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Series / The Practice

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"When we first started, it was just Bobby and me, and he was so wide-eyed, every case. And if it was a murder case... God, the light coming out from his eyes... It didn't bother him a bit if the guy was probably guilty. He'd say 'Bec, we defend the guilty because ultimately it protects the innocent'. And now... he hates it when they're innocent. It's too much pressure. That's why none of us last in this job. You can only bear it defending the guilty. And how long can anyone last doing that?"
Rebecca Washington

Law Procedural by David E. Kelley about the "sleazy" Boston law firm of Donnell, Young, Dole & Fruttnote , known for their high quotient of scummy clients and ethically questionable tactics. However, each of the characters at some point reveals having their ideals, with long speeches defending what they do and how they do it.

In its original form, it was a straight series of literate and intelligent courtroom dramas. Around the middle seasons, the show shifted substantially towards criminal drama, often featuring the now almost reputable firm being plagued by its dirtier former clients. In the last seasons, the show started focusing more on the characters' personal lives, both in and out of court (see One of Our Own), and developing increasingly far-out plots with criminally insane clients rather than just sleazy ones, a move that did not prove popular with audience or critics.


This shift ended in a conclusive Retooling in the last season. The network gave David E Kelley an ultimatum, either drastically reduce the cost of the series per episode or face cancellation. Kelley chose to fire most of the main cast, including the lead character, and replaced them with James Spader as Alan Shore. What resulted was a partial return to form in the vein of the earlier seasons, albeit at the total expense of most of main characters (what happened to most of the departing members was never given an explanation). Near the end of the final season, Kelley was given the choice of either continuing the show or developing a spin-off around the Alan Shore character. What resulted ultimately became a Poorly Disguised Pilot for its Spinoff, Boston Legal.



  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Rebecca mentions having an abortion once to Eugene, and seems unhappy about it, or has mixed feelings.
  • Accuse the Witness:
    • Used several times. It even becomes something of a trademark of the titular firm, code-named "Plan B." During the Ally McBeal cross-over DYD&F employ this strategy against the woman's psychiatrist, unbeknownst to the lawyers at Cage & Fish. When Bobby goes up to give his closing the psychiatrist pulls out a gun and commits suicide. As it turns out, Donnell's assertions were actually correct and he did kill the client's husband, but the incident leaves everyone (Bobby and Eugene in particular) extremely shaken.
    • In one instance this helps them win a murder trial and get them sued. Genuinely believing their client's innocence, they accuse the victim's brother in bad faith and he sues them for defamation. They win the suit, but it turns out some time later that their client was guilty after all.
  • A Fool for a Client: Joey Heric decides to defend himself in his second murder trial after growing unhappy with Bobby. The judge permits this, although with Bobby staying to counsel him if necessary. At first he does well, though later he gets outmaneuvered by Helen, with Bobby taking over as his lawyer again.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: In "Free Dental" a psychiatrist gives a Freudian explanation of how the defendant's crush fetishnote  arose. This scene happens in 1999, when Freudianism had been abandoned by virtually all American psychiatrists for more than forty years.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Frequently, as the show often doesn't reveal whether or not the defendant actually is guilty.
  • Amoral Attorney: By the end, pretty much everyone does something unethical. The firm knowingly defends murderers. Alan Shore is an interesting inversion. While Alan does many immoral things (and he's particularly immoral in the Practice), he often does them for moral reasons. For example, he hides evidence (a knife) from the police in connection with a stabbing because the defendant (his client) is insane, and Alan would rather get him acquitted on all charges (the knife was the bulk of the case) and send him to a mental institution than risk the State psychologist finding him both sane and competent to stand trial.
  • Ax-Crazy: George Vogelman, a cross-dressing stalker who became obsessed with Elenor after a blind date, she rejected him and he killed a woman in order to frame her. Elenor tries to say she will help him and he has an insanity defense for what he has done, however he tries to kill her and is shot and killed by Helen.
  • Anti-Hero: Alan, an Amoral Attorney who ends up gaining the moral high ground when he sues the practice after they (after benefiting from his skills, which bring in most of their business and keep them afloat) fire him and attempt to steal his clients.
