troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Amoral Attorney
To maintain a perfect win record, everyone must be found guilty!

"I have knowingly defended a number of guilty men. But the guilty never get away unscathed. My fees are sufficient punishment for anyone."
F. Lee Bailey

Lawyers other than the main characters are typically opportunistic, unlikeable, arrogant, cynical, slimy characters, especially the corporate ones. Lawyers come in various degrees of oiliness, but the worst defense attorneys will actually seem to know their client is guilty and act as though they just love seeing guilty people go free, and the worst prosecutors will ruthlessly hound defendants even when they personally acquire knowledge of their complete innocence. If the main character is poor and/or not that intelligent, the Amoral Attorney is the Goliath in the David v. Goliath scenario.

In reality, attorneys are simply acting and arguing on behalf of their clients, and are supposed to be amoral (not immoral!) in their advocacy. An attorney is a true Punch Clock Villain or Punch Clock Hero depending on who hires them. In fact, in some jurisdictions, like the UK, advocates have no choice who they defend, socially: if approached, it's considered extremely unprofessional to not work for that client—what barristers call the "taxi rank" system. Criminal defense attorneys, in particular, are often very kind-hearted, civic-minded people who genuinely believe that even the worst members of society deserve a fair shake—even if they understand perfectly well that their client is almost certainly guilty. Ideally, a strong defense of their client serves as an important check against false accusations, corrupt cops, hanging judges, kangaroo courts, and other forms of fast-but-unfair tyranny. Thus the defense attorney's arguments slow down the legal procedure for the sake of long-term accuracy. What an attorney should not be is unethical. In trope terms, a good lawyer is (ideally) Lawful Neutral in practice and (dare we say it) Lawful Good in intention. In the wonderful world of fiction, however, cheat-to-win is the name of the game. After all, it's not much of a "drama" if the opponent isn't villainous and unlikable, is it?

Another thing that people often forget is that for all the attention crimes get, they are actually a minority of the cases that appear before the courts. The vast majority of cases are civil cases, where in most instances everyone has something a bit off about them. This is particularly true in business-related cases, but except in family court (where very often someone is beating someone in their household up), either side could be seen as slimy or at least culpable in most suits.

If desired, they can be made more sympathetic for audiences by having them do their jobs through gritted teeth for their loathsome clients as they quietly and firmly tell them to sit down and behave themselves. Furthermore, if they win, the lawyers in question can treat their clients coldly afterward by refusing to accept their thanks and responding that they will send them their very expensive bill for services rendered, since they were Only in It for the Money. A reasonably friendly social meeting between the prosecuting and defending lawyers after work can show that there are no hard feelings for each other doing their jobs as officers of the court.

This trope is also usually averted if the lawyer in question is working for a cause such as environmentalism, legal aid, civil rights, or against corruption, which are often portrayed heroically. Often if the main character is a lawyer, they will be forced to choose between a high paying but amoral position with a business law firm, or a low paying job for an environmental or civil rights organization.

It is worth pointing out that an Amoral Attorney is competent. They do not bring silly frivolous lawsuits - that's the Ambulance Chaser. Although often unethical, this villain isn't necessarily corrupt. Being Rules Lawyers, they don't necessarily break the law to win, they merely work around and within the law's limitations with the assumption that their opposition will be doing the same thing in their own favor (or at least that the opposition would be stupid not to and thus would deserve a sound thrashing).

See also Evil Lawyer Joke, which originated by how widespread this kind of attorney is in fiction. See also Good Lawyers, Good Clients.

No Real Life examples please. We don't want to get sued.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. One of these attacks Togusa on the stand after he shoots a rich cyborg kid, trying to make it seem like it was a cold blooded attack on the cyborg due to Togusa's supposed technophobic beliefs, instead of the fact that the cyborg was in the process of murdering his ex-girlfriend. When Section 9 discover that the lawyer is linked with elements plotting against it, he and his client have a fatal road accident.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Big Five member Chikuzen Ooka (called Johnson in the dub) is actually immoral. As a lawyer, he told outright lies and used fabricated evidence to win cases. As a duelist, he tried to cheat against Jonouchi, but was caught by Noah (the apparent Big Bad of the current arc who claimed to not tolerate cheating until he did so himself) and lost.
  • Not in the original, but in the dub version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the Pro Duelist called X was also an Amoral Attorney. He didn't use any actual illegal methods, but it is hinted that he would use any legal loophole he could find.

    Comic Books 
  • This is subverted in the last chapter of The Monster Society Of Evil as Mister Mind is being tried, his lawyer, who he knows to be a slick Amoral Attorney, hears of Mister Mind's crimes and tells Mister Mind he hopes he gets the electric chair, showing Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Shark-man lawyer, Mr. Larry "Frenzy" Fischmann, in Top 10 is a prime example. When one of his clients commits suicide in police custody, all he cares about is his fee. When Gograh shows up at the Top Ten, causing the earth to shake with each footstep, Frenzy says he'll sue the department if he gets whiplash from falling down in their building. At one point, Alexei "Spaceman" Glushko makes a comment about his people not having evolved in millions of years - Frenzy takes offense and cites this as one of many common misconceptions about sharks. Spaceman wasn't talking about sharks. Fischmann is a senior partner at Metavac, Fischmann, and Goebbels, by the way. That's Eddie Goebbels, a hypnotist.
  • Averted in the Astro City story "Knock Wood": the protagonist is a defense attorney who has to defend the son of a mob boss accused of murder. Despite the air-tight case (the crime occurred in a nightclub with 59 witnesses) and concerns about mob ties, he performs his job diligently, insisting on following the system. By raising the possibility that Comic Book Tropes were involved, he introduces enough doubt in the jury to win the case. He then gets into further trouble when the defendant's father wants to recruit him...and refuses to take "no" for an answer.
  • Matt Murdock could be one of the biggest aversions of this trope ever written. In addition to moonlighting as Daredevil, Mark Waid's run casts him as a consultant for absolutely hopeless cases that nobody else will take, for instance.
    • She-Hulk: Jennifer Walters is also quite an aversion, although even she can be very underhanded and sometimes even threatening. (Being a seven-foot tall Amazon with green skin tends to help...)
    • Iron Man: Tony Stark's former lawyer Bert Hindel plays this trope entirely straight. Tony ordered Hindel, as the head of his legal department, to use the courts to stop Justin Hammer from using technology Hammer had stolen from Stark Enterprises. Hindel did such a poor job of representing Stark's interests that Tony finally fired him. Hindel would later return as the defense lawyer for Stark's Stalker with a Crush, Kathy Dare, who was facing attempted murder charges for shooting Tony. He used all sorts of sleazy legal tactics to make Stark look bad and portray Kathy as being under considerable mental stress. As a way of getting revenge on Stark, he also planned to write a juicy tell-all book with Kathy about what Tony was supposedly really like. Fortunately, Hindel didn't do any better than when he was the head of Stark's legal team, and ended up getting Kathy committed to a sanitarium.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: The classic Carl Barks story "The Golden Helmet" (and Don Rosa's sequel "The Lost Charts of Columbus") features corrupt lawyer Sylvester Sharkey working with con-man Azure Blue. Barks wrote his story shortly after he'd been through an ugly divorce with his second wife, and was presumably not a big fan of lawyers at the time.
  • In one underground comic, the marriage of "Dino-Boy" (yes, he's a human with a dinosaur body, or a dinosaur with a human head) falls apart. They both hire lawyers - who happen to be partners, and they decide to milk both spouses for all they're worth.
  • Mentioned briefly in one Birds of Prey story arc. The Twelve, a group of brothers named after the Chinese Zodiac (with Rabbit acting as their spokesman and leader), each with near Shiva level martial arts talent, are sent to defend a shipment of drugs to Gotham. The Birds of Prey engage them until Lady Blackhawk renders the whole fight meaningless by blowing up the drug shipment with her fighter jet. Having failed their mission, the Twelve surrender:
    Rabbit: We have at our disposal creatures far more ruthless and terrible than even ourselves. Lawyers.
  • In one Grendel story, a highly successful and brilliant lawyer, whose sole moral lapse is having extramarital relations, is forced to become an Amoral Attorney for Grendel's organization. Grendel goes to some pretty extreme lengths to hire him: he starts by trying to blackmail the lawyer with photos of him and his mistress. The lawyer's response is to immediately confess to his wife, refusing to be blackmailed. Then Grendel threatens to kill his wife and children. That convinces him. The lawyer's life is ruined since everyone around him, his friends and colleagues and family (who leave him), is disgusted by the lawyer defending the kind of scum that works for Grendel.
  • There is an attorney in Sin City that only appears in one panel where he tells Marv that if he doesn't sign a confession, The Mafia will kill his mother. He gets his arm broken in three places.
  • Some continuities (such as the Batman newspaper strip, and Two-Face: Year One) have Harvey Dent turn into this very, very briefly after the acid hits and before he descends into Cartoonish Supervillainy. He otherwise subverts this trope pre-acid, being one of the few decent men in the city's administration and as Two-Face, given that all of his Kangaroo Court antics are generally excuses to kill people, albeit in an environment familiar to him.
    • His origin in The New 52 has him indulging in this, violating attorney-client privilege in order to get the crime family he was family lawyer to (at the behest of Batman and Gordon) in order to get them convicted.

