6 Most Badass Lawyers Ever

by Joshua Auriemma on June 5, 2009

atticus-finch6. Atticus Finch

“No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession than the hero of Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.”  97 Mich. L. Rev. 1339.  This guy isn’t even real and there are 19 law review articles entirely about him.

Atticus raised two children alone while teaching them to be open minded and judicious to all.  Along the same vein, many scholars suggest that Atticus was simply the true advocate, and took Tom Robinson’s case not because of any tremendous moral fortitude, but because he was appointed Mr. Robinson’s representative.  Even if that’s true, the guy stood up to a mob to protect a black man in the 1930′s!  It doesn’t really get much more badass than that.

keanu-reeves-kevin-lomax5. Kevin Lomax

* Spoiler Alert *

If you see this guy at opposing counsel’s table, run the hell away. Oh wait, you can’t, because he’s the son of the devil!  Not only can you not hide from this guy in hell, but you can’t beat him in court, either.  Seriously, you can’t — he’s never lost a case by virtue of being the devils son.  Apparently the game is rigged.

This guy is so ridiculously intense that he neglects his bangin’ wife, played by Charlize Theron, because he’s spending his time representing child molesters.  When his senior partner suggests that his wife has gone bat-shit crazy and he should take care of her, Mr. Lomax responds with:

You know what scares me? I quit the case, she gets better… and I hate her for it. I don’t want to resent her, John, I’ve got a winner here. I’ve got to nail this fucker down, do it fast, and put it behind me. Just get it done. Then – then. – put all my energy into her.

Oh yeah, she dies from side effects of being literally seduced by the devil.  Hard. Freaking. Core.

ray-beckerman-riaa-attorney

4. Ray Beckerman

So you thought this list was going to be all fictional characters, huh?  Nope!  Attorney Beckerman runs a website called Recording Industry vs The People.  There are rumors that the RIAA has pictures of him attached to dart boards in their game room, which essentially makes him The Hero of the Internet.

When he’s not litigating cases against the RIAA, he’s on Twitter.  He’s following 2500 people and somehow mysteriously manages to catch all of their tweets.  I’m pretty sure he’s a robot assembled in upstate New York with a direct feed into the internet.

RIAA beware.

judge-dredd-kickass-stalone3. Judge Dredd

I could probably just leave this section with the picture and mark it as obvious, but I have all this white space to fill up.

The tagline of this movie according to IMDB is: “One man is Judge, Jury, AND Executioner.”  Being that there aren’t really jobs resembling attorneys in this mythos, Judge Dredd is the closest thing.  It’s a good thing that we don’t get this kind of hardware or there would be even more attorneys running around.

There are rumors that Govenator Schwarzenegger was offered the role but turned it down because in the original script, the majority of the scenes called for Judge Joe Dredd to wear his helmet.  Apparently in the comic book version, Judge Dredd removes his helmet only very rarely.  That didn’t stop Stalone’s Judge Dredd, however, who is so badass that he can take his helmet off whenever he damn well pleases.

matlock-white-suit2. Benjamin L. Matlock

Like most attorneys, Matlock doesn’t know a lick of evidence.  Well, okay, it’s admittedly unclear whether he knows the rules of evidence or he just doesn’t care about them.  You can’t really get mad at him though because he looks and acts like your senile grandpa.

Unlike most attorneys, however, his crazy outbursts, lack of preparation, and disregard for the court has won him an almost flawless trial record.  No one ever calls Matlock by his first name either — not even judges — and that’s pretty cool.

Ah screw it.  I’m going to say it: Matlock is basically the worst attorney ever.

my-cousin-vinny-suit1. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini

My Cousin Vinny has had an unexpected presence in my life as a law student.  We’ve watched clips in two of my classes now, and there was a showing of the movie in the auditorium last semester.  My girlfriend also cites the movie as “the reason I went to law school.”

Vincent Gambini barely graduated from law school, and is essentially the guy that flags you to start checking Facebook when he’s cold-called.  It took him a while to pass the bar exam, but the sixth time was the charm.  True to life, his cases rarely went to court, so his first trial was the murder trial of his nephew, the Karate Kid.

Like Matlock, Vinny doesn’t understand the rules of evidence, courtroom etiquette, or the law, but he manages to put on a pretty great show while ultimately procuring an acquittal.  He also wears a funny suit and also has a bangin’ girlfriend played by Marisa Tomei, which makes him pretty badass in my book.

{ 26 comments }

semanticdrifter June 5, 2009 at 9:49 pm

What, no Matt Murdock? If dressing up like the devil and beating up ninjas isn’t bad-ass enough for you, what about the fact that he does it blind? True, Ben Affleck didn’t do the movie version too many favors but in the comics he is one hardcore defense attorney.