  • The Artifact: Rebecca was only a receptionist for the first two seasons, but after she became a lawyer, Lisa Gay Hamilton's spot in the credits still featured her answering a phone for two additional years. Even after it was updated (and featured her with the short haircut she adopted early in the second season, instead of the long hair she had during the first), the sound effect of a ringing phone accompanied her image until the end of the sixth season.
  • Beleaguered Childhood Friend: To the point where it seemed like the featured client was one of these every week.
  • Berserk Button: Eugene is a huge guy with an equally huge temper. One instance occurred after he'd cleared a young gang-banger of murder charges. He was riding down in the elevator with the boy and his mother, and the mother said 'If there's anything we could ever do for you...', and Eugene said "As a matter of fact, there IS!", hit the stop button on the elevator, pinned the kid against the wall and told him that he has a son about his age who goes to the same school and that he'd better not try to recruit him into the gang, or ELSE!
    • Alan Shore also pushed Eugene's button as well. One notable example came after Eugene was named to a well-earned judgeship. Alan opened the door to the courtroom and disrupted the trial in progress by yelling, "Eugene! Buddy! How's it going?" The next time the two met up, Eugene reminded him of this and told him, "You may not respect me very much, but you WILL respect this robe!"
  • Bland-Name Product: Zig-Zagged. Characters would occasionally be seen drinking out of what were obviously Coke or Diet Coke cans, but with the logo either obscured, covered or turned away from the camera.
  • Boomerang Bigot: In "Blowing Smoke" the defendant is a black police officer charged with murdering another black man he claims was trying to rob a corner store. His ex-girlfriend reveals he often disparaged black people with racial slurs (though not all-she's also black). In defense, he claims this only applied to the black criminals who he'd dealt with on the job.
  • Broken Aesop: Deliberately invoked in one episode. Eugene defends a man for robbery but it's clear from the beginning that he assumed his client was guilty and simply poked holes in the prosecution's case until it fell apart, and didn't even bother to get his client's side of the story. At the end of the episode his client is acquitted, and it turns out he really was innocent. In a later episode Eugene gets an almost identical case, and having learned from the previous one, assumes his client's innocence and takes his side of the story. However, this client is not only guilty but a liar, and cheerfully admits it to him just before taking the stand. The guilty client also gets off. The two contradictory messages of "Don't assume your client is guilty" and "He almost certainly is guilty" fit the themes of the show pretty well—the system is broken, and there are no easy answers.
  • Broken Pedestal: Bobby's mentor, legendary lawyer Raymond Oz, lost his mind and killed his wife at the end of his life.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Deconstructed by Kenneth Walsh and Raymond Oz, legendary attorneys who later in life suffered a nervous breakdown and Alzheimer's respectively. Their resulting bizarre behavior not only lessened their effectiveness as lawyers, but their ability to function in daily life.
  • Cassandra Truth: In one episode, Rebecca defends a black man who was arrested for drug possession. Although the client is a known drug dealer with a record, he claims he was stopped and searched without cause, and it turns out that the cop who arrested him is a notorious racist who's well known for randomly stopping and searching black people in poor neighborhoods. On the stand the racist cop says that the defendant walked up to him, handed over the drugs and confessed. The judge (for obvious reasons) doesn't believe him and throws out the case. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that he did walk up and confess—he knew the racist cop would search him and find the drugs, so he turned himself in, knowing that no one would believe it and he would be released.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Ellenor laments this trope when trying to save a man on death row in Pennsylvania. To get him off, she needs new evidence showing his innocence, which is DNA. She can't get it tested however, which is what she needs to do for that. They find a way around it and get the new evidence later.
  • Chickification: Ellenor Frutt. A confident, ruthless badass who twice punched another woman in the face after being disrespected, turned into an absolute blubbering mess when confronted by a knife-wielding George Vogelman, especially when deprived of a weapon. Had it not been for the intervention of a nude Helen Gamble, she would have been killed.
  • Chocolate Baby: "Baby Love" has a young (White) woman claim self-defense of her baby (she's pregnant) and herself in killing her husband. She is insistent on wanting to be tried before giving birth, claiming it's to get things over with (plus having the baby in custody otherwise). Her Black neighbor backs up her claims her husband was abusive. At the end, she's acquitted, and then gives birth to a baby whose father is clearly the neighbor, raising Eugene's immediate suspicion as to whether they conspired in killing her husband and used this fake justification so they could stay together. It's clear that she wanted to give birth after the trial because her baby being mixed race would raise such questions.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: It is never explained what happened to the majority of the cast members in the interim between seasons 7 & 8.
