The legal profession has always provided a rich subject area for the dramatic arts. Lawyers on screen, as in real life, come in various forms: as heroes, villains and every variation that lies in between the two. The team at By Lawyers is sharing some of their favourites.
AMC, Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mocking Bird -1962
Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Harper Lee’s endearing and determined single father and small town lawyer Atticus Finch is still so loved and memorable, that forty-five years after the film’s premier the American Film institute named Atticus Finch the greatest American movie character of all time. We love Atticus for standing for justice in the face of reprehensible intolerance. IMDB
Miles Massey – Intolerable Cruelty -2003
George Clooney uses his considerable smooth charm to full effect as the jaded and skilfully manipulative divorce lawyer in this classic Cohen Brothers comedy. He meets his match in the equally cynical and sophisticated serial divorcee Marilyn Rexroth played by Catharine Zeta Jones. The two wind up happy in love when they realise the futility in pursuing money at the expense of human connection – or do they? IMDB
Miles Massey: So you propose, that in spite of demonstrable infidelity on your part, your unoffending wife should be tossed out on her ear.
Rex (Mile’s Client): Is it possible?
Miles Massey: It’s a challenge.
Rudy Bailor and Deck Shiffet – John Grisham’s the Rainmaker – 1997
Matt Damon and Danny DeVito make an excellent, and ultimately triumphant, underdog team in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation. We like the way the film balances the earnest dedication of newly minted lawyer Rudy (Damon) with the street smarts of paralegal Deck (DeVito) who has failed the bar six times and teaches Rudy some of the more unpleasant realities of the profession such as ambulance chasing. IMDB
Rudy Baylor: What’s wrong with ethics?
Deck Shiffler: Nothing… I guess.
Lawrence Hammill – The Castle – 1997
In this classic feel good satire Lawrence Hammill, played by Charles (Bud) Tingwell, is a retired constitutional lawyer who represents the Kerrigan’s pro-bono and wins them the right to keep their much-treasured family home. We think that Hammill’s humility and respect for the feelings and vales of his client, Daryl Kerrigan, are one of most charming aspects of the film. IMDB
Memorable Quotes (of which there are so many):
Federal Court Judge: And what Law are you basing this argument on?
Darryl Kerrigan: The Law of bloody common sense!
Janet King – Crownies and Janet King -2014 – ABC
We love Janet King, played by Marta Dusseldorp, because the show and character manage to break new ground, which is a difficult feat to achieve in a subject area that is rife with tropes. While Janet is a tough and accomplished Crown prosecutor she doesn’t fall into the typical ‘strong female lawyer’ stereotype, instead she feels real, she is equal parts tender and steely. Throughout the series Janet makes many compromises to protect her partner and children and deals with the horrors of her job without being dethatched. IMDB
Amanda and Adam Bonner – Adam’s Rib – 1949
Legends of Hollywood’s golden age Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play married lawyers who come to oppose each other in court in an attempted murder case with uproarious consequences. Amanda (Hepburn) is defending a wife who fired a gun at her husband after catching him having an affair. Adam (Tracy) is assigned to prosecute the case. As tensions rise the case takes its toll on their marriage, but the pair ultimately reunite. It is wonderful to see two greats who had a remarkable off screen romance that lasted 27 years bring such humour and warmth to their roles. IMDB
Kip Lurie: Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called in-breeding; from this comes idiot children… and other lawyers.
Saul Goodman – Breaking Bad and Better call Saul – 2008
James ‘Jimmy’ Morgan McGill aka Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, is the ultimate former conman turned unscrupulous ‘criminal’ lawyer. While Saul initially appears as tacky, flamboyant and cheap he is actually a very skilled lawyer who has no problem breaking the law, exploiting loopholes and using suspect but brilliant schemes to ensure the best outcomes for his clients. Saul serves as the lawyer for Jessie Pinkman and drug kingpin Walter White and while he manages to get them out of many difficult situations over the course of the series their problems ultimately end up overwhelming Saul. Saul’s reluctance to be involved in cases with violence and murder and his witty quips make him a loveable shark and which has earned him his very own Spin off show. IMDB
Saul: If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it.
Sydney Carter – Charles Dickens’ A tale of two cities (various film and TV adaptations)
Cleaver Greene – Rake (Played by Richard Roxburg) – 2010
Paul Begler -Anatomy of a Murder (Played by James Stewart) – 1959
Vinny Gambini – My Cousin Vinny (Played by Joe Pesci) – 1992
Tom Hagen – The Godfather Part I and II (Played by Robert Duvall) – 1972 and 1974