Louis Tully: I think you guys are making a big mistake. I do mostly tax law and probate stuff occasionally. I got my law degree at night school.
Well, that's fine, Louis. We got arrested at night. (Head Desk
The legal counterpart of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist
. In fiction, if you have a law degree, that means you can work on any legal issue, particularly trial law. Never mind that there are countless branches of law, such as tax law and copyright law, which are unrelated to trial law.
Part of Artistic License - Law
. Often considered an Acceptable Break from Reality
in Law Procedurals
, since it gives the writers more flexibility in the kinds of cases they can write while keeping the price of the cast down.
Film - Live Action
- In the Marvel Universe, Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, specializes in superhero law, but that includes criminal cases, civil rights law, civil suits and anything else that might come up.
- A villainous example (well, more or less) was Tony Stark's former lawyer Bert Hindel. 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. In any event, the fact that Hindel was trying to practice public, private, criminal, and civil law simultaneously, and was incompetent at all of them, shows why this Trope is unrealistic.
- Perry Mason has Perry getting involved in a lot of different types of legal business- in fact, he often gets his trial clients by having them hire him for something else entirely.
- The Good Wife has had the main cast at Lockhart/Gardner and eventually Florrick/Agos doing everything from capital crime defense to immigration law to copyright law. Recurring characters tend to be specialists, however: Lockhart/Gardner's David Lee specializes in family law (e.g. divorces and paternity suits), while recurring antagonist Louis Canning mainly defends corporations from class-actions.
- This is subverted in Drop Dead Diva. Jane Bingum works many colorful cases, but she primarily ends up working civil and criminal cases, as she is a criminal lawyer.
- On Suits, part of the reason why Harvey Specter rose so quickly through the law firms ranks is because he is proficient in multiple areas of the law. His main specialty is mergers and tax law but he also spent a few years working as a criminal prosecutor specifically to get a solid background in criminal law. This is averted with most of the firm's other partners who specialize exclusively in certain areas of the law and can be very territorial when Harvey gets involved in a case that falls into their area of expertise. On the other hand, as part of their Training from Hell, the junior associates are supposed to work any case that is assigned to them no matter what areas of the law it touches on or how proficient they are in the subject matter.
- Law & Order:
- Subverted one episode. An accused person hired his cousin, a real-estate lawyer, to represent him. He did a comically lousy job at arraignment.
- Another Law & Order example: Marty Winston, the defendant in the episode "By Perjury", was a lawyer who decided to defend himself in his murder trial. However, he was a civil litigator who had never touched a criminal case before. In this case it was due to pure arrogance, as he was supremely confident in his ability to beat the murder rap by himself.
- In The WB series Just Legal Don Johnson plays a slightly Amoral Attorney who doesn't specialize, he does everything - murder, civil cases, litigation, and everything in between. He and his new associate also do all their own legwork because they're understaffed & too poor to hire anybody.
- Marshall in How I Met Your Mother is explicitly going to law school for the sake of becoming an environmental lawyer. However, he spends the majority of the series as a corporate lawyer for one evil Mega Corp. or another. He also acts as counsel for his friends whenever they get into a scrape with the law.
- On JAG, Harm argues before a Navajo Tribunal Court in "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" and an Australian Court in "Boomerang". Mac argues before a Sharia court in "The Princess and The Petty Officer". And both Harm and Mac defends Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield at the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav".
- Averted in "Innocence" where they hire a Japanese attorney, and in "Standards of Conduct" where it's clear that neither Harm nor Sturgis has any intimate knowledge nor experience with civil cases (but Bud does).
- Subverted in an episode of The Cosby Show. Vanessa gets a school assignment to make a video about the job of one of her parents. She eagerly picks her lawyer mom, thinking she does exciting criminal law cases like what they always show on TV. The problem is, she's a real estate lawyer, which Vanessa quickly finds dreadfully boring. That her father helps deliver babies on the other hand...
- Massey Reinstein of Schlock Mercenary was a public defender on Luna before signing on with the Toughs out of self defence. Since then, he's negotiated contracts, negotiated treaties, defended and prosecuted in civil and criminal cases, all in at least a half-dozen jurisdictions. He's also shot several opposing attorneys, although that's not directly related to his skills as a lawyer. He does have the benefit of the entire gathered knowledge of the Partnership Collective due to an interrupted brainwashing implant operation, but one would think certification would be an issue.
- In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Harvey will take the case. Any case. From criminal defense to setting up a business to civil defense to being the plaintiff. There seems to be a slight bit of specification with the other lawyers (Freezoid is explicitly an excellent criminal defense attorney, but even he is shown representing people in civil suits).
- Subverted on Daria—though she's occasionally threaten lawsuits to anyone she feels deserves it, Helen is specifically a corporate lawyer. For example, in one episode she and her sister Rita have a fight about whether or not Helen should handle her niece's divorce case; given their difficult relationship, Rita seemed to think Helen was just making excuses not to help.
- On The Simpsons, Lionel Hutz usually practices civil law, but he has taken cases as a prosecutor and a defense attorney as well. (One time as a court-appointed attorney, in fact.) His record in any branch of law isn't all-too good.
- Of course, the more competent Blue Haired Lawyer also seems willing to take both civil and criminal cases.
- For many years David Letterman used his local (Indiana) GP attorney to handle all his multimillion dollar contracts. When the first Late Night Wars erupted he was advised to get a real entertainment lawyer. Temporarily he got the permission of superagent Michael Ovitz to be able to drop his name until he set something up with someone else.