  • Clear Their Name: Ellenor, Eugene and Jimmy struggle to do this for a death row inmate in Pennsylvania, facing an uphill battle even when they find new evidence casting doubt on his conviction. They eventually succeed.
  • Common Nonsense Jury: Juries have returned some absolutely ridiculous verdicts in this series.
  • Company Cross References: In one episode, a witness claims that he knows what time a certain thing happened because he was watching Boston Public at the time. This caused a Continuity Snarl when The Practice and Boston Public had a crossover later on.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Happens to some of the acquitted defendants.
  • Courtroom Antic: The show takes a lot of artistic license when it comes to trial proceedings. Lawyers frequently get into shouting matches with the witnesses, the judges, and each other. Both the prosecution and the defense attorneys get away with asking questions that would get them thrown out of a real courtroom. And of course there are the often spurious objections that the judge sustains or overrules without much rhyme or reason, which in some cases would be grounds for appeal.
  • Cowboy Cop: By the end of the series, the entire Boston police force seemed to be made of these.
  • Crossover: With Ally McBeal. The lawyers of DYD&F find Cage & Fish's liberal and crazy work ethic odd while Ally finds DYD&F dark, oppressive, scary and intimidating. They also did a Crossover with Boston Public and another with the short-lived Gideon's Crossing.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: An episode of The Practice featured a couple taken to court because their son died and they could have saved him if they called for medical help but wouldn't because of their religion. The main characters did try to convince a jury to accept religion as an excuse to let the child die. Is there anyone surprised they lost that case?
  • Darker and Edgier: David E. Kelley conceived the show as something of a rebuttal to L.A. Law, for which he wrote, and its romanticized treatment of the American legal system.
  • Deconstruction: Most legal dramas focus either on prosecutors or, if they focus on defense attorneys, the client is always innocent, or at least righteous, and almost all the time, the good people go free and the bad people go to jail. In this show, as in reality, people are wrongly convicted, unrepentant criminals escape on a technicality, and sympathetic criminals rarely get special treatment.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Joey Heric, a gay man and diagnosed narcissist who kills two different lovers, the second just to see if he can get away with doing it. Later he murders another man and frames his lover, then defends the poor guy as a lawyer, all for the fun of it (explicitly saying earlier he gets off defending fellow murderers).
  • Designated Victim: Lindsay has been attacked, stalked, and harassed by multiple serial killers over the years. Even killers who were pursuing other characters attack her when their target isn't there.
  • Dramatic Pause: The time between the words "we find the defendant," and the actual verdict grew continually longer as the series progressed.
  • False Confession:
    • Subverted. A man named William Hinks is caught at the scene of the last of a series of brutal murders of women and confesses to all nine murders, but his confession includes incorrect details the police had given the press in order to weed out nut jobs. After almost being ruled out by an FBI profiler, Hinks speaks to a psychiatrist who comes to believe he's delusional and not a killer at all. Hinks insists he's guilty while Lindsey tries to prove his innocence, and she coaxes even more false details out of him on the stand. She posits that Hinks, chasing the notoriety of a serial killer, learnt of the location of the last murder via a police scanner, headed there and waited to be caught near the scene, whereas the prosecution argues that he was forced to rush his last murder, got caught and hit upon the idea of giving the impression of being a delusional man who merely thinks he's the killer. While they're awaiting the verdict, Lindsey gets the impression that the prosecutor's version of events is true, and Hinks tells her it is. However, the jury doesn't see through it and returns a not guilty verdict on all nine counts.
    • One innocent prisoner was convicted largely after he got coerced into confessing by the police due to being held without sleep for hours. It was deemed voluntary anyway, since they didn't use physical force.
  • Faux Yay: Inverted by recurring character Joey Heric. Joey is an openly gay narcissistic Serial Killer who enjoys unnerving female prosecutors by making sexual advances on them.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • A Fool for a Client:
    • Joey Heric decides to defend himself in his second murder trial after growing unhappy with Bobby. The judge permits this, although with Bobby staying to counsel him if necessary. At first, he does well, though later he gets outmaneuvered by Helen, with Bobby taking over as his lawyer again.
