Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Top 25 TV Law Shows of All-Time

top 25Fictional lawyers on TV are making life tough on those of us who do it for real.

They make it look so easy. They win million-dollar verdicts in their sleep. They prosecute complex crimes in half an hour.

And they also create wildly unrealistic expectations for clients, jurors – and perhaps even ourselves.

“Jurors now expect a level of evidentiary proof that doesn’t often exist,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a writer-producer for Boston Legal, The Practice and the upcoming series Goliath.  “Sometimes even attorneys believe the fictions are true.”

Shapiro, a former federal prosecutor, was speaking at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in August in San Francisco on what he termed the “CSI effect,” where the line between fact and fiction is blurred.

“We take some license,” said David E. Kelley, a Boston University law graduate and creative mind behind Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, The Practice and other groundbreaking television series, who was also on the ABA panel. “We definitely took some liberties with the rules of professional conduct but I don’t think we blazed the trail. We’ve heard the same thing about closing arguments. Litigation is a grinding, methodical process, and we put it through the time-warp machine to tell our stories.”

Why are law shows so popular?

“Americans from the beginning of our culture have loved the law because it relates to all aspects of life, and there’s a wish fulfillment that law can help make society better,” said Shapiro. “None of the law reviews or law libraries in the country have done what [David Kelley] accomplished with just one of those series.”

Top 25 Lawyer Shows

Here are the best all-time lawyer series, as ranked by the ABA Journal:

1. L.A. Law

2. Perry Mason

3. The Defenders

4. Law & Order

5. The Practice

6. Ally McBeal

7. Rumpole of the Bailey

8. Boston Legal

9. Damages

10. Night Court

11. Judging Amy

12. Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law

13. JAG

14. Shark

15. Civil Wars

16. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

17. Law & Order – Criminal Intent

18. Murder One

19. Matlock

20. Reasonable Doubts

21. Law & Order SVO

22. Judd For the Defense

23. The Paper Chase

24. Petrocelli

25. Eli Stone



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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