    Fan Works 
  • The Homestuck fanadventure Be the Sea Dweller Lowblood has an original charachter called Cherna Shapka, a Lawful Evil legislacerator. Her first priority is the law, not justice; and her second is profit. She does not see these two as conflicting interests. Her third priority is everything else. Thus she is a very sleazy person, often and openly helping criminals in ways that seem like they should be, but are not actually illegal. Troll law sure is weird.
    As a legislacerator, your job is to defend the law. Your duty is to track, arrest, and convict criminals. You perform your duty flawlessly, and you have spent much of your career with the highest arrest and conviction rates of any living legislacerator.
    You fight to defend the law at the expense of defending justice.
    And at the expense of defending morality.
  • In Ace Attorney fanfic Dirty Sympathy Klavier and Apollo are one, half the time. While they do their part to find the truth and the people actually guilty put away, they framed Daryan and Kristoph for crimes they didn't commit and manipulated the witnesses and defendants. Although this was part of a "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder to get Daryan, a Domestic Abuser and Dirty Cop and Kristoph, a Bad Boss Amoral Attorney and poisoner put away and prevent them from killing Klavier and Apollo. Which is ironic, seeing how Klavier was the first prosecutor in Ace Attorney to avert this trope.

    Film — Animated 
  • After proving that the young Linguini is the rightful heir to Gusteau's restaurant, the lawyer in Ratatouille is perfectly happy to advise his client on how to cheat the boy out of his inheritance.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in Hugh Lang, Whip's attorney, in Flight. While he quashes Whip's toxicology report with a technicality, despite the fact that he knew it was very much accurate, and casually mentions that the dead flight crew members "don't matter" (due to workers' compensation) he shows open disgust with Whip the first moment they meet regarding his behavior, and back tracks after the "don't matter" comment, saying he meant that legally, the airline is not at risk from them.
  • The senior lawyers and lawmakers in the Legally Blonde movies and novels. In the musical, one of them even gets Blood in the Water, a Villain Song explaining the Amoral Attorney POV.
  • The Erin Brockovich movie.
  • Lampshaded with an Evil Lawyer Joke in the film Blade II. Admittedly, the lawyer in question does work for vampires.
    Blade: You're human?
    Kounen: Barely. I'm a lawyer.
  • Little Sweetheart gives this as an upside that they killed Robert Burger, seeing as they don't gotta pay a public defender, clearly thinking very little of said defender, as he would have defended a bank robber and accused child murderer (he's innocent).
  • Sofie Fatale in Kill Bill was a O-Ren Ishii's lawyer, second-in-command, and best friend, which pretty much meant she was the Tokyo Yakuza's best attorney. And you really couldn't have that position unless you were okay with having blood on your hands. In fact, the Bride saw her at the original wedding chapel massacre, likely to assist O-Ren, casually talking on a cell phone as the bloodshed was happening.
  • Averted with the District Attorney Thomas Mara from Miracle on 34th Street. Though he isn't doing something that's gets him a lot of popularity, prosecuting what's either a very nice old man or a holiday icon (depending on how you view it), it's only his job and he clearly doesn't have any malice toward Kris or his lawyer. He never pulls any immoral acts to win the case, has genuine affection for his family (which the defense uses to their advantage) and the last time we see him he's rushing out of the courthouse to buy his son a gift.
    • Played painfully straight in the remake; in this version, he's truly evil, and in the pocket of the film's antagonist.
    • Very much averted with Fred Gailey in both versions, who defends Kris. In the first version, he's even willing to quit his law firm to continue doing so, planning to start one of his own for people like Kris who can't afford decent council.
  • Se7en, a movie about a Serial Killer who takes his inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins, uses a lawyer as the victim for greed. As the killer tells the detectives, "You guys must have been secretly thanking me for that one!"
    • The killer's own attorney appears at one point and appears less than thrilled to be working for this client, but does his job negotiating on behalf of his client (even using the leverage of bad PR for the police if they refuse to deal when there are more unknown victims out there).
  • The Devil's Advocate. Satan himself runs an entire corrupt legal office with global connections, composed of immoral humans and his own demons. An explicit example is the protagonist, Kevin Lomax: while he does retains some moral qualms against defending a pedophile in the beginning of the movie, he more or less completely eschews them and becomes this trope.
  • Averted in Legal Eagles, which is more or less a movie about defense attorneys. The only lawyer who's portrayed negatively is a prosecutor, and he's just a jerk, not evil.
  • Changing Lanes stars Ben Affleck as a high-powered estate attorney, but he's not amoral. His bosses, on the other hand, epitomize this trope.
  • In Illegal (1955), Edward G. Robinson plays Victor Scott, a district attorney who is disgraced when his tenacious prosecuting sends an innocent man (a young DeForest Kelley!) to the electric chair. Scott becomes a criminal defense attorney — and a damn good one — but unwittingly becomes tangled up with the affairs of a local mobster. Though Robinson gets away with some antics that'd never fly in a real courtroom, the film nonetheless does a fantastic job explaining the very real dilemmas presented by criminal defense.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Neal Page (Steve Martin) tries to bribe a man to get into his cab. The man finally says that he will give it for $50. But when Neal is about to give him the money, he says a man who will pay $50 for a cab would certainly pay $75.
    Neal: All right. $75. You're a thief!
    New York Lawyer: Close, I'm an attorney.
  • Gangster Chu Tao's Lawyer from Police Story, but don't worry, Jackie Chan beats up the lawyer and the criminal he defends at the end of the film
  • In Primal Fear (1996), Martin Vail (Richard Gere) beautifully deconstructs this trope.
    • On the cynical hand, he knows that guilty people often have loads of money to spend on expensive legal aid.
      Martin Vail: First thing that I ask a new client is "Have you been saving up for a rainy day? Guess what? It's raining."
    • On the idealistic hand, he believes in the system and its ability to protect the innocent from wrongful punishment.
      Martin Vail: I believe in the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because I choose to believe in the basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things.
    • And on the realistic hand, the fact that the system is designed to place the protection of the innocent over the punishment of the guilty means that, inevitably, more than a few will get off scott free - Aaron Stampler is only able to get away with his insanity plea with Vail's assistance. A grisly multiple murderer thus ducks the needle.
      Aaron Stampler: Don't be like that, Marty. We did it, man. We fucking did it. We're a great team, you and me. You think I could've done this without you?
  • Eye For An Eye (1996) had an interesting case. A man breaks into a house to rape and kill a teenager. The only evidence is a small amount of blood - enough for the prosecution to identify him with their own tests, but not enough for the defense to run tests of their own. He gets Off on a Technicality, leading to the main plot - the girl's mother suckering the killer into targeting her so she can kill him in self-defense. The part that gets you wondering why we don't kill every lawyer on Earth? The defense was invited to have their own experts participate in testing the blood - they declined. Then, they sprung the technicality. They purposefully refused to participate in the investigation so their killer rapist (who already had a record of stalking) could go free.
    • Also a case of artistic license. This kind of thing is covered by so called notice and demand laws. The prosecution NOTIFIED the defense that they were doing this and gave them the opportunity to be present. By refusing the defense WAIVED the objection at trial. Guy would likely have been convicted and his lawyers sued MASSIVELY for malpractice.
  • Michael Clayton (2007) deconstructs and subverts this trope several times. The Designated Villain is this, but is a Punchclock Villain who is extremely neurotic and edgy off the clock. One of the main characters does a Heel-Face Turn from this at the beginning of the movie, the protagonist does the same by the end.
  • Linda from Madea Goes To Jail. She pads her cases with other previous cases, thus getting the people she's convicting more time than they are supposed to get. She gets a girl seventeen years in prison for two counts of prostitution when only four are allowed. She gets fired and she also gets arrested and left at the altar. And the worst part? The prostitute case is just because her fiance was spending more time concerned about an old friend in trouble than focusing on their upcoming wedding.
  • Fletcher Reede from Liar Liar starts like this, especially in the deleted scene where he successfully acquits an armed robber (which is referred to in passing in the actual film).
  • Charles McCarter in Diary of a Mad Black Woman is revealed to have gotten quite a bit of his money from defending rich criminals who were obviously guilty.
  • In The Verdict, both Galvin and Cancannon are willing to resort to tactics of questionable morality, though they both also show a dedication to justice.
  • Victoria Thorne, the prosecutor in the Apocalypse film series movie Judgment, who is such a manipulative bitch.
  • The lawyer named I.M. Slime was willing to work with Cousin Mel to frame Santa Claus for the hit and run of Grandma and rid the world of a holiday icon, just for a lot of money in the film Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
  • Chris in The Woman, though most of his evilness is shown outside the courtroom. His wife even calls him out on it, noting that, as a lawyer, he should know that what he's doing is illegal and could get him thrown in jail.
  • Man on Fire. Jordan Kalfus, Samuel Ramos' lawyer, stole the ransom money before its delivery to the kidnappers. Ramos kills him for this when he finds out.
  • Averted in Fire With Fire. The main character is in Witness Protection and attempting to testify against a Neo-Nazi. The defense lawyer at one point mentions that he loves the criminal justice system, because two sides argue their case and the best man/arguer wins. He sees it as fair and right. When questioned why he's defending the Neo-Nazi, he replies if he turns a man like that down, he and his entire family will be murdered. They will probably kill his dog also, just for the heck of it. He then gives the main character information on where to find the Neo-Nazis.
  • The Big Bad of Shotgun is a lawyer who does not only dabble in criminal undertakings, but who also gets his jollies by donning an all-leather outfit and beating up prostitutes within inches from their life.
  • In Scanners II: The New Order, Commander Forrester makes himself a public favorite by dispatching a corrupt lawyer who works for drug kingpins.
  • Death Warrant: The organ harvesting operation in the prison was masterminded by a man high up in the legal system.
  • Donald Genarro in Jurassic Park, though much more lacking in morals than in the original novel. Highlighted when he abandons the kids when the T. rex shows up, only to then be eaten by said rex.
  • Conspiracy has perhaps one of the worst examples. During the Wannsee Conference, during which the Final Solution to the Jewish question was devised, several key participants were lawyers. Including members of the Justice Ministry. The most revolting one (who's also a lawyer) throws in an Evil Lawyer Joke for good measure.
  • Inverted in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Not only is Deputy Kovacs honest, he actually refuses to act corruptly because he's an attorney.