    • In "Pro Se" Eleanor gets a client who insists on defending himself when she won't put up the defense he wants. With her as standby counsel, he does a surprisingly good job, even getting acquitted though after he escaped from custody, killing a guard in doing so.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The episode "Man and Superman" revolves around a wrongful death suit filed by a widow against a mental patient who believes he's Superman and the hospital he lives in. The man leapt from a high window and landed on her husband, killing him. Everyone involved knows she's going to win, and the conflict of the episode is between Jimmy, who represents the patient, and the lawyers representing the asylum, as they try to pin the blame on each other.
  • Frame-Up: In the episode "Hammerhead Sharks", the defendant turns out to have gotten set up, as he insisted, by the real killers.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Season 5's "An Early Frost" has one near the end where if one froze the action and looked closely, one could see a can of Ralphs brand green beans; which would also be a Blooper due to Ralphs, long one of the most prominent grocery chains in Southern California (where "The Practice" was shot) but has no presence whatsoever in Boston.
  • Freudian Trio: Among the male characters. Jimmy was the Id, Eugene was the Superego and Bobby was the Ego. Often the ethical dilemmas would boil down to Jimmy stating the morally correct course of action, Eugene giving the legal solution and Bobby trying to decide between them.
  • Friendly Enemy: Prosecutor Helen Gamble. Not only does she date Bobby at one point (the relationship fails to survive its first real challenge, Bobby and Helen facing each other in court), but she and Lindsey eventually become roommates. One scene has her and Lindsey giggling, spraying each other with cream and generally having a lot of fun, when earlier that day they'd been on opposite sides of a murder case.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Helen Gamble fatally shoots George Vogelman while she is completely naked.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Averted until the very last season, which had three men and three women. Until then, the show had always had a majority female cast. It was the most extreme toward the end of the seventh season, in which only three of the ten credited cast members were men.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The best thing that the main cast can do is try their hardest for A Lighter Shade of Gray. Their success is questionable.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Averted; many clients actually are guilty, while with others, it's never proven one way or the other. Very rarely does the firm actually represent the innocent (although often times the firm will make the distinction that while their clients are guilty they really don't deserve to go to prison). In one episode of note, Eugene defends a client without any consideration for his guilt or innocence, refuses to put him on the stand or to believe in him. The client gets acquitted, but snaps at Eugene because he refused to believe in his genuine innocence.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Most of the characters, though Jimmy and Ellenor were notable aversions (and even they might qualify as Hollywood Ugly). Originally Bobby Donnell was going to be a heavy set, unattractive, sleazy lawyer type, but Dylan McDermott's audition changed David E Kelley's mind about who the character should be, so Bobby Donnell's original conception was split between Bobby and Jimmy.
  • Hollywood Jehovah's Witness: Rebecca is revealed as being a Jehovah's Witness right when she needs a blood transfusion. Unusually for an Informed Religion topic, the fact that no one's seen any evidence of her being a Witness becomes a plot point. The other attorneys at her firm argue that her personal practices clearly indicate that she is not a Witness and therefore should receive a transfusion. It's never confirmed whether she considers herself to be one or not.
  • Hollywood Law: Creator David E. Kelley, despite himself being a lawyer, gets lots of details wrong (or perhaps discards them for dramatic purposes).
    • In "Line of Duty", Bobby learns from his prosecutor girlfriend that the police will be raiding a drug house-one which his drug dealer client runs. So he warns the client to get out, and all but tells him there is not only an informant in his organization, but also his name. Instead of fleeing said drug dealer client was packing up when the police arrived, and four officers were murdered, plus their informant. When the police discover what he did, Bobby is charged with reckless homicide, and in his defense he argues that his legal duty to represent the client covered warning of an impending arrest. The judge agrees. Not even close. Though attorneys must zealously represent all clients, this has to stay within the bounds of the law. Unsurprisingly, warning a drug dealer he was about to be arrested isn't legal, but makes you an accessory after the fact to his crimes. It's also really unlikely that he would be charged with only reckless homicide, since that warning caused four police officers' murders, and that of the informant (remember, tipping him off was accessory after the fact) meaning he could be convicted of felony murder. The judge dismisses the case because she can't be sure of what Bobby was thinking when he tipped off his client. However, there is more than enough evidence for a trial, and such issues must be left up to the jury. The standard for ordering a case bound over for trial (probable cause) is much lower than to convict someone (beyond a reasonable doubt).
