Friday, July 13, 2012

5 TV Lawyers Who Only Make It Worse For Us.

With the recent passing of Andy Griffith - the one and only Matlock - I am reminded that no matter how entertaining or beloved a fictional lawyer may be, they are all absolutely horrible.

Whether it's absurdly stupid young lawyers like in The Deep End and Raising the Bar, counsel completely overburdened with their own personal drama like in Ally McBeal and The Practice, or just procedurally impossible super-attorneys like in Perry Mason and the aforementioned Matlock, the entire genre of law shows is littered with nothing but bad lawyers.  Given the sterling reputation that lawyers already enjoy in the community-at-large, these TV lawyers only make things worse.  However, most people know that these lawyers are definitely nothing like real lawyers.  They were obvious caricatures around "playing lawyers" and people knew it.  But there are other TV lawyers that appear to have be created by writers who thought Night Court was a documentary.  Here are the 5 TV lawyers I wish were real people just so I could take comfort in knowing they would die someday.

More after the jump.

5. Kate Reed (Fairly Legal)
This show from USA Network operates on the very basic logic that:
a) IF making money is evil, and
b) IF all lawyers make lots of money
c) THEN, all lawyers are lots of evil
Armed with this infallible logic, our dashing main character Kate Reed gives up a lucrative litigation career to become a mediator.  Because she really wants to help bring people together instead of divide them.  She is the antidote to what ails the legal profession.

This character sucks because she is already rich when the show starts.  So she doesn't need to make money by doing lots of evil lawyer stuff because her evil lawyer father made tons of money by being tons of evil.  The show more-or-less ignores this fact because fuck you, you'll watch it anyway.  The take-away from this show is that unless you follow your passion to help people and behave like an outsider who hates those "mainstream" lawyers who just want to be cool people/evil moneygrubbers, you suck.  It's like the grown-up lawyer version of Glee.

Kate: "I think we can resolve this without going to court."
Client 1: "I disagree and want to sue Client 2 because he burned my house down.  It seems pretty reasonable to want to sue for that."
Client 2: "You deserved it!  You parked with your car over the curb and that violate the CC&Rs.  I'm not giving you a dime."
Kate: "HEY!  Everyone calm down.  I'm sure there's a way we can resolve this without going to court.  Just think about it.  Do you really want to give in and go find evil lawyers to be all evil and hurt society by suing people for no reason."
Client 1: "Hmmm.  Well, I don't want to be evil so I guess I can't sue Client 2 for doing something totally ridiculous that he should be sued for.  I guess we can keep mediating."
Client 2: "Yeah, actually, I'll give you whatever it costs to repair your house."
Kate: "See, that was easy.  And totally believable."

 And while it is mildly irritating to have a show completely oversimplify every lawsuit and turn it into a therapy session, at least the other attorneys on the show work like attorneys.  This is in direct contrast to...

4. Jared Franklin and Peter Bash (Franklin & Bash)
Admittedly, this show is a pseudo-comedy.  And watching Zach Morris be a lawyer is pretty entertaining.  That should make it easier to forgive these lawyers for being absolutely incompetent and somehow getting recruited by the "most prestigious law firm in town" after winning one case because that's how the practice of law works.  The problem is that it's only semi-comedic.  That means its semi-drama, which means Franklin and Bash take themselves seriously most of the time and we are expected to as well.  This is where things go off the rails.  Besides the fact that they somehow refer to themselves during every trial (because every case goes to trial on this show), they end up winning because every case turns on a late-discovered piece of evidence.  The problem is these pieces of evidence are such obvious things that literally ANYONE other than them would think to ask about it at the initial consultation.

::the night before trial for murdering in a man in a bar::
Franklin: "Wait, you mean there was someone else in the room?"
Client: "Well, we were in a bar when the fight broke out."
Bash: "The fight happened in a bar?!?  I wonder if there may be other witnesses we could talk to about the fight then.
Franklin: "Or maybe a security camera with footage of some kind."
Client: "Yes, of course there is.  You guys swear you're lawyers right?"
Bash: "Totally.  We're Franklin & Bash, two down-on-their-luck lawyers who got recruited by a prestigious law firm because we're secretly awesome."
Client: "Oh, ok.  Thank you for sharing your backstory with me.  I feel better now about your apparent lack of foresight and preparation since you're secretly awesome."

So they're borderline retarded.  At least they're actual attorneys, not faking it.  Speaking of...

3. Harvey Specter (Suits)
Yeah, USA Network is on the list twice.  After shitting on all lawyers who don't "give up their evil ways" and become mediators, they bring us another show to piss all over the hard work it took to become a lawyer and how some of us actually like what we do.  This one sucks for two reasons.  First, the firm in the show only hires Harvard law alumni.  This is stupid because no firm of any substantial size does that and because only stupid people would think this is a good idea in the first place.  My guess is the show-writers got rejected from Harvard, went to Brown, and are still bitter about it.  The more egregious suckiness comes from Harvey Specter, the character who hires a random dude he accidentally interviewed because he seemed really smart even though the guy was not a lawyer and had never even finished college.  While Lawyer McFakey goes around winning cases, the rest of the firm tries to keep hidden that their new hotshot is a dropout.  This is also stupid because bar number.  Plus law firm would think "Hey, this is totally worth risking all our careers over because he's totally really smart and it's not like there are other smart people who are actually lawyers we could hire."

Random New Associate:  "So who's that new associate?"
Specter: "He's a new associate I hired out of Harvard Law."
Random Lawyer: "But so am I, and so are all the other new associates.  And none of us remember him from law school."
Specter: "Yeah, but he totally went there."
Random New Associate:  "But when he was in court the other day, he gave his bar number as 867-5309."
Specter: "Oh...well...that's his number I guess."
Random New Associate:  "Hmmm.  He is so super extra smart though.  He must be lawyer.  Even though no one here remembers him from law school and he doesn't have a normal bar number.  He's just too smart to not be a lawyer."
Specter: "Exactly."
Random New Associate: "And you would never be so stupid as to risk your entire life and the careers of everyone you know and care about just because some random person was smart and said he wanted to be a lawyer.  Especially since anyone can search the state bar website and immediately find out if someone is a real lawyer."
Specter: "..."

While this obviously makes no sense, we do agree that being smart is really all it takes to be a lawyer.  And any kind of lawyer as well.  Just ask...

2. Harriet Korn (Harry's Law)
This character totally turns the slimy lawyer thing on its head and is a "good person" who is also a lawyer.  That's nice, we like that part.  "Harry" is a patent attorney who gets fired for a vague "you've lost the drive" reason and then starts her own criminal defense firm with a tough, edgy attitude to boot.  The best part for her is that she only defends innocent people.  Like literally all of her clients are innocent of the crime they are charged with.  However, the problem I have with this show is not that the lawyer somehow only defends innocent people.  Or that her main paralegal is a guy who somehow has 3 strikes against him for drugs in a zero-tolerance state but somehow gets probation because Harry is such a good lawyer and is so smart.  My problem with "Harry" is that she switches from being a patent lawyer to being a criminal defense attorney.  For those of you who know your patent law, you will recognize the slight difference between doing state criminal law and drafting patents.  There's not a lot of crossover.  However, Harry is somehow extremely gifted as a criminal defense attorney from the beginning even though it is unlikely that she would have ever been in a state court in her entire career before the show starts.

Harry: "They didn't do it, your Honor."
Judge: "Uhm...this is the arraignment.  How do your clients plead: guilty or not guilty?"
Harry: "But you see, your Honor, my clients didn't do it.  It was a can of indicated on US Patent Application #1,823,954 for attaching those soda can tabs to tuna cans instead.
Judge: "Ms. Korn, the next words out of your mouth better be 'guilty' or 'not guilty.'  I don't want to hear commentary, argument, or opinion.  I don't want to hear any facts or evidence.  If I hear anythign other than 'guilty' or 'not guilty,' you'll be in contempt.  I don't even want to hear you clear your throat to speak.  Now, how do your clients plead?
Harry: "But...patent number...non-unique..."

Given that it takes at least some number of days to become a wiz with criminal procedure, we can forgive Harry for not knowing what she's doing.  Our worst offender, though, does not have the same excuse for acting completely insane...

1. Every Criminal Defense Attorney Ever (Law & Order)
You knew this one had to be it, right?  I'm not going to tell you what the premise of this show is.  Mainly because if you aren't familiar with this show, my real question is how did you get this far in the post since you clearly can't be more than marginally literate and semi-conscious?  But I digress.  So yeah, all the defense attorneys are slimeballs to the nth degree.  That's the moral message of Law & Order in pretty much every episode.  Look, I understand that people think criminal defense attorneys are slimy.  While this is a stupid way to see the world, there are some dirty lawyers out there and some of them defend criminals.  But really, Dick Wolfe's leviathan has gone out of its way to demonize those who defend accused criminals as having passed the bar immediately after escaping from the Eighth Circle of Hell.  Every scene has the Defense Attorney looking all seedy in a much nicer suit than the district attorney acting pointlessly shady and condescending.  And that's before trial.  At that point, the Defense Attorney completes his or her transformation into pure demonseed just in time to question the victim of rape/attempted murder/robbery.  Though I may be wrong here, I have trouble believing every criminal defense attorney ends every cross-x of a victim like he or she is reading the most diabolical mad-lib ever written.

watch, I'm gonna make this little kid cry
Defense Attorney: "Isn't it true you've just fabricated this whole crime because you're an evil succubus who likes to murder puppies and you're trying to ruin my client because he is a human/puppy hybrid?"
Interchangeable ADA Who Never Takes Notes at Trial: "Objection!"
::Judge looks confused, but makes no ruling::
Defense Attorney: "Withdrawn." ::stares at the witness with disgust::  "I have nothing further for this disgraceful witness."
Judge: "Very well.  The disgraceful witness is excused."

So who did I miss?  Sound off in the comments if you think I left someone out and why they suck.

- a_a


  1. I see you left out the Good Wife. I am assuming she doesn't make it bad for us. What about her boss Will Gardner?

  2. So tell me about this new fangled invention that they call "tell-e-vishun" because based on your list there have only been good attorneys on TV in the past 3 years.

  3. Danny Crane is the best TV lawyer

  4. You got me @4:14. Law & Order is only 3 years old. It's 1993. Everything you know is a lie. If you take the red pill...

  5. I agree Denny Crane is indeed awesome. Perhaps we'll do a follow-up post next week.

  6. How can you forget The Defenders? Oh wait, they were based on real people who we already laugh with (at).

  7. When you get around to doing the "good lawyers on TV" post, I sure hope you include HARVEY BIRDMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW!

  8. Obviously, Saul Goodman is the greatest T.V. lawyer ever. I like to think of him as the fictional Glen Lerner.

  9. We need a woman on this list. How about the female Public Defender on Hill Street Blues?

  10. I second the Saul Goodman nomination. Not so sure of the Glen Lerner comparison, however.

  11. Informative, funny, and correct use of a jump. Well done!

    Oh, and "What's my name?"

    "Denny Crane."

    "What's my name?!"

    "Denny Crane."

    "With feeling!"


  12. SHARK PIMP SEZ: The Clark County Bar Association needs to give out an annual Denny Crane award. Liven up the bar luncheons.

  13. Can't go wrong with Matlock, one of my favorite TV lawyers of all time.

  14. Jackie Chiles

    Cosmo Kramer: Well you know they don't allow outside drinks in the movie theater. So I had to put it in my shirt and sneak it in.
    Jackie Chiles: Yeah, see they like to sell their own coffee.
    Cosmo Kramer: Yeah, now is that going to be a problem?
    Jackie Chiles: Yeah that's going to be a problem. It's gonna be a problem for them. This a clear violation of your rights as a consumer. It's an infringement on your constitutional rights. It's outrageous, egregious, preposterous.
    Cosmo Kramer: It's definitely preposterous.
    Jackie Chiles: So. Then what happened?
    Cosmo Kramer: Well I was trying to get to my seat and I had to step over someone and I kind of got pushed and it spilled on me.
    Jackie Chiles: Was there a top on it?
    Cosmo Kramer: Yeah
    Jackie Chiles: Now did you put the top on or did they put the top on for you?
    Cosmo Kramer: No. They put the top on.
    Jackie Chiles: And they made the top. You didn't make the top did you?
    [Kramer motions that he did not make the top]
    Jackie Chiles: [to secretary over intercom] Suzie. I want you to go down to Java World. Get me a cafe latte with a top.
    [to Kramer]
    Jackie Chiles: We're gonna run some test on that top. Have you been to the doctor?
    Cosmo Kramer: No. No, I haven't.
    Jackie Chiles: Suzie. Call Dr. Bison. Set up an appointment for Mr. Kramer here. Tell him it's from me.
    Cosmo Kramer: So, what do you think, Mr. Chiles.
    Jackie Chiles: Jackie
    Cosmo Kramer: Jackie. I mean, we have a chance?
    Jackie Chiles: Do we have a chance? You get me one coffee drinker on that jury, you gonna walk outta there a rich man.

  15. My vote is for Bob Loblaw, the true pioneer of the law blog (Bob Loblaw's law blog -- Arrested Development).

  16. Glen Close as Patty Hewes in Damages. She's frightening.

    And speaking of Glen, isn't Glen Lerner one of the TV lawyers who only make it worse for us?

  17. @3:48, you make an interesting point about Lerner. Perhaps his voice would make the list.