     Folklore and Religion 
  • In a lot of Jewish (and some Christian) Fanon, Satan (whose exact motives and purpose are not really gone into in the source material, especially not in the bit the Jews believe) is believed to be some sort of Cosmic Prosecution Attorney ("Satan" roughly means "Accuser"). Doesn't make him any less of a prick.

    Literature 
  • The Sweet Hereafter: in the original novel by Russell Banks, Mitchell Stephens clearly comes across as one to many of the townsfolk. However, his reasoning is more complex: he's a shark in court, going after what he perceives as huge, uncaring entities who try to cut costs, in order to make it more expensive for them.
  • In A Little Princess, Mister Barrow lets Miss Minchin know he has no plans to help her out of the debt Captain Crew left her when he died. He suggests using Sara as a servant, and commends Minchin when she angrily implies she'll work the girl to the bone and abuse her (which she does).
    • Averted with Mr Carmichael, who is Mr Carrisford's solictor. He's introduced as a loving father to the family that Sara envies and when his profession is revealed, he's offering to travel to Moscow to follow to vague lead on Sara's whereabouts.
  • Doubly averted in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is defending the innocent victim, but Scout specifically notes that the prosecuting attorney is nice and only doing his job.
  • Annawake Fourkiller, the merciless Cherokee attorney from the novel Pigs in Heaven. She doesn't do much direct lawyering, but she's definitely amoral, with her constant bantering that all white people should be held accountable for the Trail of Tears, her near-stalker-like following of the main character, and attempts to take her daughter away. And, near the end of the novel, when her elderly uncle tells her off, she responds by beating him with a shoe. She does mellow out eventually.
  • Mr. Slant from Terry Pratchett's Discworld is a lawyer and a zombie. Other zombies, such as Reginald Shoe, can be quite moral, but Slant appears to be motivated only by greed and is quite willing to break the law, or at least bend it into a pretzel. He is also quite quick to abandon his partners in crime when things threaten to go sour.
    • Slant gets a rare heroic turn in Making Money, where he manages to silence a number of lawyers for the evil Lavish family with a single glare. This might be just to satisfy his own personal pride as the local alpha corpse of Ankh-Morpork's legal profession ...
  • Rumpole of the Bailey. The main character is a deeply honest criminal defense barrister who has successfully defended known criminals on more than one occasion (even murderers, though he doesn't usually discover this until after the verdict has been passed). His colleagues run the gamut from petty and mercenary to almost as upstanding as Rumpole (one is a member of a group called Lawyers As Christians), sometimes within the confines of the same story.
    • Rumpole draws the line at representing someone who has said, in so many words, "I did it", often desperately trying to shut his clients up before they can spout Too Much Information. And he will have nothing to do with anything resembling subornation of perjury.
  • Alphonse Baker Carr in the Doug Selby novels is an example, but D.A. Selby shows him little malice; he remarks that without defence attorneys defending guilty clients, there wouldn't be trial by jury, but trial by defence attorney.
  • Lawrence Block's Martin Ehrengraf would sometimes get his clients off by framing and murdering another person.
  • Miguel Prado from Dexter.
    Miguel Prado: You got the ring; I GOT CITY FUCKING HALL.
  • Michael Crichton's novel Next features such a lawyer, Barry Sindler, who is delighted with the prospect of a genetics-related case because it will take months, increasing his fee. Also, from the same novel, Albert Rodriguez, the Biogen lawyer, who is ready to violate the Burnets' rights by finding loopholes.
    • An attorney who takes a case because he'll be able to generate a lot of fees is not necessarily amoral. An attorney who purposefully drags out a case to increase the fees he generates is, however.
      • Let these lines speak for themselves:
        Sindler: You've already been tested?
        Diehl: No. I just know how to fake the lab results.
        Barry Sindler sat back in his chair.
        Perfect.
  • Subverted by the character of Leo F. Drummond in the John Grisham novel The Rainmaker, who represents the insurance company the protagonist's client is suing. While Drummond plays legal hardball and his employers are scum, Drummond himself is depicted as a fairly decent guy (more so than the movie version), and it's strongly implied that he's as angry as anyone else when he finds out about the shenanigans his clients have been pulling, which make his job all the harder.
    • Later played very, very straight by Patton French, a tort lawyer who becomes a recurring character in Grisham's novels. French serves to embody everything Grisham hates about the American tort system, getting rich off of other peoples' medical misery while screwing his clients. He even appears in The King of Torts, giving aspiring tort lawyers advice on how to wring the most money out of their clients, which leaves the protagonist feeling like he needs to take a shower.
    • Harry Rex Vonner, another recurring Grisham lawyer, isn't above bugging a jury room.
  • Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels feels that lawyers are like this, although no actual lawyers are encountered in the novel. His description of law to the Houyhnhnms begins with this: "There was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves." He just goes on from there.
  • Mr. Tulkinghorn and Mr. Vholes from Bleak House by Charles Dickens. The sphinx-y, menacing Tulkinghorn relentlessly pursues the secrets of his client, Lady Dedlock, mostly because he derives pleasure from the power knowing such secrets offers him. Vholes is the definition of a slimy lawyer, masquerading under the pretense of efficiency and good faith, while milking his client (one of the protagonists) of all his inheritance.
  • Katz in The Postman Always Rings Twice. He manages to get the protagonists acquitted - though he knows that they're guilty of murder - just to win a bet with the prosecutor.
  • Double averted in The Krytos Trap. Nawara, defending Tycho, is opposed by the prosecutor Halla Ettyk, who is determined to see Tycho guilty. Nawara trusts Tycho completely; they flew on the same squadron and Tycho repeatedly risked his life to save other Rogues. Halla, when one of the victim's friends wonders if Tycho might be innocent, tells her "Don't plot a course into that black hole" and says that she isn't the trier of fact in this case. That's the tribunal's job; she just has to present the best case she can muster and see if the defense can knock it apart. Then Halla lets the victim's friend start investigating. It's not personal, and fees are never mentioned.
  • Older Than Print: The 13th century Njal's Saga has an early instance of this trope, if it really could be called a trope back then. When the killers of Njal and his family are sued by Njal's friends, the former enlist the help of the famous lawyer Eyjolf Bolverksson, who subsequently continually tries to invalidate the suit on petty technicalities, and eventually succeeds. Which is an ambivalent outcome because he gets killed for it. Though he is not an attorney in a strict sense (because Old Icelandic law had no such institution), he acts just like one. Strangely, his amorality is not so much demonstrated by his playing on technicalities (which is common tactics), or his support of a guilty party (the killers never deny the deed, which legally is only the usual manslaughter, not murder), but by his acceptance of a gold bracelet as a payment in advance, which is against conventions and perceived as a dishonest act.
  • Earlier in his life, Edgar from the Night Watch novels was a very successful small town attorney. Edgar is a Dark Other. Do the math.
  • Napoleon Chotas in The Other Side of Midnight and its sequel Memories of Midnight specializes in getting wealthy, powerful clients declared not guilty of their crimes — especially when there's a ton of evidence that would support a guilty verdict. In Memories of Midnight, he drinks the poison a woman used to kill her husband to prove to the jury that it wasn't actually poison at all; in truth, it was poison and he barely manages to get his stomach pumped afterward. In The Other Side of Midnight, he is immediately hired by Constantin Demeris to represent his mistress Noelle in her murder trial, and does a stunning job of it. However, Constantin has Napoleon lie to Noelle and her lover (the other defendant) that if they plead guilty, they'll get a lighter sentence, when, in fact, they'll be put to death by a firing squad; this is Constantin's way to punish the lovers for crossing him. The sequel reveals Napoleon's regret; he too fell in love with Noelle. Constantin tries to have him killed to hide his crimes, but Napoleon survives to successfully defend him in his own murder trial — and immediately afterward, kills him and himself.
  • Edward St. John "Loophole" Latham in Wild Cards. No one can tell if the titular virus burned away his conscience or if he's naturally the best lawyer in the world.
    • In a later book, it's implied that the wild card has nothing to do with him being the best lawyer in the world. He contracts the virus, and is given the ability to Body Surf, as well as create other Body Surfers by sexual intercourse.
  • Saad X. Saad of Plain Heathen Mischief has a machine in his office that, when a quarter is inserted, spits out a gumball of a random flavor. He tells Joel that it's a metaphor for the justice system—you might not get the gumball you want at first, but you'll get it eventually if you keep putting money in. (Edmund, who has a grudge against the legal system, jimmies the lock with a pocket knife and grabs a free gumball.)
  • Time Terminal 86 of Time Scout doesn't allow lawyers on board, because the head of the station doesn't like them.
  • Shows up in, of all places, The Bible
    Jesus: Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
    Jesus: Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Played with. On one side is Nikki Quinn, a defense attorney. On the other side is Jack Emery, a prosecuting attorney. Nikki defends a woman who shot the man who raped and murdered her daughter, and she shot the guy after the guy was found not guilty! Jack prosecutes the woman, which is ironic, because he prosecuted that murdering rapist and failed to convict the guy. Nikki is portrayed as the sympathetic one, and Jack is portrayed as the total Jerkass in that situation. You would find it hard to believe that Nikki and Jack are girlfriend and boyfriend! To Jack's credit, he did reveal in his thoughts that he is not heartless, and that he doesn't know what he would have done if he had a daughter who was raped and murdered. Funny enough, Nikki becomes a vigilante, Jack becomes an ally of the Vigilantes, and so does a defense attorney named Lizzie Fox. In the book The Jury, a defense attorney named Allison Banks, against all advice, defends the Barringtons, a group of slimeballs who let a herd of horses starve to death and only used them for profit. Nikki's firm suffered a major blow in its reputation, and Nikki fired and punched out Banks in short order. Then it turns out that Banks was essentially in bed with the Barringtons, the judge presiding over their case, receiving kickbacks from them, and was not really Allison Banks. It turned out that Allison died years ago, and that an imposter had assumed her identity. Unbelievable!
  • In the Michael Connelly novel The Lincoln Lawyer, this is happily subverted with the protagonist. While Mickey seems to have some element of this characterization early on in that he is willingly representing guilty people when he realizes that his current client is truly evil, he does everything within his power to see him arrested. He also is horrified that a man who he convinced to plead guilty is in fact innocent. This is also interestingly subverted in that at the end of the novel(not the movie), the Bar association is going after him for some of the actions he took during the course of the movie.
  • Since Year Zero features lawyers in the music industry, examples of this trope abound.
  • Even British secretary of state Lord Chesterfield decried these in the Letters to His Son: "But the public lawyers, now, seem to me rather to warp the law, in order to authorize, than to check, those unlawful proceedings of princes and states" (letter 52)
  • In No Way to Treat a First Lady, Beth MacMann is represented by the famous trial lawyer Boyce "Shameless" Baylor, who didn't exactly get his nickname from defending sympathetic people and companies.