    • The attorneys are frequently seen holding conversations with the witnesses or accused while they're on the stand, without any line of questioning. This is even lampshaded in "The Case Against Alan Shore" when Alan calls the firm out for this and asks if the judge is going to say anything, but receives no response.
    • In "Checkmate" Joey Heric, the defendant who is going pro se, gets called as a witness by prosecutor Helen Gamble. The judge allows it over his entirely correct objection that this violates the Fifth Amendment because he "opened the door" by saying he killed the victim in self-defense during his opening statement, which is supposedly testimony. This is not the case however, and no reasonable judge would permit it. Any subsequent conviction could be overturned.
    • Bobby and Helen are in a relationship while both are still taking cases against each other. Later Lindsey and Helen are housemates and close friends while doing the same thing. In both cases, it would be unethical due to the potential bias they could have towards each other. Though it's unclear if the judges know of this sometimes, they never bring it up among themselves either until one case where Judge Hiller says it would be fine while in reality, they don't allow this.
    • Lawyers are frequently shown meeting with the judges privately in their chambers, which is not allowed. True, it still happens sometimes, but often it's arranged right in front of the opposing counsel without objections.
  • Informed Ability: Alan's skills as an anti-trust lawyer, which are mentioned by almost every other character. Throughout the final season (and Boston Legal), he's seen practicing a variety of fields, but he is never once shown practicing in this one.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Mentally ill people are invariably violent, mostly killers on the show. It's justified as otherwise they wouldn't be facing criminal charges that the firm defends them from.
  • Internalized Categorism: Since he was a child, Bobby has wanted to be a high-powered lawyer, like the kind at the practice his dad worked as a janitor. He also hates them with every fiber of his being. This roiling self-hatred is one of his several personal issues that regularly push him to breaking point.
  • It's Personal: Quite often. The main cast is often called upon to defend their friends and family, and their relationship with DA Helen Gamble makes it so that their courtroom fights are intensely personal affairs.
  • I Won't Say I'm Guilty: It happens frequently.
    • In one episode, the defendant reluctantly agrees to plead guilty (while still privately denying guilt), after the jury is done deliberating. The plea is accepted, and then Bobby discovers that the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.
    • In two cases, prisoners who maintained they're innocent refused to say that they were guilty in hopes of gaining parole. One time the parole board granted it anyway, which they noted was probably the first time that had happened (since it's required that a prisoner confess generally as part of taking responsibility). However, in the second case he was denied and had to wait until DNA exonerated him. This is a real thing, called the innocent prisoner's dilemma.
  • Karma Houdini: Played straight and inverted almost constantly. If the firm is defending a psychopath, they'll almost always get him off; if it's clear someone is innocent, you can bet they're going to jail.
  • Lie Detector: The show depicted polygraphs as almost 100% accurate, and regarded passing one as the gold standard for proof of innocence. One client who was able to fool the polygraph (something laughably easy in Real Life) was described as "one in a million". Nonetheless, like in reality, polygraph results were inadmissible in court. This of course begs the question why they are inadmissible if they are supposed to be so accurate.
  • Likes Older Women: Eugene's son Kendall (who's eleven) is shown as attracted to Lucy, who's around a decade older than him. He even asks Lucy on a date. She politely declines and explains she's too old for him.
  • Law Procedural
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Skip's mother assumes Lucy is a slut who seduced him and inspired his wire fraud to pay for an engagement ring, without any evidence, since she apparently can't fathom that her son was capable of this otherwise.
  • The Mentor: Lindsey acted as a mentor to a young lawyer named Claire in season 7. She disappeared for season 8.
  • Mercy Kill: The crime being prosecuted in at least one episode. Another episode featured a man being prosecuted for inciting a mercy kill. Bobby himself turned off his mother's ventilator in order to end her suffering.
