Legal TV Shows

The Practice (1997–2004)

Short Review: Bobby Donnell is the head of a struggling Boston law firm that seems to constantly struggle with ethical themes while defending murderers, rapists, etc. Jimmy, Eugene, Ellenor and Lindsay are junior attorneys with the firm, the streetwise receptionist, and Helen the firm’s frequent adversary with the D.A.’s office in this smart and clever weekly series.

Boston Legal (2004–2008)

Short Review: Ethically-challenged attorney Alan Shore, formerly of Young, Frutt & Berluti, settles in at a wealthy and powerful firm focusing on civil cases. With some help from his friend and mentor, veteran attorney Denny Crane, Shore quickly makes his mark winning cases no one would take, often using less than honest methods. In doing so, he develops a rival in his colleague Brad Chase, who has been assigned to the office partly to keep an eye on the increasingly eccentric (and possibly senile) Denny Crane. Though his questionable conduct might make him a few enemies along the way, Alan’s not one to be underestimated, nor will he let trivial things like honesty or integrity get in the way of winning a case.

Law & Order (1990–2010)

Short Review: The show follows a crime, ususally adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points. The first half of the show concentrates on the investigation of the crime by the police, the second half follows the prosecution of the crime in court.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999– )

Short Review: This show delves into the dark side of the New York underworld as the detectives of a new elite force, the Special Victims Unit, investigate and prosecute various sexually oriented crimes, while trying to balance the effects of the investigation on their own lives.

How to Get Away with Murder (2014– )

Short Review: A very suspense-driven legal thriller about a group of ambitious law students and their brilliant, mysterious criminal defense professor, Annalise Keating. But working for Annelise Keating isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. They eventually become entangled in a murder plot that will shake the entire university and change the course of their lives.

Better Call Saul (2015– )

Short Review: Before he met Walter White, Saul Goodman was struggling working-class lawyer Jimmy McGill. How did McGill become Mr. Goodman and what led him to his life with the notorious ‘Heisenberg’ in the first place? ‘Better Call Saul’ is the origin story of a man trying to survive in a harsh, exploitative world where anyone and everyone will try and take him, and his dreams, down.

L.A. Law (1986–1994)

Short Review: This popular TV drama depicted life in a large Los Angeles law firm. The plots were strongly character-based and dealt with both the personal lives and professional activities of the partners, associates, and staff. Scenes centered around the courtroom and the law offices. Often, an episode would open with a surprising twist, which would then be played out during the rest of the show.

Reasonable Doubts (1991–1993)

Short Review: Chicago police detective Dicky Cobb turns in some crooked cops and finds himself persona non grata in the department. He is reassigned as an investigator for assistant D.A. Tess Kaufman, partly due to the fact that she is deaf and he can sign. Tess works for District Attorney Arthur Gold, a slick opportunist. Dicky investigates her cases, with the frequent help of Detective Earl Gaddis, a chain-smoking cop who is the only one on the force Dicky still gets along with. Tess is assisted by her faithful translator, Ben Douglass. Her ex-husband, Bruce Kaufman, continues to make life unhappy for her by involving her in his insensitive schemes. Dicky is romantically involved first with Kay Lockman, a cop’s daughter who runs a bar, and later with defense attorney Maggie Zombro, with whom he often conflicts in court.

Matlock (1986–1995)

Short Review: In this legal drama, Andy Griffith plays Ben Matlock, a criminal-defense lawyer based in Atlanta. Matlock typically identifies and confronts the perpetrator in a dramatic courtroom scene. His goal, most often, is to prove reasonable doubt of his client’s guilt. Rumor suggests that the character is based on lawyer Bobby Lee Cook, Georgia’s colorful “dean of criminal-defense attorneys.”

Murder One (1995–1997)

Short Review: Theodore Hoffman is a prominent defense attorney in a prestigious Los Angeles law firm. After successfully defending the wealthy but suspicious Richard Cross in a lurid murder trial, he is now involved in the defense of Neil Avedon. Neil is a famous young actor who has had severe drug and alcohol problems and was subsequently charged with the murder, after Cross was acquitted. This single case will run an entire television season (interspersed with bits from other cases that the firm is involved in).

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001–2011)

Short Review:  Every crime has a history, and every perpetrator has a story. Some of them are presented here, as personal tensions develop, crimes are plotted and ultimately executed, sometimes planned, sometimes not, sometimes by obvious candidates, sometimes not so obvious. Whomever the perpetrator or the victim and depending on the severity of the crime in New York City, the matter could be handled by detectives of the Major Case Squad: a force of brilliant and skilled first-grade detectives who handle the most serious and the most complex crimes that New York has to offer. These are their stories.

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (2000–2007)

Short Review: Harvey Birdman, the superhero formerly known as Birdman, is now a practicing (and dimwitted) lawyer. His cases always involve legal disputes between cartoon characters. Past cases involve custody of Jonny Quest, a copyright infringement case between the Chan Clan and Jabberjaw, and Fred Flintstone’s possible mob connections.