  • This is strongly averted in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, a prequel book in the The Mysterious Benedict Society series, in which the first adult that is truly helpful and kind to Nicholas Benedict is a prosecuting attorney.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost all the defense attorneys on the Law & Order shows would fit this trope like a glove. Ironically, an episode of this once had an Amoral Attorney on trial give a very stirring closing argument about why defense lawyers were necessary, even though everyone hates them (he still got found guilty, though he appeared about year later, with it implied his conviction got overturned on appeal).
    • As well as some of the prosecutors. Jack McCoy, in particular, is known for hiding evidence, bullying witnesses, and generally abusing the law to get convictions. Although McCoy can generally be characterised as playing hard, but within legal limits, this isn't always the case. Withholding evidence, for example, is illegal when the evidence is sufficient to prove innocence. This is often referred to as Brady material. McCoy at least (usually) had the good graces to feel bad about some of his less proud moments, and also often has people telling him, "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!" when he goes overboard.
    • If a defense attorney has a recurring role on the show, then he or she will probably be sympathetic or pure evil, in terms of pulling any trick up their sleeves to win.
    • One of the few exceptions is a recurring lawyer on SVU played by Annie Potts, who gets brought in whenever the show decides to have a really sympathetic defendant.
      • Bayard Ellis is also a refreshing aversion. To the point of befriending Olivia.
      • And Stabler is sort of a one-man justification squad for the trope, proving that we actually need amoral attorneys. He's a protagonist and easy to sympathize with, but he does a lot of stuff that's ethically questionable (legally speaking, it's not questionable, it's flat out illegal).
    • An interesting twist occurs in a episode where one of McCoy's subordinates is forced to act as a defense attorney. The moment she is teased for "working for the dark side", McCoy instantly lays down the law, saying that she is acting as a proper lawyer and any personnel of his office giving her a hard time for doing her duty would be punished with reassignment to traffic court.
    • Paul Robinette, a former prosecutor for the first 3 seasons of the show came back as a reaccurring guest star and having become an amoral attorney in his absence.
    • Law & Order: UK decides to put this trope up to 11 with the first episode, with a barrister nicknamed "Limbo" for how low he'll go. So far, the other barristers have been of varying moral fibre.
    • L&O's definitive example has to be Ben Stone's nemesis, Arthur Gold, who could (and did) often goad Stone into legal mistakes simply by looking like he was enjoying himself while defending obvious scumbags.
    • Lampshaded in Trial By Jury when Tracey Kibre talks to the opposing counsel:
      Norman Rothenberg: You're wasting your time in the DA's office. I could triple what you make.
      Tracey Kibre: You don't want me, Norman. I have scruples.
      Norman Rothenberg: They have pills for that.
    • The killer in the episode "By Perjury" is a lawyer, and Cutter explicitly describes him as the adversarial system gone insane: he's willing to do anything, including murder, to win the massive lawsuit he's involved in. McCoy remarks that he sounds like Cutter's evil twin.
    • One of the worst examples, on both sides of the fence, was "For The Defense"'s former ADA turned defense attorney for a mobster who had a long habit of putting contracts out on witnesses against his cases, then attempting to blackmail the DA's office to get out from under several recent murders.
    • Then there's Dean "What're you offering" Connors, - McCoy says that Dean's not a bad attorney, he's just morally opposed to hard work and so will usually take any offer from the DA regardless of his client's guilt or innocence.
  • Cop Rock: the spin doctors hired by the legal team sing about how they will portray Vincent LaRusso as having shot the suspect in self-defense. Cop Rock - No Problem
  • James Sinclair, Esq. on NYPD Blue is a brilliant lawyer who has no qualms about defending mob bosses or other high-profile criminals. He usually gets them acquitted to, which doesn't endear him to the detectives.
  • Averted on Murder One: both of the main characters Ted Hoffman and DA Miriam Grasso are defence attorneys, and are portrayed as good people doing a necessary job. And no matter how heated their courtroom battles get, they are always completely friendly and cordial to each other outside. As well, one episode has two other lawyers in the firm agonizing over their successful defense of a man who stole his clients' funds for gambling; Ted chastises them for "moral temperature taking" and continues, "Maybe some day someone will sit in judgment on our criminal justice system. Maybe it'll be me. But not while I'm a criminal defense lawyer. While I'm a lawyer I'm going to defend my clients, because it's the job I chose." Things get more ambiguous in season two, when Ted is replaced by the less moral and upright Jimmy Wyler.
  • Darrin Russom of Homicide: Life on the Street. Defends most of the series' suspects.
  • Maurice Levy of The Wire, who not only defends the series' central drug kingpins, but introduces them to investors, advises them on who 'needs to go', and sells confidential court papers under the counter to all comers thanks to a stooge in the courthouse
    • Levy is at least realistic in that he doesn't just defend the drug lords because he's evil, but rather because he makes tons of money doing it. When he learns that Marlo is using a cell phone, he says that he'll be making a lot of money from Marlo soon because the cops will have charges against him soon.
  • A very evil corporate lawyer in a Vengeance Unlimited episode was resorting to blackmail to defend a polluting corporation, and already planned to sue back the Ill Girl's mother for libel. Naturally, being Vengeance Unlimited, the Smug Snake gets what he deserves.
  • Wolfram and Hart, the Evil Demonic Law Firm from Angel, exemplify this trope in spades: Immoral Attorney, actually. Defending human and nonhuman evil-doers is their purpose in life. And they have ninjas and special ops teams.
    • The attorneys we actually meet tend to range from common Morally grey (Lindsey McDonald, who seeks power above all else, though maintaining some semblance of conscience) to vllains (Holland Manners and Lilah Morgan, who not only strive for power but are capable of sacrificing nearly anything for it).
  • One interesting example would be The Practice, where some of the protagonists often represent murderers and drug dealers using questionable methods.
    • And the prosecutors aren't always a pillar of ethics either.
  • This trope is parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look which features a sketch about two lazy script writers who do not research the films and TV shows they write. One of their productions is a parody of "Shark" about a defense attorney becoming a prosecutor. When the character is asked why he used to defend known rapists, he responds, "I don't know, I guess I just liked rapists." Then he laughs and says that that's not the real reason.
    • Also, from the Inebriati sketch: "Yes! I got that guy off that vicious sex murder even though he obviously did it!"
  • Self-proclaimed "Super Lawyer" Kitaoka Shuuichi (secretly Kamen Rider Zolda) from Kamen Rider Ryuki falls under this: he fights only for himself and refuses cases when he sees them as impossible to win, halfway frivolous, or he just doesn't like the client, although he gets enough characterization to qualify as an Anti-Villain. He defends the murderer Asakura Takeshi (later Kamen Rider Ouja), but knowingly withholds evidence that could have acquitted him. Asakura spends the rest of the series trying to kill Kitaoka.
  • Criminal Justice, a five-part 2008 BBC1 drama, features a barrister who makes up a self-defense defense for the main character (a guy who doesn't remember what happened). The drama got a complaint from the head of the Bar Council, the UK's lawyer group. Peter Moffat responded that said head had recently punched his opponent, which is a rather weak response.
  • Alan Shore of Boston Legal is an inversion. Whenever he does something considered unethical, he normally has a moral and compassionate reason for it.
    • Alan Shore started out in The Practice (and in Boston Legal, although he became less scummy as the series went on) as an exemplary example of an Amoral Attorney. His unethical behavior caused him to be fired from the firm in The Practice, which he successfully sues and, after stealing client files, goes to Boston Legal's firm of Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. One of the best moments of his that shows just how amoral he is can be found halfway down here, with him browbeating the nebbish store clerk who saw his client, a very wealthy woman and kleptomaniac, stuff a scarf into her purse:
      "He would fire me, Miles, if I didn't explore every nuance and shadow of your personality. Every secret place and insufficiency in the hours that you will spend in that witness chair, Miles, in front of all those friends you invited. And when I'm finished with you, even they will think you are a vindictive, pathetic little sycophant who has falsely accused and probably framed a fine woman for something she never did and never would do only so that you could get at long last your moment of attention. By the time I'm done, I'll have you believing you put that scarf in her handbag. Lee Tyler can afford to hire any attorney in the world. She's chosen me. Do you wonder if I'm any good, Miles? Do you really wonder?"
  • Barrister Michael Kidd from the Australian TV cop series Phoenix and its Law Procedural spin-off, Janus. Based on a famous real-life Melbourne lawyer, he's despised for defending copkiller Malcolm Hennessy, but is respected for his abilities as well — the main detective protagonist doesn't hesitate to recommend Kidd to a fellow officer who'd been accused of police brutality. On another occasion, Kidd is assigned to defend a child molester, and though Kidd listens to his briefing with a cold silence quite unlike his usual 'average bloke' demeanour, he still defends him well.
  • The protagonists of both the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason and its spiritual successor, Matlock, avert this in a very odd way. While both Perry Mason and Ben Matlock are successful and honorable defense attorneys, they always win by uncovering the real guilty party and dramatically presenting proof of their guilt in court. In other words, in order to redeem his role as a defense attorney, each hero has to also do the prosecutor's job, and offer up someone else to take the innocent defendant's place in jail. Prosecuting attorneys and rival lawyers in both shows are likely to fit this trope perfectly.
  • In the 1990s Superman series Lois and Clark, an episode involved Superman being sued for injuring a man whilst saving his life, which eventually snowballed into a class action lawsuit against him. He thus had to find an "honest lawyer" to defend him, and only managed to find one. In the whole of Metropolis. Willing to defend Superman. For all its shiny loveliness, this suggests that Metropolis is actually one Crapsack City.
    • Or all the honest lawyers are aware of just how big a dick Superman can be and don't want to drag themselves through the mud defending him.
      • Or maybe they're just the only people smart enough to realize that you can't take a person to court if you don't know their actual name.
  • Recently, Karl Mayer of Desperate Housewives has revealed himself to be one. If the promos are any indication, not only is he not above cheating Bree's soon-to-be-ex spouse out of money he is entitled to, he is also willing to talk Bree into staging a robbery in her own house.
    • The prosecutor in Bree's murder trial is willing to blackmail Renee with having her fiance deported in order to extract a testimony against her best friend.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Baltar's defence lawyer Romo Lampkin manages to gain Lee Adama's respect even though he's an unapologetic Manipulative Bastard.
    • Subverted during the mutiny, when Kara asks his help in trying to get Sam to the infirmary after being shot in the head. He tries to leave them, but ultimately gives in and helps.
    • Also subverted in general: Lampkin may be ruthless, but he's also very principled: after all, he indicates that devotion to the principle that everyone deserves a good defense is why he took Baltar's case in the first place.
    • Also applies to Caprica in the form of Lampkin's mentor, Lee's grandfather Joseph. Joe Adama had been a lawyer for the Ha'la'tha—the Tauron Mob—and did this job dutifully. Backstory holds that he eventually broke with the Ha'la'tha and became a civil-liberties lawyer; he's the one who taught Lampkin that even the lowest, guiltiest scumbag deserves a good defense.
