Episode 1, “Of Mice and Men”
Where to watch: Watch it on Prime Video
What we love about the character: William “Billy” McBride is the co-founder of Cooperman McBride Law Firm. A washed-up lawyer, Billy is known to take on low-level criminal cases. Simply put, Billy is not your average, crooked lawman, who is constantly seeking unsavory methods to get his way. He is exceptional in his work, but after a suspect went free and went on a killing spree, Billy lost his mojo and became an alcoholic. More than being a corrupt professional, he is mostly struggling with alcoholism and mental health and spends more time in a bar than in a courtroom. But when he puts his mind to work, he is remarkable and because of his lifestyle choices, he also knows a thing or two about getting things done in a questionable way but with good intentions.
Played by: Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
First Appeared on: The Lincoln Lawyer Season 1, Episode 1 “He Rides Again”
Where to watch: Watch it on Netflix
What we love about the character: A hotshot lawyer working out of a snazzy blue Lincoln Town Car doesn’t sound anything that you expect from a lawman. That’s why Mickey Haller is nothing like your average lawman. He is a popular defense attorney in LA and hails from a long line of attorneys. He is also the half-brother of the famous LAPD detective, Harry Bosch. Besides all the swagger of his car and his persona, Mickey, or as they call him “the Lincoln lawyer” has conflicted opinions about the legal system and criminals. For instance, he vehemently opposes the idea of the death penalty, and believes that it’s not a mark of being an “enlightened society”. On the other hand, he is known to take up cases and defend clients who are actually guilty. Mickey doesn’t care if his clients are innocent or guilty, he takes cases that intrigue and challenge him, irrespective of the moral code or the expected outcome.
Harvey Specter – Suits
Played by: Gabriel Macht
First Appeared on: Season 1, Episode 1
Where to watch: Watch it on Prime Video
What we love about the character: Harvey Specter is the sharpest and most charismatic lawyer the city of New York has seen in a long time. But he has a reputation of being the “best closer in New York City” and is much-hated for “being right all the time”. A playful charmer, Harvey is persuasive and extremely determined, particularly when he is trying to convince someone or win a case. This also means that his professional qualities don’t translate to a satisfying social life. To win his cases, Harvey would do anything and everything in his capacity and/or the city can offer. His unconventional methods often include coercion, bribery, bluffing, and pulling strings from influential and powerful social circles who, he makes sure, remain indebted to him. But Harvey is also not without integrity. In fact, he never tampers with evidence or witnesses and despises lawyers who do that. The highlight of Harvey’s professional life is Mike Ross, a prodigy he discovered, mentored, and made his associate, who becomes his most trusted ally.