There’s something great about seeing the bad guys lose. These days, the lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are veritable rockstars, blocking unconstitutional legislation left and right that’s designed to further marginalize vulnerable groups. And when it comes to taking down fictional criminals, TV lawyers tend to do the heavy lifting there too.
While most people who go to law school would never admit to feeling amped up when characters like Annalise Keating outsmart everyone and come out on top, it’s a pretty universally satisfying feeling even when the premise is a fictional one. From Michael Ross to Alicia Florrick, these are the 16 TV lawyers who will make you want to start studying for the LSAT immediately.
16. Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder
Played by the incomparable Viola Davis, Annalise Keating is queen of confidence and cunning. The main character in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, Professor Keating is so badass that she teaches a class called — you guessed it — How to Get Away With Murder, because you could not possibly expect someone like her to get stuck teaching torts or tax law. While “ethical” may not always be the best word to describe Keating’s methods, there is no denying that she’s a true mastermind.
15. Alexandra Cabot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
If there’s one show that 90 percent of us could totally binge for days on end, it’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. After all, Detectives Benson and Stabler are basically friendship goals and watching sexual assailants actually go to jail for their crimes (which sadly isn’t something that happens very much in real life) is the best.
One TV lawyer who helped them get there was the bold and beautiful Alexandra Cabot. While SVU has gone through its share of awesome Assistant District Attorneys over the course of its long history, Cabot, played by Stephanie March, stuck her neck out so many times to make sure that those criminals went down that we lost count. She even had to go into Witness Protection at one point because she stopped at nothing to help keep her city safe.
14. Casey Novak on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Another SVU alum is ADA Casey Novak, played by Diane Neal. During her stint on the show, she used her grit and tenacity to follow in Cabot’s footsteps on seasons five through nine. And here’s a fun fact: She had a 71 percent success rate when it came time to prosecute sex offenders.
In the real world, only 35 percent of sex offense cases even make it to trial, so assuming that this world is mirrored in SVU, high success rates are pretty much necessary in making any sort of difference. If you’re a diehard fan of the Law & Order installment, then you probably know the awesome feeling that hits when ADA Novak puts on that sly grin knowing she’s about to take down a predator.
13. Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife
CBS legal drama The Good Wife is another show that’s just full of incredible TV lawyers. Of course, leading lady Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, is the best of the best, mostly because she’s put up with more garbage in her personal life than any woman should ever have to endure.
After being cheated on by her State’s Attorney husband, this “good wife” grins and bears it as she tries to rebuild her personal life and career. Humble and unafraid of starting at the bottom as a junior litigator alongside recent law school grads, it’s this humility and the desire to do good that makes Florrick one seriously admirable woman.
12. Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife
Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart, another lawyer from The Good Wife, is a total fan favorite. She’s so good, in fact, that Baranski’s been nominated for six Emmys in this role. A champion for women’s rights, Lockhart is known around the firm as a tough-as-nails woman who’s totally unafraid of telling people when they’re just flat-out wrong. She is unapologetic in the best way and while she’s not someone you’d call friendly, she will fight like hell for any woman whose rights are being denied. Lockhart even got her own spinoff, The Good Fight.
11. Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul
People loved Saul Goodman (also known as Jimmy McGill) so much in Breaking Bad that he got his own spin-off show, Better Call Saul. While outwardly, he looks like another cut-rate lawyer who uses tacky late-night commercials to sell his services, he’s actually a pretty clever attorney. The brazen guy also believes himself to be above the law since he maintained connections to criminal activity even after his work with Walter White was over. Sure, he’s not exactly the most moral guy out there, but his street smarts are pretty impressive.
10. Jeff Winger on Community
On such a serious list, it’s probably time to throw a bit of humor into the mix. Participating in law enforcement is a pretty heavy task, but Jeff Winger, an ex-lawyer on Community, fell from grace when it was revealed that he didn’t have a legitimate undergrad degree. Still, when he was a practicing attorney, he defended underdogs like juvenile offenders and sex workers, and there’s something refreshing about that. Being hilarious is an added bonus.
9. Gomez Addams on The Addams Family
Far from just a member of the spooky Addams family, Gomez Addams was a working man! We’d be remiss to leave him out of this list since he’s inspiringly bad at his job as an attorney. If you’ve been thinking about law school but have absolutely no desire to do well as a lawyer, then let Mr. Addams be your guide. On The Addams Family, Addams famously bragged about putting lots of criminals behind bars as their defense attorney. On paper, that means he’s extremely terrible at his job but was he onto something? Maybe getting the bad guys in jail was his real motive all along. In any case, he’s just one of many TV lawyers who may just inspire you to hit the books.