  • Jeff Winger in Community is an unapologetic version of this trope...at least for now. The very fact that he lied about having a college degree is the reason he's at community college in the first place. A colleague of his said the pair (known as Sundance and Tango - they had different partners) were called 'the litter bugs' by prosecutors because they put so much trash back on the streets.
    • He's apparently outgrown those tendencies by the end of season 3.
  • One episode of The Bill had a drug dealer pretend to be a solicitor so he could sit in on the interviews of his subordinates...
  • Subverted in Lie to Me, where James Marsters plays a District Attorney, whom Cal's ex-wife thinks is a racist, who is prosecuting a black student for statutory rape of a white girl...He's not, and later, he drops all charges after it emerges that the student was tricked into sleeping with her by said Fille Fatale. Then he gets shot dead by her father.
  • Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad is a hucksterish defense attorney with outrageous TV ads who will take any paying client and resort to the most extreme arguments on their behalf. Two things keep him from being an Ambulance Chaser: 1) he's very good at his job and 2) he's just as interested, if not more, in going outside the law for his own personal gain as he is in winning cases. Has his own website.
  • Appears on an episode of Taxi. An old woman who is a con artist sues the taxi company for damages after being injured. She had previously faked injury in the past to pursue false damage claims against other companies as well. However, this time the woman informs her lawyer that she really did fall and break her hip, meaning the lawsuit is completely legitimate. The lawyer remarks: "Well, there's a first time for everything."
  • Averted in one episode of Malcolm in the Middle. Most attorneys are portrayed as either somewhat underhanded or borderline incompetent in the show. However, the homeowners' association attorney is a pillar of ethics, albeit a sniveling pushover of a man. On top of writing a new community charter/constitution, "pro bono, of course", he also put the association's years of collected fees into a savings account: "The bank gave me a toaster in 1987...I never even opened the box." Also, the homeowners were so uninterested that, before Hal bothered to show up at a meeting, the association had no president because the attorney was the only one present at meetings, meaning he could have embezzled all the money and be long gone before anyone realized it.
    • In one episode, Lois's mother suffered an accident at the family's home and sued them. When it was revealed that they had no insurance and their house was the only thing that could be taken from them, the lawyer representing the plaintiff withdrew himself from the case because, while he had no qualms about sending poor people to live on the streets, he would not do it for only 40% of a house that fits in his garage.
    • When Francis decided that he wanted to be emancipated, one of his friends from military school introduces him to an amoral attorney who specializes in legally emancipating kids from their parents that have been exiled to boarding schools and military schools. His secret is that he lets the kids forge their parents signatures IN FRONT OF HIM so that the paperwork can be processed with no delay..
  • Mostly averted in the Criminal Minds Courtroom Episode, where the defense attorney is maybe a bit irritating, but not really amoral. He actually makes some valid points about the flaws in criminal profiling, one of which (the fact that Richard Jewell fit the profile of the Olympic Bomber, who then turned out to be innocent) was actually raised by Agent Morgan himself in a previous episode.
  • An episode of Tales from the Crypt, "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime", featured one who ended up in a nightmareish Kangaroo Court.
  • An episode of Only Fools and Horses involves Del suing the brewery for a fall suffered by Uncle Albert. He hires a lawyer called Solly Atwell, who Rodney describes as being "more bent than the villains".
  • The more commonly seen prosecutors seen in The Defenders. Thomas Cole never sees anything positive in the defendants, doing everything he can to get the most of their guilty verdict. A female prosecutor seen in the first few episodes is called out on it when she tries to get a full guilty verdict on a client that she knows is not guilty. The titular duo themselves are also considered this by their opposition, despite doing everything they can to get the truth out of their clients and get the best win they can get for them, i.e. getting a week in jail compared to six months.
  • In Boardwalk Empire
    • The ruthless and cold-blooded mob boss Arnold Rothstein has one advising him, and who is very impressed by his client's ability to commit perjury with eloquence and with a straight face - so much so that he jokingly tells him that he should consider law school. Rothstein replies by commenting that he'd prefer to make an honest living.
    • George Remus is an attorney so amoral that he has decided to cast off the attorney job altogether and become a bootlegger instead - while using his knowledge of law to find the correct loopholes, of course.
  • Suits features a Villain Protagonist Amoral Attorney (although he's nice-ish to his newbie partner). Also magnificent and hilarious.
  • Adam-12 has a very balanced position in the early episode, "Courtroom", where Reed makes a drug bust with a legally questionable search. In the resulting trial, the defense lawyer gets his client off with a well reasoned argument based on clear legal decisions, but his only response to the client afterward is that the defendant will get his bill. Furthermore, the defense lawyer makes it clear to Reed that he is as committed to his own binding oath to serve his necessary role in the Justice System as the officer is.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has a NICE aversion, with the mother not only being treated sympathetically but kindly, even when she has obviously guilty clients, or is in a ridiculous case.
  • Franklin & Bash has Damien in the first episode, when he colludes with a CEO to sell out an airline pilot to limit an airline's liability by paying a witness to make false testimony. He gets better as the season progresses.
  • The final season of "The Closer", which did a storyline where Brenda and the LAPD are being sued after Brenda leaves a murderer to a lynch mob consisting of gang members who were not thrilled at his crime and his attempt to frame an innocent man for his actions, featured dueling versions of this trope. The lawyer Brenda hires is a brilliant but morally ambiguous ex-district attorney who was forced out because of his methods and the opposing council was an equally devious attorney who's case was largely bolstered by an anonymous leak in the LAPD which made him aware of a good amount of morally ambiguous behavior on the part of Brenda.
    • Deconstructed with a reaccurring villain, a defense attorney for sex offenders who may or may not be a rapist himself and teaming up with his clients to drug and rape women with their help. In the end however, it turns out that he's innocent of the rapes after one of his victims identifies a bartender as the accomplice of the guy who raped her and several other women. His final appearance leaves it vague towards whether or not he was truly innocent though as he threatens to sue the department and Brenda if they don't leave him alone (as Brenda and her fellow detectives had, after their first encounter, made a point to tell anyone who brought his name up, that he was a sexual predator, damaging his reputation as a result).
  • In Brazilian soap-opera "Chocolate com Pimenta" (Chocolate with Pepper), a woman wanted to con her deceased brother's widow out of the fortune he bequeathed to her. In order to do so, she forged a document where said brother allegedly signed over everything to her to protect him from being tricked by gold-diggers. Her accomplice suggested hiring a honest lawyer to take the case to the courts because: a) honest lawyers would be less likely to figure out the document was a fake; b) even dishonest lawyers would refuse the case once they figured out; and c) the more regarded their lawyer would be for honesty, the more likely would be their chances a judge would rule in their favor.
  • JAG:
    • Mic Brumby becomes one for a while when he resigns from the Royal Australian Navy and comes back as a civilian in the 6th season. He took cases where people were suing the Navy, which didn't sit well with anyone at the JAG office.
    • Loren Singer.
    • CIA counsel Catherine Gale comes across as this in "Need To Know".
    I'm doing my job right, I'm doing the right thing.
  • Late in CSI: Miami's final season, the team determined that Malcolm McDowell's character made a habit of finding ways to tamper with forensic evidence (breaking the chain of custody among other things) to make it inadmissible.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "Trial of a Time Lord", the Valeyard, a villainous prosecutor and future regeneration of the Doctor, accepts a bribe of the Doctor's remaining regenerations to falsify evidence in order to secure the Sixth Doctor's conviction.
  • One episode of Flashpoint featured a hostage taker who spent ten years of his life in jail (starting at age 15) after his cellmate falsely testified that he had confessed to raping and murdering his best friend. Turns out the prosecuting attorney was responsible for this, and he has done this many times in the past. His motivation isn't solely to maintain a 100% conviction rating. The attorney was a Knight Templar who genuinely believed anyone who is accused of a crime is guilty. As a result, he felt justified in doing anything to secure convictions.
  • In the Grimm episode "One Angry Fuchsbau", the Monster of the Week Barry Kellogg is a defense attorney who uses his Ziegevolk Mind Control abilities for witness and jury tampering. The protagonists slip him a potion to neutralize his abilities.
  • On Walker, Texas Ranger, basically any lawyer who isn't Alex Cahill. Even her fellow prosecutors, who are cynical and jaded in contrast to her idealism, as well as occasionally corrupt and incompetent.
  • Played with to varying degrees on Bones. It is semi-averted with Caroline, who is depicted as aggressive and willing to do whatever it takes and would fit this trope quite nicely... if she weren't working with the heroes and usually trying to put dangerous crooks behind bars. On a related note, while the lawyers themselves aren't actively malicious, a suspect asking for one is usually a sign to both the audience and the characters that they're guilty of something they don't want to admit to. In these cases the lawyers are just doing their job, but can be irritating to the protagonists since often they're keeping their clients from revealing crucial information.
  • How To Get Away With Murder follows the professor and students of a law school course intended to train new Amoral Attorneys. The title of the course is the same as the title of the show. It's not a joke.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In an early Dilbert comic, Dilbert was concerned that a new invention of his might be dangerous, so he decided to seek legal counseling. After explaining his situation to a lawyer, Dilbert asked if he would help. The lawyer replied, "nah, it sounds like I could make more money by suing you."
    • The company lawyer is usually like this, and sometimes downright immoral, and not always towards the side he's representing. In one series of strips, Wally sued them, saying he was being discriminated against because he was bald, nearsighted and boring; the company lawyer told him he "might have a slight bias" (the lawyer was also bald, nearsighted, and boring) and negotiated a huge settlement in Wally's favor.
  • During the later Author Tract years of Chester Gould's run on Dick Tracy, these were a common appearance. The most notorious was Flyface, a man so filthy that flies followed him everywhere. The later introduction of Flyface's family (who, including children, were all similarly disgusting) was apparently enough to get the strip canceled from a couple of papers.
  • Played for Laughs in The Far Side. An explorer discovers a tribe of natives and tries to placate them with beads and trinkets. The tribe responds by sending out their fiercest lawyers, who all chant "Sue him! Sue him!"
  • This trope is one of the main themes of Non Sequitur.
  • Steve Dallas from Bloom County was clearly amoral, seeing as he defended murderers and other dangerous criminals who were obviously guilty, but he wasn't all too good at it. (And his clients rarely made it easy for him, doing things like threatening the juries and judges in the middle of closing arguments.) And even he didn't like his job much. When defending Bill the Cat for treason and the prosecutor said he wouldn't plea bargain to anything less than "guilty of anti-state activities", Steve laughed, saying that Bill was guilty of high treason, telling the judge to sentence him to the chair so they could all go home. (Of course, Steve was a pretty rotten person in all regards.)

