"It's only natural for living creatures to fight to protect their own lives. But what makes us human is that we fight for others. But who do you fight for? How hard must you fight...? That's the true measure of what human life is worth. We defense attorneys are warriors who are constantly challenged by that question. Even when the battle is over, and the bonds that connect us are severed... We always return... Time and time again."
Some lawyers are in it for the money. At best, they don't care who you are or what they are represent at court as long as the bill gets paid. At worst, they are amoral attorneys
who will do anything to win, regardless of the broader impact and with no concern for what's "right."
And then there is the other kind of lawyer: the Crusading Lawyer. This one is sympathetic to your problems and will
help you, though they may need some prodding or screentime
before taking your case. Whether suing a Mega Corp.
because they poisoned the water supply or defending a client's innocence in a murder trial, that's the lawyer you want. Money will be a decidedly secondary worry for this type, and if you can't afford a crusader's services, there is always pro bono
In some cases, a Crusading Lawyer becomes a prosecutor who takes on the most hopeless cases so that justice can be served and will never forget that they serve the people, the law, and the victim. (Strangely, they never suffer from burnout.)
In legal dramas, the protagonist usually fits this trope. If you're in a Crapsack World
or the protagonist is an Anti-Hero
, they may have started
as a Crusading Lawyer before turning into the Well-Intentioned Extremist
version of an Amoral Attorney
. If the character happens to be "quirky" and an actual lawyer as well, you have a (literal) Bunny-Ears Lawyer
. The two tropes aren't mutually exclusive, and a Bunny-Ears Lawyer
may turn out to be a Crusading Lawyer underneath the Courtroom Antics
. If the crusader loses and goes beyond the bounds of the law, they've crossed the line and become a version of the Well-Intentioned Extremist
or The Fundamentalist
. This can be permanent, a form of Character Development
(particularly when done in reverse), or temporary.
Compare to Good Lawyers, Good Clients
. A Crusading Lawyer can appear outside of criminal cases — civil litigation is hugely
expensive, so the crusader may decide to fight for a nobody in a police brutality case. In criminal law, crusaders may defend the obviously guilty to uphold the right to a fair trial, if the letters of the law do not fully suit the situation
, or because of broader issues related to the case. Depending on where the work in question falls on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
, it's possible to see two crusaders in head-to-head battle.
Anime and Manga
- Monster: Fritz Verdemann is devoted to defending people he believes to be innocent, due to his conviction that his father was wrongly accused of being a communist spy. Hired by sympathetic former patients, he ends up defending the neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who is accused of crimes he didn't actually commit and is hunting for the true perpetrator.
- Matt Murdock brings the same sense of work ethics and morality into his day-job.
- She-Hulk too.
- The latest, pre-Comicbook/New52, incarnation of Manhunter (No, not the green one) shows one of the more extreme versions of this trope, as she is a prosecutor willing to bring criminals justice as vigilante if it isn't found in court.
- Harvey Dent was a District Attorney in Gotham City and ally of Batman before a Gangster throws acid in his face and he becomes Two-Face.
- Hard Time has Julius and Truth Rosenberg, a pair of these portrayed in a bad light — as the Distant Finale reveals, they were only interested in Ethan's hot-button case as a way to grab headlines. The second they thought associating with Ethan might reflect badly on them, they abandoned him. Ethan never heard from them again, and ended up serving his full 50 year sentence.
- Edward L. Masry in Erin Brockovich, though more on the "ending there" than "starting there" side. Also in Real Life.
- Similarly Joe Miller from Philadelphia
- Alan Isaacman in The People Vs Larry Flynt
- When superheroes were started to be sued and banned by the government in The Incredibles, daytime-lawyer/nighttime-hero Gazerbeam fought as hard as he could for the rights of his masked compatriots.
- Like in the comics, Harvey Dent.
- John Travolta's character Jan Schlichtmann in A Civil Action was this type of lawyer. He ended up going bankrupt because of his dedication to the cause.
- Ari Josephson in The Chase was this for Jack Hammond pre-film, though he failed at it (the one crucial piece of evidence for his defense was disallowed). He tries to talk Jack out of running, but is unsuccessful. By the end of the movie, he's rooting for Jack to get away.
- Werewolfes born under the Half Moon, called Philodox, in Werewolf: The Apocalypse tend to be this, if following a legal career.
- Celia from The Order of the Stick is technically still at law school, but shows hallmarks that this will be the kind of lawyer she'll be.
- Laurel Olsen from Rhapsodies is a quixotic idealist and believer in "legislation through litigation". She's toned it down a bit since the free legal clinic she was working out of got it's funding cut and she found a more stable position.
- Truth in Television: Many, many law students and recent graduates begin their careers with the intention of becoming a Crusading Lawyer. Many famous names fit this trope, with Johnnie Cochran perhaps being the Ur-example. It's not unheard of for legal firms (of any size) to take on civil cases for free as a way to give back, do the right thing, or otherwise help those who would never be represented.
- The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is built around this trope. In one instance, the ACLU represented a pedophile — and won — due to the fact that the case hinged on an issue of free speech. They also defend or otherwise work to protect the rights of those harmed by racism, sexism, or over-zealous (or just flat-out corrupt) law enforcement.
- They've readily defended people from all ends of the political spectrum in advocating civil liberties, even the free speech rights of the KKK.
- Burton Joseph, an ACLU lawyer who advocated to the ACLU they defend the Skokie Nazis' right to march through the Jewish community of Skokie, is one such example.
- Amnesty International's involvement with major human rights cases also falls under this trope. As with the above, both groups are non-profits, so attorneys working for them are likely making considerably less than they could in other jobs.
- Thurgood Marshall, the great American civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court Justice said that his mentor inspired him with the statement, "A lawyer is either a social engineer or he is a parasite on society."