For obvious reasons, lawyers and legality are common topics in popular television dramas and comedies; with excitement, mystery, and a touch of reality, shows featuring aspects of the legal process are undoubtedly compelling. When it comes to lawyer representation, there are few shows which do the profession justice, but those that do are praised for their accuracy as well as their ability to hold their audiences captive.
Heralded for its drama and thrill, Damages manages to command its audience’s attention through tension and intrigue. With two women serving as the primary protagonists, the show does not shy away from danger and controversy. From an accomplished and maddened partner at an esteemed law firm to a fresh graduate with a dark and confusing past, Damage may not be popular simply for its representation of the legal profession, but it certainly manages to twist the typical tales and present something altogether new and exciting in the genre.
Perhaps lesser known but still radically influential is The Defenders, a show that aired over the course of five years in the 1960s. Featuring an unconventional arrangement of a father and son law firm that dealt primarily in controversial cases other law practitioners would typically avoid, The Defenders paved new ground for law in fiction and reality. With its renowned reception, The Defenders has been cited as the inspiration for some great law shows of the modern age like Mad Men, and though the show is a bit more archaic than others on this list, its impact and brazenness are not to be ignored.
Law & Order
Since 1990, Law & Order has persisted at the top of the rankings for average fans and law practitioners alike. While there are guaranteed fallacies when it comes to dramatized versions of reality, Law & Order has managed to capture relevant social matters at the time of its airing as well as the attention of its viewers. With subseries like “Special Victims Unit,” “Criminal Intent,” and “True Crime” that have earned accolades, Law & Order continues to represent the issues of its age while painting a relatively clear and fair image of the legal system.
Though this show might not have aged well enough to appeal to a contemporary audience, the influence L.A. Law had on television remains astounding. It wasn’t the first show to feature law practitioners, not by a long shot, but its creation and strong reception arguably led to the production of many other legal series following its release. The show took a risk in altering the traditional structure, switching from a “case-of-the-week” format to feature ongoing arcs that spanned across multiple episodes, even delving into some trivialities of legal practices that might be omitted in other shows.