The Courtroom Crusaders: TV Lawyers You’d Want in Your Corner

“If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers.”  Lionel Hutz, defense attorney

There may not be a setting more suited to English language television than the courtroom.

Applying the real world rule of law to hypothetical cases dreamed up by the writers, from the tragic to the preposterous, underlines the drama in ways unique to the courtroom genre and makes champions of those who defend the wrongly (or not so wrongly) accused.

Right or wrong, innocent or guilty, these are the law talkin’ guys and gals we’d want to have on our side in a court of law.

Ben Matlock, Matlock

If you’re counting down TV’s best defense lawyers, this one’s obligatory. Ben Matlock, portrayed by TV legend Andy Griffith, wrote the playbook on dramatic reveals and turnarounds in front of the jury.

Matlock blurred the line between detective show and courtroom procedural as he would clear his clients by calling perpetrators to the stand and walk them right into a confession.

Matlock’s record as a defense attorney is unimpeachable, but what we really like about this guy is he doesn’t charge you if you’re broke!

Kim Wexler, Better Call Saul

The most important thing to remember about Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn in an era defining performance, is that she quit her high profile corporate lawyer gig to work pro bono, defending the disadvantaged and underprivileged residents of New Mexico.

To call her “incorruptible” might be a stretch, given the sometimes felonious mischief she and Jimmy McGill got up to, but for the most part she kept true to her calling as a public defender, displaying a degree of moral fortitude rarely glimpsed in Vince Gilligan‘s comprehensively corrupt Albuquerque.

Charlie Kelley, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has more than a few attorneys to choose from. Ask us a few seasons ago and we would have gone with the unnamed Lawyer who scammed the gang out of the merchandising rights for Paddy’s Pub.

But when push came to shove, the Lawyer ultimately lost the only case against the gang that he ever had go to trial, owing to the mental duress of his ongoing divorce (and the rather frequent torment the gang themselves put him through).

If you want the best legal representation in Philadelphia, you’re gonna have to go with the guy who outlawyered him there, none other than Charlie Kelley (Charlie Day)… If your case involves birds, that is.

And if you’re not too hung up on trivialities like law degrees and passing the bar.

Denny Crane, Boston Legal

It’s hard to pick a favorite defender on Boston Legal, but when things get desperate, your back is against the wall, and you need someone who’s not afraid to put their whole reputation on the line with a hail mary pass, you’re gonna want someone like Will Shatner‘s Denny Crane in your corner.

One might expect Crane’s early onset dementia to be a professional compromise, but, as illustrated on the classic episode “Son of the Defender,” which sees him strapped to an explosive vest and forced to rehash his first trial, Denny’s condition inspires him with a fearless and unwavering integrity.

In the face of disbarment, ridicule, incarceration, and even certain death, he’ll fight for his clients and for what he thinks is right, and that’s exactly who you want defending you in a court of law when you’re running out of options.

Ann Kelsey, L.A. Law

You could put the names of every McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak attorney in a hat, pull one without looking, and get excellent representation.

But it may have been Jill Eikenberry as Ann Kelsey who was most frequently called on to cite precedent, rulings, and constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.

Check out “P.S. Your Shrink is Dead,” where Kelsey dismantles an immigration arrest on the spot, or “Justice Swerved,” when she instructs a client on how to handle a trumped up DUI charge as he’s being dragged into the police cruiser.

So much of a criminal case depends on how you respond to being pulled over, cuffed, and arrested, and Kelsey will make sure you don’t hang yourself with all that rope the arresting officer was kind enough to give you.

Matt Murdock, Daredevil

Look, who else is gonna put on some red pajamas and go beat people up to prove your innocence? Exactly. That’s what makes Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock so good at his job.

Old Man Waterfall, Futurama

As much as we’d like to include Lionel Hutz on this list, he’s just as likely to land you in jail as he is to score you a juicy settlement.

The most qualified attorney from a Matt Groening show would have to be the Phil Hendrie voiced Old Man Waterfall, the 97 year old bisexual polygamist Satanist veteran of several intergalactic wars.

A fierce patriot, Waterfall nevertheless put his personal feelings on the flag aside to defend Zoidberg’s right to eat it, and he actually won the case.

As ridiculous a character as he may be, Waterfall represents a cornerstone principle of constitutional law, ultimately proving his willingness to die for Zoidberg’s right to express unpopular ideas.

Though officially KIA during the invasion of the lobster people, Waterfall thankfully has a son, a grandson, two great grandsons, and a great granddaughter to fill the one legged lawyer’s remaining shoe.

Jackie Chiles, Seinfeld

If you want to hold big business’ feet to the fire, Seinfeld’s Jackie Chiles, portrayed by Phil Morris, should be your go-to guy.

Famously inspired by Johnnie Cochran, the fast-talking advocate for consumer and employee rights admittedly might not have the most impressive track record when it comes to the cases he’s pushed on behalf of client Cosmo Kramer.

But it should be noted that that’s only because Kramer is so frequently willing to take the first settlement offer, or otherwise sabotage his own legal efforts. Who told him to put a balm on it, anyway?

Rafael Barba, Law & Order: SVU

A lawyer who fights for you isn’t always going to be a defense attorney. Sometimes it’s an Assistant District Attorney like Rafael Barba (Raul Esparza) of Law & Order: SVU who will see that justice is done on your behalf.

Barba makes the list for being the best prosecutor the show has ever had, but also for the simple fact that he’s so much fun to watch.

He’s confrontational when he needs to be, evasive when that’ll do the trick, and always employing a kind of verbal sleight of hand in order to secure a conviction, taking witnesses and suspects through an emotional journey before revealing his motives.

Mickey Haller, Lincoln Lawyer

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller, the titular Lincoln Lawyer, running a law firm from the back of his 1963 Lincoln Continental and a pair of Navigators, is a guy who’s been on the other side of the law more than once, having overcome addiction before practicing law.

There are plenty of lawyers who will fight for you, but, given his criminal history, Haller is in a unique position to actually understand his clients.

Who are your favorite TV lawyers?

Hit the comments below to tell us who you would want in your corner during your day in court?

Gilbert Smith is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X.

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