Joshua Auriemma June 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Good call: I left off some to encourage debate. You may also notice that Perry Mason is mysteriously absent :p

Joshua Auriemma June 5, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Though that’s not to imply that I actually thought of the Daredevil. Definite nerd points.

goldenrail June 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Hey, where’s the William Kunstler!? (Or his Boondocks’ version from the Trial of R.Kelly?)
But mad props for including Ray Beckerman.

Joshua Auriemma June 5, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Oh, good call. I’ll have to make a list of the 6 Real Most Badass Attorneys at some point.

Ray Beckerman June 5, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Well for the nonfictional most badass attorneys, I think of (a) Clarence Darrow for the first half of the 20th century, and (b) Louis Nizer in the second half.

Honorable mentions would be Harry Gair, John Edwards (yes that John Edwards), and Gerry Spence.

The most badass attorneys I worked with were Mr. Nizer, along with Jay Gordon and Neil Pollio.

Actually Ray Beckerman is a robot assembled in Upstate New York. But NewYorkCountryLawyer is real.

Ray Beckerman June 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Oh and by the way I work on lots of stuff other than fighting the RIAA, and I was around long before the RIAA’s litigation campaign was even a twinkle in its mother’s eye.

Joshua Auriemma June 5, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Maybe so, but the internet loves you for taking a stand against the RIAA.

Ray Beckerman June 6, 2009 at 6:32 am

By the way “My Cousin Vinny” is the most realistic courtroom drama — on film or television — which I have ever seen.

It is rare that the filmmakers bother to do their research to get their facts right about what actually does go on in a courtroom; this one did.

Joshua Auriemma June 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

According to Kim below, the director has a legal education! That could explain some things.

Kim June 6, 2009 at 8:10 am

Interesting tidbit– the director of My Cousin Vinny actually has a legal education, hence why the movie was so accurate.

Further interesting tidbit– plenty of people call Matlock by his first name (which you would know if you watched it as much as I do… though I give you that all judges call him “Mr. Matlock”.) Additional fact– he’s got a $100,000 retainer fee.

I won’t even get into how I feel about you leaving out Perry Mason.

Joshua Auriemma June 6, 2009 at 9:10 am

That’s my sixty twenty-four year old girlfriend, for you!

Ray Beckerman June 6, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Thanks, Kim. I did not know that. That’s amazing.

For years I’ve been telling people that it’s ironic, that all these films and tv shows which purport to be realistic about law practice are usually quite unrealistic about what actually goes on in litigation [one exception: the series with Mariel Hemingway as a domestic relations lawyer], while a movie which purported to be nothing more than a comedy — “My Cousin Vinny” — actually got it right.

Now, thanks to you, I know why.

But tell me, don’t you agree with me that Vinny wasn’t really a “badass” lawyer, he won the case despite poor lawyering on his behalf only because he had a great expert witness.

The only thing he did right was to call that witness to the stand, and basically let her take over.

Kim June 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm

It took me so long to respond to this because I’m really of two minds. Part of me absolutely loves Vincent LaGuardia Gambini and won’t even acknowledge anything even remotely critical of him, and the other part of me does think that maybe he was more lucky than good (after all, he never would have won without his girlfriend.)

However, after spending most of the day and night thinking about it, I’ve decided that I take a cop-out position– he was lucky and at least a little good, though maybe not totally badass.

I think Vinny has two qualities that, while not totally indicative of a badass lawyer, are certainly part of the title.

Firstly, he can bullshit convincingly (well, ok, maybe not SO convincingly) until he gets it together and figures out what he’s actually supposed to be doing/saying (or until Mona tells him about disclosure or gets him a suit made out of cloth.)

While I agree that this is not at all in any way a substitute for a thoroughly prepared and researched case, there are times when you don’t really have that kind of time. A recent situation in which I observed a woman hiring and meeting with her lawyer for the first time literally within a half an hour before her hearing comes to mind. In that limited amount of time, sometimes it’s not possible to prepare totally (fortunately, this was a pretty simple hearing and everything worked out.) In those kinds of situations, I think it’s really important to be able to think quickly on your feet, and sometimes, I think being able to convincingly stall for time is a big part of that. (However, really, Vinny had ample time to prepare his case, so only a limited amount of bullshitting should have been necessary.)

More importantly, Vinny really honestly believed in his clients’ innocence. I realize that it’s not always the case, but at least being able to earnestly argue that your clients didn’t shoot the clerk (or etc.) is something that I feel is probably a pretty substantial part of being a decent lawyer (I recently heard someone say that if you don’t at least pretend to act like you like your client, the jury isn’t going to like your client either, and I would imagine the same thing goes with your client’s innocence– if you can’t get up there and at least act like you think your clients are innocent, the jury isn’t going to believe they are either.)

