On-Screen Lawyers Who Never Lose Their Appeal

Posted on April 23, 2018 Under All 0 Comments

By Grace Morahan

Unlike my sister, I never had a particularly strong conviction to become any one thing. Most people labelled this a lack of direction, but I preferred to dress it up as an ‘intense fascination with the present.’ I was always the kid who changed who they thought they were and what they wanted to be based on their interests at any given time. In Year One, I was destined to become a teacher (having loved mine so much). In Year Three, it was an explorer (I was reading The Famous Five). And then, in Year Nine, it was a doctor (watching Grey’s Anatomy). So, I was lucky that by the time UAC was due, my obsession with Suits was in full swing. Since then, my love affair with over-scripted legal dramas has only expanded. Here is a countdown of my favourite big-screen solicitors.


 7. Louis Litt – Suits

It was not Harvey Spector with his intense stare and quick-witted tongue, nor the striking intelligence of Jessica Pearson, but the humble Louis Litt who really took my fancy in the beloved Suits. How could one not love a man who indulges his passion for mudding, dance, and cats on a regular basis? Watching Louis Litt develop is akin to watching a child realise the value of empathy and selflessness; he’s stubborn, egocentric and seemingly sadistic, which makes his altruistic awakening at the end of Season Six only that much more heartbreaking.

Memorable Quote: ‘Punctuality is the best aphrodisiac.’


6. Jackie Chiles – Seinfeld

A penchant for description using multi-syllabic words is one of the defining attributes of the quick-tongued Jackie Chiles (see: ‘vesuvius, salacious, outrageous’). As a caricature of Johnnie Cochran (famously O.J. Simpson’s counsel), Jackie is a showman, a hustler, and a gambler. Despite his best efforts at representation being thwarted time and time again by Kramer and Jerry, his entertainment value is never lost.

Memorable Quote:Your face is my case.’


5. Elle Woods – Legally Blonde

Dripping in hot pink, sparkles, and Valentino, it is hard to deny that Elle Woods is one of the most influential pop-culture lawyers of all time. Unapologetically pink, strong-willed and outspoken, Elle attacks law (and life) problems alike with a certain creativity that is not only endearing, but impressive.

Memorable Quote: ‘I feel comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life. (*wolf whistle*) I object!’


4. Clair Huxtable – The Cosby Show

Intelligent, compassionate and assertive, feminist icon Clair Huxtable is to be remembered as one of the first mainstream depictions of African American women challenging the prevailing stereotype of single-mothers, broken families, and economic hardship. Clair changed the conversation around wealth and race, demonstrating that economic advancement was not exclusive to white America.

Memorable Quote: ‘I am a woman, who is black, but I am also a human being, who is an attorney, a mother of five, and somewhat knowledgeable about history, which is why I thought I was invited here. But when you look at me, this is all you see in me, a black woman?


3. Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird

It was perched in the back row of my Year Eight English class that my love for Atticus Finch began. He was the articulation of what a just lawyer should be: A defender of truth and empathy, over prejudice and hate. It was Atticus who imparted on me the idealism of what the legal system should be (an ideal that won me a few brownie points in LJE). Most importantly, and perhaps most tragically, he taught me that sometimes you can’t always win, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

Photo of Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck, Pre-Atticus

Memorable Quote: But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution gentlemen, is a court.’


2. Jocelyn Knight – Broadchurch

Quick-witted, self-assured and calm in the face of cruel provocation, Jocelyn Knight controls the courtroom with a composure unlike any other. Her character is multifaceted in a beautifully simple way – her backstory hinted at but never revealed, her morals paradoxical but assured. Yet what is for me most striking aspect of her character is her refreshing rejection of sexualised advocacy, a trait Hollywood producers unrepentantly impose on their female characters.

Memorable Quote: ‘Knowing truth and getting justice isn’t the same thing.


1. Denis Denuto – The Castle

Twelve o’clock rolls around and the Criminal Law take-home is released and ready to be attacked by second-year students waiting anxiously in study rooms across ANU. I grapple through the knowledge acquired from the two lectures I’ve attended this semester, and instead of remembering anything even slightly relevant, the voice of Denis Denuto circles in my head: ‘In summing up, it’s the Constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe and aah no that’s it, it’s the vibe. I rest my case.’ An Australian icon of justice, and of struggling law students everywhere, Denis Denuto will forever remain my favourite silver-screen legal character.

Memorable Quote: The vibe.’


It was from Atticus that I learnt legal morality, from Jocelyn my courtroom manner, and from Denis Denuto the power of the little guy.  So, when the going gets tough, and exams are but a few sleeps away, I desperately await each study break to indulge myself in the lives of big-screen lawyers who, despite their Hollywood glamorization, feel more relatable than any top-tier solicitor could ever be.