These are just some of the attorneys we aspire to be like.
(Editor’s Note: At Appara, we serve both the Canadian and US markets, which is why we use the terms “lawyer” and “attorney” interchangeably.)
The world of media is full of various depictions of lawyers, both good and bad. Many of us can point to a fictional lawyer and say, “that’s the reason I got into law”. Today, we’re celebrating the best and brightest attorneys in the world of media; from television and film, to books and even video games. These lawyers may not always act in the most ethically upright manner (or actually know the law), but they’re compelling characters and skilled attorneys in their own right. Here are 6 of our fave fictional lawyers and the reasons why we love them.
The most fashionable attorney on our list, Elle Woods starts off as a simple sorority girl who attends Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend. But as she pursues her JD degree, Woods soon finds her own source of motivation for graduating law school and quickly proves herself to be a more than capable law student. The climax of the film comes when Elle’s knowledge of fashion and hair care proves critical to a cross-examination in a murder trial. Elle graduates law school, giving her class’ graduation speech. While she’s far from a conventional law student, Elle proves that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Perhaps the hardest-working lawyer on this list, Jack McCoy is the District Attorney for the city of Manhattan. A fierce attorney with a passion for justice, McCoy is as unconventional in his methods as he is sound in his legal theory. His tenacity in court has earned him the moniker “Hang ‘em High McCoy”, and he describes himself as a “junkyard dog”. Despite this reputation, his peers in the legal community have immense respect for his considerable legal mind. McCoy’s greatest strength is his indomitable work ethic; he stops at nothing to win his cases.
Atticus Finch is easily the most morally upright lawyer on this list. His portrayal in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has had a profound effect on the real-world legal profession; some scholars have posited that Finch has become a folk hero in the legal community. Finch even influenced the real-life case of the Timothy McVeigh trial; the judge in that case, Richard Paul Matsch, notes that Finch is a major influence on the judiciary. In 1997, the Alabama State Bar established an Atticus Finch monument in Monroeville to commemorate Finch’s contributions to real-world law.
Despite the fact that To Kill a Mockingbird is among one of the most-banned books in the world, it nonetheless has an important theme: The constant tug of good and evil in the hearts of humankind. Let us aspire to the good and turn away from the evil.
She’s a brash young family lawyer whose obsession with work inevitably leads to substance abuse problems and causes a rift in her own family. After a video of her vomiting in court goes viral, Abigail Bianchi (portrayed by Jewel Staite) joins her father’s family law practice as part of her court-ordered rehabilitation, where she meets a half-brother and half-sister she didn’t know she had.
But despite her alcoholism and rocky marriage, Bianchi is a talented and tenacious lawyer who defends her clients’ interests with aplomb. Bianchi takes on a number of heart-wrenching cases, helping liberate a gay teen from a conversion camp, launching a class-action lawsuit against an unethical fertility doctor, and navigating a tricky case involving a couple who are at odds on what to do about their adopted baby with a severe medical condition. Despite being rough around the edges and having her own personal demons, Bianchi stops at nothing to do what’s best for her clients
Appearing in the video game series Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright is a criminal defense lawyer and the owner of the Wright Anything law firm. A strong thinker with an unshakeable moral compass, Wright first took interest in criminal defense law as a 10-year-old. He was accused of stealing another student’s lunch money at school, despite no one having any evidence that he had committed the theft. Ultimately, he was found innocent – and this experience sparked his passion for law.
As a young lawyer, Wright made a name for himself winning a string of “unwinnable” cases through his creativity and quick thinking. Even trial judges held him in high esteem, revelling in his unique arguments.
While Wright himself ran into some legal trouble when he (albeit unknowingly) presented forged evidence in court, he was ultimately exonerated and reinstated as an attorney. He would later go on to re-implement the jurist system, ending the judge-only trial system.
When he isn’t pursuing justice in the courts, he’s pursuing justice in the streets. Despite being blinded by radioactive waste as a boy, Matt Murdock quickly found that his other four senses were greatly heightened. After his father was murdered, Murdock dedicated himself to the cause of justice; he studied law at Columbia University, then interned at the large law corporation Landman & Zack with his best friend Foggy Nelson. Eventually, though, the pair tired of defending large and highly profitable corporations; they started their own law firm, Nelson & Murdock, to help the innocent and make a difference.
By day, Murdock would take on cases defending the helpless and righting wrongs; by night, he’d find the actual perpetrators of crimes his clients were accused of and practice a much more violent form of street justice. While we can’t endorse his extracurriculars, this superhero defense attorney proves that you don’t need a sense of sight to see what’s right.
She’s green, she’s mean, and she’s ready to fight crime in more ways than one. After graduating summa cum laude from UCLA law school, Jennifer Walters began working as a lawyer in Los Angeles when she was suddenly visited by her cousin, Bruce Banner. After an attack by a crime boss, Walters was gravely injured; Banner transformed into The Hulk and fended off her attackers before breaking into a doctor’s office.
There, Banner gave Walters the blood transfusion that would not only save her life, but change it forever. The radiation in Banner’s blood ultimately led to Walters becoming She-Hulk, a 6-foot-tall green creature with super strength.
Walters would use her powers to pursue the crime boss who killed her mother, fighting criminals in the streets as she came to terms with her new form. As a lawyer, she opposed the Mutant Registration Act at the Supreme Court. After a number of superhero adventures, Walters was eager to go back to being a lawyer; unfortunately, her status as the She-Hulk unfairly influenced juries in her favour during her cases, and in order to avoid bias, her boss had to let her go. After leaving the District Attorney’s office, She-Hulk practised law on her own for a few years before joining the Superhuman Law division of the firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, where she defended superheroes in court. In her court cases, Walters developed a reputation as an idealist and a champion for the rights of minorities.
The world of media has no shortage of lawyers that we can hold up as role models. While the lawyers on this list aren’t perfect, (and some of them have significant flaws), each of them embodies some kind of ideal that lawyers can aspire to. Whether it’s Abigail Bianchi’s tenacity, Phoenix Wright’s creativity, or Jack McCoy’s worth ethic, these lawyers each have something to teach us about practising law.
Who’s your favourite fictional lawyer? What have they taught you about the practice of law?
Engaging insights and the latest news, designed for legal professionals.