They can be sleazy, unethical and more concerned about wealth than justice, but that’s certainly not the case with most of our favorite lawyers from the history of TV. But they are still in one of the most esteemed, and needed, professions around. And for many lawyers, they enter the profession to help people, whether it’s to clear an innocent person wrongly convicted, to help take crime off the streets or to provide legal representation in a civil suit.
Attorneys on television have represented all aspects of lawyering – the good and the bad. Legal eagles have been popular characters since the early days of the medium, from morally upstanding lawyers like Perry Mason who endeavor to prove the innocence of someone wrongly accused to more recent morally-ambiguous lawyers like Patty Hewes (“Damages”) who sometimes bend the rules to obtain justice. Sometimes we delight in parodies and spoofs making fun of the profession we all love to hate – from the great Phil Hartman‘s Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer (“Saturday Night Live”) to Phil Morris‘ Jackie Chiles (“Seinfeld”). There are honorable lawyers like Southern grump Ben Matlock (“Matlock”) who we love, and the lawyers we should hate but love anyway like Alan Shore (“Boston Legal”).
Through the years, television series have upped their game and given us a diverse canvas of portrayals for this esteemed profession – with female attorneys such as Joyce Davenport (“Hill Street Blues”) and Clair Huxtable (“The Cosby Show”) showing all women (regardless of color) that they can be successful and still retain their femininity, and the suave Victor Sifuentes (“L.A. Law”) displaying the ability of a minority to find success in a white-male-dominated profession.
Love ’em or hate ’em, whether they’re defending the innocent or prosecuting the guilty, fighting for a cause or aiming to make the big bucks no matter the cause, this profession has given us some of the most entertaining and memorable characters on television. Tour our photo gallery where we rank the best of the best. As with all of our TV professionals’ galleries, we have limited ourselves to just one selection per series.