DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

The Top 10 Lawyers of TV and Film: Numbers 6-10

Posted in Television

– Derek Allen, Attorney –

In what we believe is a Duetsblog first, two of us — Tim Sitzmann and I — are teaming up to write a post.  (Even if this isn’t the first time a post has had two authors, much like European explorers who claimed to “discover” land that people were already living on, we are going to pretend that it is.)  And we have tackled a topic that a momentous event like this demands: the top 10 lawyers in the history of TV and Film.  We’re doing 6-10 today and 1-5 tomorrow.  So without further ado, and without any explanation whatsoever of our criteria, please join us below the jump . . .

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Denzel Washington’s character from Philadelphia, Tom Cruise from A Few Good Men, Ally McBeal, Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Franklin and/or Bash from Franklin & Bash, that jerk lawyer from Jurassic Park, Ari Gold, Sweaty Ted from Scrubs, Keanu Reeves and Satan from The Devil’s Advocate, Ed Masry from Erin Brockovich, Sam Seaborne from The West Wing, Dax Shepard’s character from Idiocracy, Harvey Dent, Jack McCoy, whatever lawyer from The Firm that hired the prostitute for Tom Cruise, Jimmy Stewart from Anatomy of a Murder, Royal Tenenbaum, Perry Mason, Ed Hochuli, Dr. Gonzo, Robert Duvall’s character from The Godfather movies, Denny Crane.

 #10: Peter Banning/Pan (Hook, 1991)

Derek: We’re starting off with Peter Banning (aka Peter Pan) from the 1991 movie Hook.  He starts the movie as a prominent mergers-and-acquisitions attorney who makes a habit of missing the important events in the lives of his children and continually breaks the promises he makes to his family.  The movie doesn’t show whether he overbills his clients, but if he does, I think we can probably give out the award for most accurate portrayal of a real life lawyer right now.

Tim: In his defense, Peter did take his kids on a vacation to London, which should win him a few points with his kids. Of course, the fact that they were abducted and held captive by a pirate may negate that. Either way, we should all thank Peter for two things: first, the fact we don’t have to carry around phones the size of a loaf of bread and second, a great quote that we should all use every day, “Don’t mess with me man, I’m a lawyer!”

#9: The Entire Cast of Lawyers (and Fake Lawyers) from Arrested Development (2003-2013)

Tim: Most shows either have one great lawyer character, or one terribly incompetent lawyer. Arrested Development isn’t most shows, though, and likely wins the award for best cast of lawyer characters: Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler, AKA The Fonz), Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) , Maggie Lizer (Julia Louis Dreyfus), and Wayne Jarvis (John Michael Higgins). Barry is the family’s lifelong attorney and his incompetence truly has no limit, but what else would you expect from a lawyer who attended law school in the U.S. Virgin Islands and hired a look-alike to take the bar exam for him. Some of Barry’s “best” advice includes advising the Bluths that the government can’t charge a husband and wife with the same crime and, when all else fails, “take to the sea.” Bob Loblaw is a much more effective attorney and actually has his own legal blog (The Bob Loblaw Law Blog).

Derek: And you didn’t even mention Chareth Cutestory, the fake lawyer in Southern California who somehow specializes in pirate law. (It’s hard to believe that the not-as-blind-as-she-claims Maggie Lizer saw right through that one.)  This entire ensemble of lawyers provides so much gold that I feel like Uncle Scrooge taking his daily swim in his vault.  To keep this entry at a reasonable length, though, I’ll only mention my favorite Barry Zuckerkorn piece of incompetency: he uses a .biz address for his law firm.

#8: Fletcher Reede (Liar Liar, 1997)

Derek: Liar Liar featured Jim Carrey, as attorney Fletcher Reede, doing Jim Carrey things at the height of his Jim Carreyness.  I suspect his inclusion on this list has a lot to do with the fact that this movie came out when we were both teenagers and thus squarely part of his key demographic.  In any event, he did provide sage guidance to a repeat client who, after committing yet another crime, asked for his lawyer’s advice: “Stop breaking the law, asshole!”

Tim: I’m going to go out on a limb here and boldly declare, without any research, that Jim Carrey is better than any other actor at Jim Carrey things. You’re right that age played a role as to why we both picked him — but that’s not the only reason. Fletcher deserves to be on this list. He’s committed to his client’s case and will beat himself up in order to get the win. While some of the other attorneys on the list are also quick on their feet and able to work out of tough situations, only Fletcher was up against the power of a five-year old’s birthday wish.

#7: Lionel Hutz (The Simpsons, 1989-Present)

Tim: Next we have Lionel Hutz from the prestigious firm, “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm!” conveniently located in the Springfield mall. The character was voiced by Phil Hartman. Like all great attorneys, Hutz has all the right swag to promote his law firm: pens that look like cigars, a monkey doll that smokes a cigarette, and a fake pearl necklace. Plus, his business card turns into a sponge when it gets wet! Unlike some of the other comically incompetent attorneys, Hutz has actually won a few cases, taking down Itchy & Scratchy, Krusty the Clown, Sideshow Bob, and The Sea Captain’s Frying Duchman restaurant. We never learned though whether Hutz won his false advertising claim against the producers of the film, The Never Ending Story.

Derek: I live my life by three rules: never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city, never ask a woman if she’s pregnant, and any time I make a list of the top 10 lawyers of all time, you make the list if your AKAs include Miguel Sanchez and Dr. Nguyen Van Phuoc.

#6: Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (My Cousin Vinny, 1992)

Tim: During my first year of law school, my professors seemed very eager to recommend good movies about lawyers. My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci, was easily the most recommended movie about lawyers. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini took six years to finally pass the New York Bar, and had zero experience when he agreed to represent the Karate Kid in a murder trial.  Vinny may not know much about courtroom decorum, but he’s tenacious, has good instincts, is an excellent cross examiner, and likes the color black. A lot.

Derek: Almost every litigator, at every hearing or trial, wants to lead with the exact same line if the other side gets to go first.  Vinny Gambini, however, is the only one I’ve ever seen deliver it. After a pretty persuasive opening argument by the prosecutor, Vinny gets up, looks at the jury, and gives his one line opening argument: “Uh… everything that guy just said is bullshit… Thank you.”  The fact that he isn’t in the top five is blood on your hands, Sitzmann, and I can only hope that you will be screaming to yourself like Lady MacBeth for years to come as a result.

TO BE CONTINUED…