Civil Wars (1991–1993)

Short Review: Eli Levinson and Sydney Guilford are top divorce attorneys in NYC. The dynamic changes when Charlie Howell is hired and Eli takes a lower profile. Sydney and Charlie develop a flirtatious arrangement while concentrating on their client’s problems.

Shark (2006–2008)

Short Review: Sebastian Stark is a Los Angeles hot-shot lawyer, who leaves his lucrative career as a defender of rich criminals to try public prosecution under the District Attorney. He forms a trial team of his own, consisting of young lawyers, like Casey Woodland, son of a legislator, who get an opportunity to learn straight from the master, if they can stand his hellish pace, and walk the tight rope between respecting the law while using it and winning whatever it takes. A Private Investigator helps out digging up factual information. In nearly every episode, a criminal is found out and put behind bars, after testing out tactics in Stark’s private mock court, Sebastian often also has to deal with his daughter Julie, who surprisingly chose to live with him, rather than her mother, in New York City, after their divorce.

JAG (1995-2005)

Short Review: Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie are JAG lawyers, who together investigate and litigate crimes committed by Navy and Marine personnel. Occasionally, they engage in adventurous activities in order to solve their cases. With Rabb’s fighter pilot background, and MacKenzie’s good looks, they are a hot team both in and out of the courtroom.

Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law (1971–1974)

Short Review: Arthur Hill played the title character, a defense attorney who is forced to travel outside the tony environs of Santa Barbara to try cases that reflect the issues of the era. He is accompanied at various points in the show’s run by David Soul (Starsky & Hutch) and Lee Majors (before he became the Six Million Dollar Man). The show was almost as smart as it was earnest.

Judging Amy (1999–2005)

Short Review: A family drama focused on three generations of women living together in Hartford, Connecticut. Amy Brenneman plays Amy Gray, who left New York City behind and now works as a family court judge. Karle Warren plays Lauren, Amy’s daughter; Tyne Daly is Maxine, Amy’s tough, opinionated mother.

Night Court (1984–1992)

Short Review: Judge Harold T. Stone presides over “Night Court”, a court which deals with petty crimes which can be dealt with in a dime-a-dozen manner. Invariably, the cases appearing before the court are bizarre, but that’s ok because Judge Stone is not your regular judge. He’s assisted by a motley crew of clerks and District Attorneys who often create as much chaos as the criminals they bring in for trial.

Damages (2007–2012)

Short Review: Ellen Parsons is a brilliant law school grad who goes to work for the famous and powerful trial lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). She’s mentored in the reality that power corrupts, even in the hands of women.

Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–1992)

Short Review: Horace Rumpole is an “Old Bailey Hack,” one of the underpaid barristers who ply the courtrooms of the Old Bailey, London’s criminal court. Rumpole refused to handle most suits and will never prosecute. He always defends. Each of his trials has both a victory and a defeat in them, his clients who are acquitted often angrier than those who are found guilty. There is always at least one and often two subplots.

Ally McBeal (1997–2002)

Short Review: Ally McBeal and Billy Thomas were going steady throughout their childhoods. Ally even followed Billy to Harvard law school despite having no interest in law. But when Billy chose to pursue a career in law away from Ally, their relationship came to an end. In the present, an old classmate of Ally’s named Richard Fish gives Ally a job at his law firm, where Billy and his new wife are also working. This puts Ally in a predicament since she still has feelings for Billy which she’s laboring to get over. At the office, Ally puts up with a nosy, gossiping secretary named Elaine, and an oddball lawyer named John Cage never seems to lose a case. At home, Ally’s friend and house-mate Renée regularly advises her on her love life. The series follows Ally’s trials and tribulations in life through her eyes, and caricaturizes her personal thoughts and fantasies.

The Defenders (1961–1965)

Short Review: Recent law school graduate (Robert Reed) joins his father (E.G. Marshall) as the pair tackle challenging legal cases, often involving issues which were highly touchy for the times (abortion, euthanasia, “un-American” activities, movie censorship). In most the freshly minted lawyer has much to learn from his father’s extensive legal experience.

Perry Mason (1957–1966)

Short Review: Perry Mason is an attorney who specializes in defending seemingly indefensible cases. With the aid of his secretary Della Street and investigator Paul Drake, he often finds that by digging deeply into the facts, startling facts can be revealed. Often relying on his outstanding courtroom skills, he often tricks or traps people into unwittingly admitting their guilt.

Petrocelli (1974–1976)

Short Review: Tony Petrocelli is an Italian-American Harvard-educated lawyer who gave up the big money and frenetic pace of major-metropolitan life to practice in a sleepy city in the American Southwest. He and wife Maggie live in a trailer in the country while waiting for their new house to be built, and travel around in a beat-up old pickup truck. For a quiet rural area, Petrocelli seems to have no trouble running into his share of murderers to defend.

Dehleez (2016– )

Short Review: Set in the political and legal world of Delhi; this is the love story of Adarsh (Harshad Arora) and Swadheenta (Tridha Choudhury) whose goals are same, but paths are different.