    Music 
  • "Innocence" by Disturbed is about corrupt lawyers and the people they choose to defend for their own benefit.

    Radio 
  • In Bleak Expectations a lawyer appears who is so distinguished his name takes 20 minutes to say. He charges by the hour and has bankrupted some clients with a formal conversation.

    Theater 
  • Chicago has the "silver-tongued prince of the court room", Billy Flynn.
  • Roy Marcus Cohn from Angels In America. He was also one in Real Life, naturally, although his villainy in both goes far beyond this.
  • The former page quote from Henry VI, Part 2, though very famous, is really not an example of this trope. The people out to kill all the lawyers are trying to create anarchy.
    • Or possibly a proto-Communist dictatorship:
      Cade: I thank you, good people: there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.
      Dick: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
      Cade: Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings: but I say, 'tis the bee's wax; for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.
  • The learned judge in Trial By Jury was once one of these:
    All thieves who could my fees afford
    Relied on my orations
    And many a burglar I've restored
    To his friends and his relations.
  • In The Birds, one of the uninvited visitors is a summoner who wants to be able to fly between the islands and Athens so fast that he can hold the trial without the defendant, so that the decision automatically goes in the prosecution's favor. Then, fly back to the still-en-route defendant's home to confiscate whatever is forfeit (and possibly a little more for himself). Peisthetaerus will have none of this, and Whip It Good ensues.
  • Hugh Dorsey in Parade.
  • The song "Blood in the Water" from Legally Blonde is all about this trope.
    Our topic is blood in the water.
    Kids, it's time you faced,
    law school is a waste,
    oh yes, unless you acquire a taste for
    blood in the water;
    dark and red and raw.
    You're nothing until the thrill of the kill
    becomes your only law!