So, to conclude, yes, I kind of agree. One of the only things Vinny did right was put his girlfriend up on the stand. But I think he also had a lot of heart and genuinely believed in the innocence of his clients (and eventually communicated that to the jury, albeit a in a slightly… unorthodox way). Vinny never gave up on his clients, and while that may not make him a badass lawyer, it at least gives him a good place to start.

And maybe after he’s been practicing for longer than six weeks, maybe then he’ll be a badass lawyer.

(And yes, I realize I probably am just looking for ways to ignore the fact that Stan and Bill probably have a great case for a malpractice suit… but I still have moments when I’d love to just stand up and say “everything that guy just said is bullshit… thank you,” so I’ll probably always have a soft spot where Vinny is concerned.)

Kim June 7, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Er… make that “would have had a great case for a malpractice suit had they been convicted.” It’s been a long day.

Ray Beckerman June 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Well I just don’t agree with you, Kim.

1. Being able to bullshit convincingly is not part of the equation; a courtroom is a small place, and dishonesty is very loud.

2. Yes being able to ‘think on one’s feet’ is important; I didn’t feel that Vinny actually demonstrated a lot of that.

3. ‘Believing in one’s client’s innocence’ and ‘liking your client’ are very nice, but they don’t help you win cases. Good lawyering helps you win cases.

4. Vinny wasn’t even a lawyer; he was pretending to be a lawyer. He could be jailed for what he did, and would certainly be denied bar admission.

5. We all enjoyed the movie; but I don’t think you would want Vinny for your lawyer.

I rest my case.

Kim June 11, 2009 at 7:24 pm

@Ray Beckerman, well, I totally respect your opinion– that’s what makes the world a great place, the fact that we can all have different opinions. I have mine and you can have yours and all is right with the world.

Other than that, I think that’s all you’re going to get out of me today– I spent way too many hours reading about gruesome injuries. Any further comments are going to come out as grunts at this point, I’m afraid. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go try not to think about infected kneecaps and fractured eye sockets.

Lynne J. DeVenny June 6, 2009 at 6:47 pm

You can’t go wrong with the Vin-Man. My Cousin Vinny gets this gal published in the ABA Journal…sort of :)

http://www.practicalparalegalism.com/2009/04/i-have-been-published-in-aba-journal.html?showComment=1239557580000

Tayne Gheel June 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm

While perhaps he doesn’t belong among the exclusive top six, I think you have to include in any top 10 or 15 list. The guy’s whole demeanor just screams “badass.”

Joshua Auriemma June 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Hah, you’re right. He is my favorite Practice character.

Tayne Gheel June 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Whoops, screwed up on my html code. What I meant to say was, Eugene Young belongs on any list of badass attorneys. Look at the pic. I’m just sayin’.

sir pinks June 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I heart Matlock. He’s the reason why I went to law school.

Speaking of badass attys, what about Patty Hews from Damages. She’s pure bad.

Joshua Auriemma June 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Hmm, not familiar with Damages, actually. I’ll have to check it out.

Kevin F. Danyi, JD, LLM August 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I can never forget Al Pacino when he went absolutely nuts in open court (why can’t I remember the movie? – probably because it’s midnight) and, in response to the judge telling him that he was “out of order”, responded “You’re out of order, this trial is out of order . . . ”

We can’t forget Marcus Tullius Cicero. In those days, up-and-coming Romans of the senatorial class were expected to be lawyers AND military men. Cicero was no soldier, but he did battle with Hortensius until the latter retired (their fees were astronomical, although they weren’t allowed to charge fees). He defended -how’s this for a client – the entire citizenry of Sicily! Cicero’s courtroom (even if outdoors) oratory, not to mention some rather indiscreet things he wrote, were enough to have his career ended by Marc Antony’s hit squad whacking his head off with a gladius.

I also agree with Mr. Beckerman. After 25 years of practice, there’s no substitute for good research, preparation, a client who has a real case, a client who isn’t lying, and, as Gaius Julius Caesar (another good lawyer, by the way) would have said, simple “luck”.

Ray Beckerman January 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Now that Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch is being honored with a postage stamp, can Vincent Gambini be far behind?

Getting back to discussion of Vinny’s legal attributes, I should have mentioned:

1. he was able to “learn on his feet”; that can be very important; he learned from his adversary, and he learned from his fiancee; and

2. he was able to accept sound advice from his fiancee who gave him nothing but sound advice.

Without his legal team of Marisa Tomei, maybe his goose would have been cooked… but with her, he did a good job.

Marc February 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm

The Al Pacino “out of order” quote is Scent of a Woman. And Perry Mason is rightfully absent. He was a useless lawyer. He won all his cases only from the actions of his private investigator, and not because of any lawlerly actions, short of asking the obvious questions once his investigator gives him the missing information. Without Paul Drake, Perry would have lost a lot more. And it helped that he only ever defended the innocent. What lawyer can claim that feat?

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: