Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Why Matthew McConaughey Is a Great Lawyer

Matthew McConaugheyNo actor in Hollywood is hotter than Matthew McConaughey, star of the blockbuster movie Interstellar.

Critics are swooning over “The McConaissance.” He won an Oscar for his work in Dallas Buyers Club and raves for his HBO series True Detective. Time Magazine even named him one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

But for my money some of his most memorable moments came in a trio of movies – Amistad, A Time to Kill and The Lincoln Lawyer. In all three films, he played an attorney.

His characters were complicated and shaded. They had good and bad qualities. They were like people we know. They are like ourselves.

A Time To Kill (1996)

Summary: Brash young lawyer Jake Brigance defends a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his young daughter in a small Mississippi town. The trial ignites racial tensions. Brigance is shot at. His house is bombed. A cross is burned on his front lawn. His beloved dog is nearly killed. Against all odds, he wins an acquittal for his client.

Say what? Brigance at first refuses the assistance of an idealistic law student who comes down from Massachusetts to help on the case. He relents when he realizes the student is actually Sandra Bullock.

Legal ease. In closing arguments, Brigance asks the jurors to close their eyes as he tells them a emotionally compelling story that wins the case.

Traits of excellence: Loyalty, courage, persistence

Amistad (1997)

Summary: In 1841, attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin argues before the Supreme Court on behalf of Africans captured by the U.S. military after they revolted and took control of the slave ship Amistad.

Say what? Former President John Quincy Adams comes out of retirement to help argue the case. Baldwin is delighted to discover Adams is actually Anthony Hopkins.

Legal ease: A notebook Baldwin finds aboard the Amistad becomes a key piece of evidence at trial.

Traits of excellence: Empathy, diligence, trial preparation

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Summary: Small-time attorney Mickey Haller, who practices out of the back of his chauffeured Lincoln Town Car, takes on the high-profile defense of a playboy accused of murder.

Say what? Haller’s ex-wife is a prosecutor who berates him for representing guilty sleazeballs. He forgives her because she is actually Marisa Tomei.

Legal ease. Key plot twists are woven around attorney-client confidentiality, hearsay evidence and double jeopardy.

Traits of excellence: Coolness under pressure, license plate that says NT GUILTY, biker buddies.

I propose that all three of these films should be required viewing for first year law students.

What other lawyer films are on your must-see list? Send us your comments.

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man has practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at 919-619-2441 or

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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