  • Miscarriage of Justice:
    • Five years before DNA tests became available, Bobby Donnell defended an accused murderer who was forced by Kenneth Walsh to confess. Because Bobby believed his client to be guilty, the client had to wait ten years after DNA tests became available until an innocence program has the case reopened and the real culprit was revealed to be someone who had previously confessed out of remorse for seeing an innocent man being blamed but neither Bobby nor Walsh did anything about it. Out of remorse for not requesting the DNA test as soon as it became available, Bobby agreed to help his client sue the State.
    • In a later episode, police pick up two drifters in the wrong place at the wrong time for a cop shooting. Under the expanded powers of The War on Terror, they're able to torture a confession out of one of them. On top of that, the guy they didn't charge backs out of testifying for his friend when Eugene lets him know he could be considered a suspect himself.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Judge Roberta Kittleson, who admits first to having an erotic dream about Bobby, gets sued when a much younger former clerk whom she had an affair with alleges sexual harassment, after this has a relationship with Jimmy, and then it's revealed she's had affairs with many lawyers that she's older than.
  • Münchausen Syndrome: Amoral Attorney Hannah Rose helped a client to walk away with rape by pointing out the victim had been previously diagnosed with Munchhausen, despite the dubious nature of why the doctor who made that diagnosis decided to do it.
  • Murder by Mistake: The firm once tried and failed to save a client from being executed for this kind of murder.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In one episode Bobby defends a woman accused of murdering her husband, although she initially seems credible when she pleads her innocence, she's caught lying on the stand and starts to look very guilty. Bobby manages to enter a plea for second degree murder at the last second (literally just before the judge reads out the verdict), only to find out that the jury's verdict was not guilty.
  • No Ending: Largely because it spun off into Boston Legal.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The defendant in "Checkmates" turns out to not be so mentally disabled as he seemed at the end, having come up with a smart plan for getting himself off murder charges.
  • One of Our Own: Bobby is a defendant in a few episodes, and one late series story arc has Lindsay on trial for murder.
  • One Steve Limit: As in real life, a lot of forenames reoccur over the show. Within the main cast alone, there have been two men named Alan. There's also the near-homonyms of Helen and Ellenor, James/Jimmy and Jamie. Counting Boston Legal, there have also been two Claires in the title credits, although neither one lasted a full season.
  • Only Shop in Town: Downplayed with law firms. There clearly are other law firms that appear and sometimes compete with Bobby's, but Bobby's firm is the only one in town that is willing to do the type of work that they do.
  • Pedophile Priest: This trope caused Bobby to turn his back on the Catholic faith.
  • Perspective Flip: A legal drama told from the point of view of the sleazy defense firm.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: A lot of people forget that Jimmy wasn't in the title credits until the fourth episode of the six-episode first season, when he actually joined the practice, and was a guest star before that. Lucy also got one midway through Season 3 after a stint as a guest, and Richard Bay got one in Season 5 after recurring in most of Season 4.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "There's a head! There's a head in the bag!" Also done with a single word ("Mass. A. Chu. Setts.") by the judge in the firm's first capital case, which took them from Massachusetts to California. They reused the same judge and his propensity for emphasizing Massachusetts in Boston Legal.
  • Pyromaniac: In "Fire Proof" an Italian-American businessman is charged with arson and felony murder due to a confessed pyromaniac serial arsonist claiming he'd been hired to burn the guy's warehouse for insurance fraud, which later killed the night watchman. He openly admits to masturbating while watching his fires, as they sexually arouse him, and is a huge creep all around. The jury acquits the businessman, and he later admits to Lindsey he'd made the fraud scheme up, setting the fire just for his usual kicks. He figured that he'd get caught, so instead first turned himself in and became the state's witness to get a deal.
  • Rape as Backstory: Jamie Stringer, a young female lawyer who joins in season seven, reveals she'd been date raped in "Burnout" by a man who drugged her after taking a case where a young woman alleged not being hired as a result of being a rape victim. At first she claims to have gotten over it, but later breaks down in conversation with Lucy, who counsels rape victims.