    Video Games 
  • Most of the prosecutors (not counting Payne) in the Ace Attorney series are at least a little bit shady or unethical, and arrogant and condescending. All but one of them, however, get some redemption, though that largely does not stop them from continuing their insulting behavior.
    • Miles Edgeworth: Perfection-obsessed, but undergoes a lot of Character Development and gets a Heel-Face Turn by the end of the game, is nice to Phoenix outside of court for the rest of the series.
    • Manfred von Karma: Pretty much the ULTIMATE in amoral attorneys - considered a "god of prosecutors", he went for forty years undefeated, and was not above resorting to illegal/immoral methods to achieve a guilty verdict, habitually forging evidence and tampering with witnesses. Von Karma was also so obsessed with perfection that when a defense attorney got him penalized in court for the first and only time in his entire career, he took a six-month vacation - also his first and only. The real reason for the vacation was to cover his tracks after he was accidentally shot in the shoulder when he killed the defense attorney responsible. In what is perhaps the most shining example of Disproportionate Retribution in video game history, he then proceeded to raise the victim's son to be a twisted opposite of everything his father stood for, only to have him accused of his own father's murder right before the statute of limitations on the murder ran out, all to get revenge on the victim! He's the Trope image for a damn good reason.
    • This doesn't just count for prosecutors either; the murderer of a defense attorney in the fourth case of Ace Attorney committed the crime because the defense lawyer in question was an Amoral Attorney that convinced him to plead Insanity in court even though he was truly innocent. He lost everything that mattered to him as a result of this.
    • Franziska von Karma from Justice for All: Perfection-obsessed too, coupled with an obsession with succeeding where her adopted brother (Miles Edgeworth) failed, as doing so will make her feel worthy of the von Karma name, as she felt that the adopted Edgeworth had always been better than her. She also badgers witnesses, either with threats of legal action or with her whip. However, like Edgeworth, she seems to be doing her own Heel-Face Turn, as she was an irreplaceable aid to the defense in Case 3-5. The only time she aided the prosecution was when she herself was prosecutor.
    • In the fourth case of Justice For All, this is a major plot point: Phoenix himself eventually figures out that his client is guilty of hiring an assassin, but his partner is being held hostage by that same assassin to get a not guilty verdict, since the assassin has a reputation to keep up. Phoenix goes through much handwringing about what the right thing to do is, especially since his opponent Edgeworth is fresh off a Heel-Face Turn, and letting the client get off would most likely result in an innocent woman being convicted of the murder. Eventually, the player is forced to make a decision between guilty and not guilty when it looks like the attempt to Take a Third Option has been crushed. The choice doesn't actually affect anything, as just before Phoenix speaks up, somebody comes to save the day. But after the trial, Mia Fey tells you to think about the choice you made then as a sign of what being a defense attorney really means to you.
    • Godot/Diego Armando from Trials and Tribulations: Out for revenge against Wright, who he blames for Mia Fey's death, he covers up a murder he committed (though to save someone else's life), instead of confessing, potentially putting several people in trouble. He's also a little on the unstable side and prone to throwing cups of hot coffee at Phoenix.
    • Then there's Kristoph Gavin in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, who planned to use forged evidence in order to win a case for a particularly high-profile client. In contrast, this game's prosecutor Klavier Gavin averts the older series' inversion by being perfectly moral from his first appearance.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, prosecutor Byrne Faraday manages a partial subversion. When he failed to convict a murderer and smuggling ring member, he took to stealing evidence of shady dealings from businesses and sending it to the media. It's not so much immoral as illegal. Played straight with Jacques Portsman and Calisto Yew. Yew isn't even a defense attorney, she's a plant by the smuggling ring who also participated in Faraday's thieving antics. Who's running the lawyer vetting system around here?
    • In Gyakuten Kenji 2, we have prosecutor Bansai Ichiyanagi. He ran an illegal auction, selling evidence of past cases to anonymous bidders. He also murdered two people and was part of the group that ordered the assassination of Teikun O, the same incident that ruined the House of Lang's reputation as reputable investigators. He was also the Chief Prosecutor who gave von Karma his only penalty, even though Ichiyanagi was the one who provided the forged evidence, and von Karma hadn't known for a change that the evidence was forged.
    • Winston Payne didn't venture over here (probably because he was too incompetent to realize how the system can be fuddled) but his brother, Gaspen Payne, introduced in Dual Destinies is pretty much The Bully as a prosecutor, and takes pride in it, calling himself the "Rookie/Defendant Humiliator". At one point, he takes the time to badger the defendant into admitting her guilt, causing the Judge to sustain Athena's objection when his badgering drives her to tears.
    • Simon Blackquill from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies has no problem with threatening witnesses to ensure their cooperation, psychologically manipulating everyone in the courtroom, attacking the defense with a Razor Wind, and siccing his pet hawk on everyone. Oh, and he's a convicted murderer. In actuality, he framed himself for his mentor's murder to protect her traumatized daughter - Athena. Despite being a day away from execution, he doesn't fight back because his death will ensure Athena's safety. He also proves to be firmly on the side of the truth, as he psychologically manipulates The Phantom in order to get Athena the chance she needs to prove his identity.
    • Aristotle Means is an amoral attorney teacher, who genuinely believes any and all methods, no matter how unethical or illegal, must be used in order to achieve a goal. To him, the end justifies the means, no matter what. Fortunately, by the time the trial he's introduced in is over, the students realize he was full of crap, and set out to fix the damage he's done. The fact he murdered one of a fellow professor after being confronted for taking bribes certainly doesn't do him any favors.
    • While he's not an ammoral attorney, a chunk of the cast of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 often imply that they think Phoenix Wright (and to a lesser extent, She-Hulk) is one. Magneto says that while he sacrifices for mutantkind, lawyers only sacrifice their dignity. Phoenix (Jean Gray) wonders what Phoenix is more hated: the world destructor or the lawyer, and before battle with Wright or She-Hulk, Ghost Rider asks them if they are aware of how many lawyers are in hell.
  • Igland of the Swift Sword in Neverwinter Nights is willing to fail logic forever in order to secure a conviction, doesn't care if there are mitigating factors, and begins screaming about bribery should you succeed. Your character is permitted to commit out-and-out bribery and corruption in order to get him off. After you finish the trial, relationships between the victim's culture and the defendant's tribe get worse no matter what happened.
    • His statement is essentially that "the defendent is a dirty savage and therefore we should hang him." Despite the apparent lack of legal precedent for this tactic, Igland claims never to have lost a case before; one wonders how.
  • Toontown Online has seven of these, forming the "Lawbot" faction of the Cogs. They are, going from lowest-level to highest: Bottomfeeder, Bloodsucker, Double-Talker, Ambulance Chaser, Backstabber, Spin Doctor, Legal Eagle, and The Big Wig.
  • Played straight and averted in In The 1st Degree. Averted with the prosecutor Sterling Granger because 1. You are playing as him and 2. The defendant you are trying to prove is guilty of Murder One and Grand Theft is as sleazy as they come. Played straight with the defendant's defense attorney Cynthia Charleston, who will do her best to defend the guy. In fact, if you ask Ruby Garcia, the defendant's girlfriend, the right questions, she'll end up yelling at Charleston about how her own boyfriend is a murderer, that Charleston knows he's guilty, and how can Charleston live with herself over defending this guy.
  • "Legal" Lee from the Saints Row series is the player's contact for Insurance Fraud missions. In the beginning of Saints Row 2, he's defending Johnny Gat on a triple-digit murder charge when the player busts up the trial to rescue him. In the aftermath, all Lee does is hide and ask if anybody's hit and needs a lawyer.
  • During one of the Courtroom Episodes of Knights of the Old Republic it's possible for even a light-side Player Character to be the true-to-reality version of this trope. You can get your client acquitted of murder even knowing full well he's guilty, and it is not considered a dark-side action unless you convinced your witnesses to perjure themselves in the course of your investigation.
  • One mission in Hitman: Contracts (a series where your assassination targets are usually terrorists, mafia bosses, arms dealers and other scoundrels) has you assassinating not only a rich Serial Killer, but also his family lawyer who helped him get away unpunished with kidnapping and killing a small child.
  • Max McMann, the protagonist of Devils Attorney is a typical example. In the game, he takes on every criminal who are as guilty as sin, but Max keeps making up lame excuses for their behavior to the prosecutors and then crushes them in court through various Courtroom Antics and, sometimes, outright illegal means (e.g. one of the skills Max can learn is "Tamper with Evidence"). In the final case of the first chapter, Max openly admits that his client will buy him a new apartment and an office if he wins. The final chapter reveals that his father is a famous prosecutor who's ashamed of his son. Guess who prosecutes the final case and is the toughest opponent in the game?