8. Daredevil on Daredevil
If you’re a lawyer and moonlight as a superhero called Daredevil, there is absolutely no way you’re not making this list. Known as Matt Murdock in the courtroom, this member of the Marvel universe, played by Charlie Cox, is doubly heroic. And if being a lawyer by day and a vigilante hero by night wasn’t impressive enough, he’s also totally blind. He’s a vulnerable and often sensitive guy, which is a nice departure from a lot of TV lawyers we see on screen.
7. Marcia Clark on The People v. O.J. Simpson
One series that made a lot of waves recently was The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which is unsurprising, since the grisly murders we all know Simpson (allegedly) committed are endlessly fascinating. How the case played out in real life has captivated audiences since it went down decades ago and the show followed suit. Series standout Marcia Clark, played by the always incredible Sarah Paulson, was every bit as nuanced on the show as the real-life lead prosecutor was during the trial.
In life and on screen, Clark is a strong figure whose story serves as a reminder of how powerful women are treated in male-dominated industries. Continually told to soften her image, Clark moves back and forth between her true and contrived selves while still working her ass of in a way that most professional women can totally relate to.
6. Jack McCoy on Law & order
Attorney Jack McCoy is the original Law & Order standout. Portrayed by Sam Waterson, this character had an incredibly long run on the series from 1994 to 2010. He’s remembered as being a ruthless and totally unconventional attorney. On the show, McCoy was held in contempt of court a staggering 80 times, but his mission wasn’t corruption. He just wanted to see justice done.
5. Ally McBeal on Ally McBeal
Does it get much better than Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal on the eponymous legal comedy-drama? Nope, not really. What sets McBeal apart as an amazing TV lawyer is that she was emblematic of a struggle millions of women know all too well — balancing work and home life. Through Flockhart’s character, the show explored what it means to be a working woman with a fulfilling personal life. Just like Marcia Clark, Ally McBeal was just relatable AF.
4. Ling Woo on Ally McBeal
Another Ally McBeal favorite is Ling Woo, played by Lucy Liu. While she’s great on the show, it’s the significance of her character that makes her an inspiring TV lawyer. Ling Woo attracted a lot of attention when the show was airing because she was a strong Asian-American figure in a position of power. That said, there was a ton of dialogue about how Woo was presented as cold and derisive while McBeal was gentler and more agreeable. The controversy was tempered by the fact that McBeal idolized Woo throughout the series because she was ruthless and brilliant, making her a pretty badass attorney.
3. Harvey Specter on Suits
As far as legal dramas go, Suits is one of the most fascinating (and let’s be real, one of the sexiest). Speaking of sexy, head guy in charge Harvey Specter is pretty easy on the eyes. Played by Gabriel Macht, Specter is the picture of cool. He’s a super successful Harvard grad and senior partner at a prestigious New York City firm Pearson Hardman. His courtroom methods are a bit unorthodox, but when winning is your number-one priority, you’ll do just about anything to reach the top. It’s something Specter does well.
2. Jessica Pearson on Suits
Another Suits heavy-hitter, partner Jessica Pearson (played by Gina Torres), at Pearson Hardman is the definition of a boss. In fact, without Pearson, who knows where Harvey Specter would’ve ended up? She did, after all, pay for his Harvard Law tuition because she’s rich and powerful enough to do that. This taker-of-no-crap is often seen as “overbearing” by her male partners and colleagues, but she knows that they’re just afraid of a woman with this much power. She revels in it and isn’t afraid of a little ruthlessness when she wants to come out on top (which is always).
1. Michael Ross on Suits
As you can see, Suits is just chock-full of awesome TV lawyers, but there’s one attorney on the show who stands out… mostly because he never went to law school. Super genius Michael Ross, played by Patrick Adams, didn’t even finish undergrad after getting expelled for selling exam answers to the Dean’s daughter.
From there, Ross passed the Bar Exam on a dare and started taking the LSAT for other people who wanted top scores, selling his test-taking services to pay for his grandmother’s nursing home bills. The fact that he was able to climb the ranks at Pearson Hardman is next-level slick and even though we don’t condone lying your way to the top, there’s something pretty amazing about a young lawyer outsmarting some of the best in the business.