Were These TV Lawyers Good Or Bad At Their Jobs?

If you’re like many people, you enjoy watching crime procedurals on television. These shows often feature people all throughout the legal system, including lawyers, police, and judges. 

Much of what we think about lawyers comes from their portrayal on television and in movies. It makes sense that everything would be dramatized for television and that reality would be much different. However, things in real life usually aren’t this dramatic, and things are changed to make stories more appealing to watch.

If you’re someone who likes watching shows that feature attorneys or courtrooms, you might wonder how some of these characters would stack up if they practiced law in real life. 

Here are some excellent lawyers from television and some not-so-great ones. 

Good Lawyer: Perry Mason

While many well-known attorneys on television are somewhat unethical, Perry Mason is one of the most upstanding. It’s hard for most fictional attorneys to stand up to this figure, even though the original series is decades old. So, while things might still be exaggerated in the show for entertainment purposes, you’d still be better off looking for similar qualities when finding your own attorney

Bad Lawyer: Professor Annalise Keating

While Viola Davis might be great in this role, as she is in most, Annalise Keating isn’t someone you’d want to hire to be your attorney. This isn’t necessarily because she’s terrible at her job. In fact, she’s portrayed as a fierce and experienced attorney. But, her lack of ethics and involvement in a murder makes her a less-than-ideal choice. 

You want to avoid hiring an attorney who is committing crimes left and right. For that reason, Annalise from How To Get Away With Murder isn’t a reasonable attorney. 

Good Lawyer: Jack McCoy

It’s no surprise that an attorney from Law and Order is on this list. While things in the series aren’t necessarily accurate, they have had a huge impact on how people view lawyers and the entire legal system. Overall, Jack McCoy is a very experienced lawyer who does his best to do the right thing. 

Bad Lawyer: Saul Goodman

While Saul Goodman might often win the case, this doesn’t mean he’s a good lawyer. He’s extremely unethical and not nearly as put together as other morally gray television layers. He is definitely an entertaining character, though. People liked the character so much on Breaking Bad that they were willing to tune into a spin-off show focusing on Saul. But, as enjoyable as he might be to watch, most real-life people wouldn’t want to work with someone like him. 

Good Lawyer: Clare Huxtable

The real-life legal troubles of the lead character in the show are a separate issue here, so we can set those aside despite how upsetting the situation was. But, in the fictional series, Clare was a very successful lawyer and an overall great person. She was able to be both a breadwinner and an involved parent, and while fans didn’t see all that much of her role as an attorney, it’s clear she knew what she was doing. You’d likely want her to represent you. 

While television attorneys might act very differently than actual attorneys, it is fun to assess their qualities. Many of the most entertaining fiction lawyers aren’t great at their jobs, or they get results by unethical means. But, the best real lawyers remember the importance of right and wrong while they uphold the laws and protect the best interests of their clients. 

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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