    Web Animation 
  • Dan Mason, the protagonist of The Accuser, used to be a criminal defense attorney who didn't care if his clients were guilty or not as long as they paid for his services.
  • Ebaum's World Dot Com is a massive Take That and Reason You Suck Song targeted at the proprietor of the titular website. It mentions that Eric has a team of Amoral Attorney prostitutes.
    He hired some male prostitutes
    And dressed them up in three piece suits
    His faithful team of lawyers made the internet his bitch

    Web Comics 
  • The Partnership Collective in Schlock Mercenary are a whole race of hive-minded, snake-like, evil lawyers.
    • Massey Reinstein, the legal consultant of Tagon's Toughs, is a very intentional subversion, however.
      Narrator (while Massey is being tortured by the Collective): Yes, I know they ARE all lawyers. You're supposed to be rooting for the friendly human one.
  • It's Walky! has a lawyer of this nature who goes after the SEMME agency because he believes that they're reckless, irresponsible, immature, psychologically unstable, and hormonal time-bombs who cause an immense amount of destruction and death and, in some ways, do more harm than good. Although he's a slimy, unscrupulous jackass, it's kind of hard to argue with him.
  • Ubersoft's Viktor Schreck is so uncaring about who he sues that not only is the process automated, but he is perfectly willing to sue himself for the company's good (It Makes Sense in Context).[1] [2]
  • Evil Diva's mom. Well, she is a devil.
  • Played With with Homestuck's Terezi Pyrope. She wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, and since every court on Alternia is a Kangaroo Court, "There is no such thing as a defense attorney. Or a defense." On the one hand, she's a Magnificent Bastard who screws with people for fun, but on the other, she honestly cares about justice and is ultimately on the side of the good guys.
  • In Sinfest, Slick lands in Hell and demands a lawyer. To find the damned eagerly offering their services.
  • In Freefall, they actually make Sam look better by contrast.
  • Jyrras' mother in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures is a lawyer and considered the most evil person in Furrae, even the demon Kria Soulstealer has an Even Evil Has Standards moment when talking to her.
  • Played with in Grrl Power. Arianna, the legal counsel for the super team, is willing to stage a bank robbery, salivates at the thought of merchandising deals, and laughs madly at public opinion bending to her will. But she's still on the side of the angels; she notes to Sydney (when she's about to sign a paper that would make Arianna her lawyer) that he's not going to produce a document that will mean she has to sue herself once it's signed, and spends most of her time finding ways to make her team look good despite their behavior. Such as when a restaurant gets destroyed in a supervillain attack.
    Reporter: Is this the future of super empowered law enforcement? Battle royales that destroy businesses and livelihoods?
    Arianna: Are you kidding? That's now the site of the first superhero battle in history! Talk about a tourist attraction! When it's rebuilt they should make it a restaurant and museum! I wonder if it's too late to buy a franchise!?
    Reporter: The spin is strong with this one.
    Suzie: She's not wrong.
    Waitress: I hope she's right, I have student loans! Could I sue the supervillains for lost wages?
    Arianna: Yes...yes you can! And I will help you!
    The Rant: Arianna is extremely excitable about certain aspects of the American legal system.

    Web Original 
  • Kensington R. Killjoy, Esq. from the Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons online series. He counts because he's a demonic lawyer.
  • Worm has Dashing Hispanic Quinn Calle, a lawyer who specializes in defending supervillains. His main case in the story is that of a young woman who is undoubtedly guilty of hundreds of cases of assault, kidnapping, robbery, and one case of premeditated murder, the protagonist Taylor. He assists her in drawing up legal documents as part of her plan to extort the local authorities while being in their custody, and witnesses her murder two people, commenting only "I've handled worse."

    Western Animation 
  • Played straight, if comically, on The Simpsons. Often representing Mr. Burns is the Blue-Haired Lawyer, a pastiche of Real Life scumbag Roy Cohn. He is always competent and cold, as in this exchange following Lisa's brilliant suggestion to a TV executive (from "The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochy Show" - 1997):
    George Meyers, Jr.: That's it... That's it, little girl! You just saved Itchy and Scratchy!
    Lawyer: Please sign these papers indicating that you did not save Itchy and Scratchy.
    • Note that Mr. Burns really doesn't like him, nor does he like the rest of his legal team, as proven by the way he yelled at them in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" (When he needed legal advice from them, no less.)
    • It should also be noted that the Blue-Haired Lawyer, unlike some of the examples below, seems truly amoral (not immoral) at times. He brought his usual competency to bear while representing Bart when Bart pursued legal emancipation from his family due to financial and other grievances against Homer, no matter his actual feelings about the situation: when Bart declared that he wanted to legally separate from his family in his office, his "You are?!" seems to imply he is aghast; when Bart repeats himself, however, the Blue-Haired Lawyer reveals that he understood him perfectly and was merely calling his assistant who is named "Youare" to get him the necessary forms.
    • On the other hand, the sadly now retired character Lionel Hutz is an incompetent example of this trope, often put up against the Blue-Haired Lawyer and rarely winning unless he's lucky.
    • "When will you humans learn that feelings, as you call them, can get in the way of big cash pay offs? Bwahahahaha!"—spoken by a divorce lawyer (not the Blue-Haired Lawyer) to Manjula, in the episode where she found that Apu was cheating on her.
    • "Can you imagine a world without lawyers?" (cue vision of sunshine utopia)
  • Another less-than-competent example is Kyle Broslovski's lawyer father, Gerald, who nonetheless proceeds to help Eric Cartman and a number of other South Park children bankrupt the local school system through a series of frivolous sexual harassment lawsuits, the money from which he uses to build a huge mansion for his family. Despite this, Gerald is often portrayed as a competent lawyer, even in this episode.
    • As South Park tends to do, though, the treatment of lawyers is surprisingly fair. They're in it for the money, not For the Evulz, and do have hearts - when the good guys can't scrape together the cash, South Park!Johnny Cochrane uses his Chewbacca Defense for them instead, for free.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie brought us Lickboot, Aunt Figg's lawyer sidekick. He doesn't even get to do any lawyer-ing — his profession is just there to tell us that yes, you can count on him to be as greedy as the rest of the villains. Tony Jay gives him an uncharacteristically snide, petulant voice, at least for the Villain Song. Also:
    Aunt Figg: Now stop talking! You're a lawyer — scheme!
    Lickboot: We've got to have more... MONEEEY!''
  • The Boondocks: parodied in one episode where a white lawyer (voiced by Adam West) uses racial identiy and the jury's stupidity to successfully win a case for his defendent while belittling poor Thomas Lancaster Dubois and his mixed-race family in front of a cheering court.
  • Gary the Rat is all about an unscrupulous lawyer.
  • The Venture Bros. gives us Monstroso, a super villain lawyer, which is, as Dr. Mrs. the Monarch describes it, "Like having a shark with a grenade launcher on its head."
  • Played with in an episode of Fairly OddParents. After being tricked by Norm the Jerkass Genie, Timmy realizes that in order to undo the mess, he'd need someone as deceitful and untrustworthy as him...so he immediately wished for a lawyer.
    • More recently, it was revealed that Foop became a lawyer in his never ending quest to upstage Poof (he apparently got his degree while in prison).
    Foop: I knew that in order to defeat you, Poof, I needed to become something truly evil — a lawyer!
  • In an episode of Family Guy, after Peter claims he'd sell his soul for fame, the devil finds out he already sold it...twice! He asks where he can find a lawyer. Pan to see everyone in hell raise their hands.
  • For all it's deliberate caricature of the law, lawyers and litigants, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law actually averts this. None of the lawyers, not even the ones who were once Supervillains, ever do anything unethical.
  • You'd be hard pressed to find a sleazier lawyer than Cousin Mel's attorney in Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, who is more than willing to go along with the plan to sue Santa Claus and throw him in jail simply to make money. The lawyer's name? I.M. Slime.
    • Averted with the prosecutor, however, who outright admits that he doesn't want Santa to go to jail.


All Issues Are Political IssuesThe War on StrawAnimal Wrongs Group
Ambulance ChaserStock CharactersAngry Black Man
Phoenix Wright: Ace AttorneyImageSource/Visual NovelsBig Word Shout
Ambulance ChaserCrime and Punishment TropesArmed Blag
Alternate HistoryOlder Than FeudalismAnachronic Order
Amoral AfrikanerVillainsAngry Guard Dog
Ambulance ChaserThe Courtroom IndexArmy of Lawyers
Amoral AfrikanerAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Anti-Antichrist

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
159239
0