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The 10 Best TV Lawyers, Ranked

Summary

Maxine Shaw’s sharp wit and unwavering dedication make her one of TV’s top lawyers.
Harvey Specter’s ethical approach and intellect set him apart as one of the elite TV lawyers.
Saul Goodman’s con artistry and morally flexible tactics have made him an iconic criminal lawyer.

Lawyers have always been among television’s most compelling characters, with their day-to-day experiences naturally generating drama and conflict. However, there are several TV lawyers who will forever remain iconic figures in television history. From the morally complex Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder, portrayed by the Emmy-winning Viola Davis, to the relentless prosecutor Jack McCoy in Law & Order, these characters have captivated audiences with their unique approaches to the law. Television has also given us memorable criminal lawyers like Saul Goodman, brilliantly brought to life by Bob Odenkirk in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul timelines.

Other notable TV attorneys include the unconventional Ben Matlock, played by Andy Griffith, and the groundbreaking Maxine Shaw from Living Single. These fictional lawyers, along with many others, have made a major impact on the television landscape, showcasing the depth and diversity of the legal profession. Their stories have not only entertained viewers for decades, but also prompted discussions about justice, ethics, and the human condition, cementing their place as some of the most iconic and influential characters in the history of the medium.

10 Erika Alexander As Maxine Shaw

Living Single (1993-1998)

Max’s unwavering dedication to her craft and her clients is what truly defines her as an exceptional attorney.

Maxine Shaw from the classic ‘90s sitcom, Living Single, is a formidable force in the courtroom, ranking as one of the top TV lawyers for her unparalleled ability to command attention and secure victories for her clients. Her sharp wit and unapologetic demeanor set her apart from the rest, making her a memorable and impactful figure in the world of legal dramas. While her personal life may have been tumultuous, Max’s unwavering dedication to her craft and her clients is what truly defines her as an exceptional attorney. Her no-nonsense approach makes her a force to be reckoned with.

9 Gabriel Macht As Harvey Specter

Suits (2011-2019)

Suits

Cast Patrick J. Adams , Sarah Rafferty , Gabriel Macht , Meghan Markle , Rick Hoffman , Gina Torres , Amanda Schull , Dule Hill , Katherine Heigl

Release Date June 23, 2011

Seasons 9

With a keen intellect that allows him to outmaneuver his adversaries, Harvey Specter from Suits has earned his place among the elite TV lawyers. His refusal to engage in unethical practices, even when his opponents expect him to, sets him apart in a field where winning at all costs is often the norm. Through all 9 seasons of Suits, Specter has left an indelible mark on the legal landscape of the show, cementing his status as one of the most memorable and influential TV lawyers.

8 Dylan McDermott As Bobby Donnell

The Practice (1997-2004)

Bobby from The Practice

Donnell’s passion for his clients frequently clashes with his own sense of justice, as he grapples with the knowledge that many of the guilty parties he represents can walk free on technicalities.

In the gripping legal drama The Practice, Bobby Donnell brings to life the inner turmoil and moral dilemmas faced by a dedicated defense attorney. Donnell’s passion for his clients frequently clashes with his own sense of justice, as he grapples with the knowledge that many of the guilty parties he represents can walk free on technicalities. This struggle contributes to his ranking among the most compelling TV lawyers, as his character’s journey is marked by disillusionment and personal upheaval. Donnell’s complex navigation of the courtroom and the flawed legal system resonates with audiences, making him an intriguing addition.

7 Park Eun-bin As Woo Young-woo

Upclose image of Woo Young-woo looking in a downward direction.

Young-woo’s exceptional intelligence and photographic memory enable her to tackle complex legal cases with increasing competence.

In the captivating Korean legal drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Park Eun-bin’s portrayal of Woo Young-woo shines a light on the unique challenges and triumphs of an autistic rookie attorney navigating the competitive world of a major Seoul law firm. Despite her atypical communication style, which her neurotypical colleagues initially perceive as odd and blunt, Young-woo’s exceptional intelligence and photographic memory enable her to tackle complex legal cases with increasing competence. Young-woo’s character serves as a powerful neurodivergent TV character in the legal field, challenging stereotypes and highlighting the value of different perspectives in the pursuit of justice.

6 Calista Flock As Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal (1997-2002)

Calista Flockhart smiling in Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal

Cast Calista Flockhart , Greg Germann

Release Date September 8, 1997

Seasons 5

Streaming Service(s) Disney+

Calista Flockhart’s portrayal of Ally McBeal in the groundbreaking series of the same name introduced audiences to a quirky, neurotic lawyer whose personal life often took center stage alongside her legal cases. While Ally’s preoccupation with her love life and biological clock may have occasionally overshadowed her courtroom talents, her character’s relatability and the show’s innovative blend of drama and comedy solidified its place in television history. Ally McBeal’s influence on the dramedy subgenre paved the way for future shows that deftly balance humor and heartfelt moments. Plus, who could forget the iconic dancing baby that became a cultural phenomenon?

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5 Andy Griffith as Ben Matlock

Matlock (1986-1995)

Matlock's Andy Griffith

Ben Matlock stands out among TV lawyers for his unassuming demeanor and unconventional approach to defense law. With a Matlock reboot already confirmed, his dedication to his clients and meticulous attention to detail make him an unmatched force in the courtroom. His willingness to go above and beyond, from scouring crime scenes for overlooked clues to employing his own private detective, sets him apart from his peers. Matlock’s uncanny ability to uncover the pivotal piece of evidence that exonerates his client during cross-examination has become a hallmark of the character.

4 Glenn Close as Patty Hewes

Damages (2007-2012)

Glenn Close as Patty in Damages

Damages

Damages is a crime drama series that aired on FX for five seasons before ending in 2012. Damages centers on Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), who is a well-known lawyer, and her new protege Ellen Parsons, played by Rose Byrne. Each season centers on a new case for the law firm while also developing Patty and Ellen’s relationship.

Patty Hewes, portrayed by Glenn Close in the legal thriller Damages, stands as a complex and powerful figure among lawyers in the television realm. Her relentless approach to navigating the male-dominated legal world, coupled with her history of parental abuse, has shaped her into an advocate for those victimized by an often unjust system. Hewes’s masterful manipulation and fierce determination have propelled her to the pinnacle of her profession, even as her methods sometimes blur the lines between despicable and admirable. This multifaceted character showcases the intricacies of the human psyche and the lengths one might go to achieve justice.

3 Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy

Law & Order (1990-Present)

McCoy’s moral compass drives him to push the boundaries of the law when necessary, prioritizing the greater good of removing criminals from the streets.

A pillar of the legal drama Law & Order, Jack McCoy, portrayed by Sam Waterston, embodies the relentless pursuit of justice as Manhattan’s Executive Assistant District Attorney. McCoy’s moral compass drives him to push the boundaries of the law when necessary, prioritizing the greater good of removing criminals from the streets. Despite the personal turmoil that often plagues his life outside the courtroom, McCoy’s professional acumen remains nearly unmatched. Some of Sam Waterston’s best episodes portray his character being the ultimate warrior for justice, cementing his status as one of the most iconic and influential TV lawyers.

2 Viola Davis As Annalise Keating

How To Get Away With Murder (2014-2020)

Annalise Keating looking up in her classroom in How to Get Away with Murder

From her struggles with alcoholism to covering up her husband’s death, Annalise Keating, portrayed by Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder, is one of TV’s most complex lawyers. Keating’s fierce dedication to protecting her students and fighting for the wrongfully convicted, even as she grapples with her own secrets, makes her a force to be reckoned with. Davis’s groundbreaking performance, which earned her a historic Primetime Emmy, brings depth and nuance to this iconic character, solidifying Keating’s place among the most compelling and unforgettable TV lawyers.

1 Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and Better Call Saul (2015-2022)

Better Call Saul

Cast Bob Odenkirk , Rhea Seehorn , Jonathan Banks , Patrick Fabian , Michael Mando , Giancarlo Esposito

Release Date February 8, 2015

Seasons 6

Franchise(s) Breaking Bad

Writers Peter Gould , Vince Gilligan

Showrunner Peter Gould

Saul Goodman is undoubtedly the ultimate criminal lawyer from the Breaking Bad universe. Born Jimmy McGill, he adopts the moniker “Saul Goodman,” a play on “it’s all good, man,” which encapsulates his unique approach to the law. Goodman’s innate gift for con artistry, evident from childhood, makes him the go-to attorney for those navigating the murky waters of the criminal underworld. Odenkirk’s performance elevated Goodman from a guest spot, ultimately earning him his own spinoff series. Through his quick wit and morally flexible approach, Saul Goodman has become an iconic figure in television history.

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