  • Reality Ensues: In "Brother's Keepers", luckless attorney Harland Bassett pulls a TV courtroom ploy by having another woman impersonate the defendant, his niece. The judge cites him for contempt, since this is a fraud on the court. Even so, she gets acquitted because the witness continues identifying the wrong person.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Both Kelli Williams (Lindsay Dole) and Cameryn Manheim (Ellenor Frutt) were pregnant during season 5, and this got written into the show. The circumstances even mirrored their own: Williams was pregnant with her husband's child (Lindsay also by Bobby), Manheim from sperm donation (the same thing done with Ellenor).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Judge Hiller delivers an absolutely scathing one to Bobby late in the fifth season after his attempts to secure reasonable doubt for a client become particularly underhanded. Even more effective because she delivers it in hushed, matter-of-fact tones, and ends by telling him that, whether he wins or loses the case, she wants him to go home that night and just hold his recently-born son.
  • Recurring Character: Some of the firm's cases lasted several episodes — sometimes as much as two months in Real Life — so naturally the clients in those cases appeared in numerous episodes.
  • The Reveal: The end-of-episode cutaway shot to George Vogelman in a nun's habit was a very effective shock to the audience, since we had been led to believe he was innocent up to that point. Which was just not so.
  • Sassy Secretary: Lucy, Rebecca, Lucy, Tara, Lucy. Lucy.
  • Scary Black Man: Eugene could be very frightening, especially when in Tranquil Fury, and he wasn't above threatening people, he even beat up two of his own clients.
  • Screaming Birth
  • Serial Killer: A few, including the Poet, an unidentified murderer who provides a handy alternate suspect for the firm to pin a couple of the more brutal murders they defend on.
  • Sexy Secretary: Lucy, Tara again. Perhaps Rebecca.
  • Situational Sexuality: Invoked by a guard when Lindsey is briefly imprisoned, during her orientation the (female) guard recommends that she pick up a dental dam from the infirmary "in case you get involved with anyone, better safe than sorry".
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Downplayed, the Practice was a small, run-down office in a dingy area of Boston, while a number of their civil actions were against big, skyscraper-based law firms staffed with snooty Harvard educated lawyers. As well as this, a good chunk of the main characters had lower-class backgrounds (Eugene and Rebecca were inner-city blacks, Bobby and Jimmy were working class Catholics from immigrant families). They were not above playing up their image to the primarily working class Boston juries.
  • Slut-Shaming: In "Civil Right" Eugene attacks an alleged rape victim's testimony by pointing to what she wore on the night of her date with his client, implying that as she was in a revealing dress, she was "asking for it." This appears to be Eugene's go-to strategy when defending clients in rape cases, as we see him utilize the same tactics with another case near the end. He gets rebuked publicly for it by the victim, and the judge finds this all disgusting (though he can't stop such questions) and Eugene feels terrible about doing so. However, he keeps doing it in defense of his client.
  • Society Marches On: A 1997 episode finds Jimmy Berluti's mother coming out of the closet and asking her son to defend (albeit unsuccessfully) her right to marry another woman. If only she waited seven more years when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts...
  • Spinoff: Boston Legal
  • Start My Own: Lindsay initially did this at the beginning of the seventh season, working in the same building as the others and more than occasionally using their library and resources. Bobby leaves the firm at the end of the seventh season to start another firm, while Jimmy leaves near the end of the eighth to start his own after the fallout from the failed case against Alan.
  • Straw Conservative: The show had a decidedly left-wing message, with Jimmy usually representing a token conservative viewpoint which would usually be proven wrong. Unlike most examples, he wasn't depicted as bigoted or malicious, in fact he was one of the most moral characters on the show, he was just old-fashioned and naive. A much straighter example would be prosecutors Kenneth Walsh and Richard Bay, although they had some sympathetic moments.
  • Stupid Crooks: A huge number of clients were pretty dumb, lines such as "How can it be stealing if it's for someone else?" were commonplace
  • Suspiciously Clean Criminal Record: While prosecuting Russel Bakey, Helen Gamble considers it odd his record doesn't have even a speeding ticket.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Some of the guilty clients fall into this trope.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: One of the main conflicts of the show
  • Twofer Token Minority: Rebecca, a black woman who was initially the secretary and later a lawyer at the firm.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: In one episode, a company hires Lindsay to represent them when a potential customer sues them for discriminating against Arabs. Lindsay and the plaintiff find themselves alone in an elevator and remain silent. Justified because she's not supposed to have any conversations with the plaintiff without the latter's lawyer being present.
  • Underestimating Badassery: A lot of the high-powered and corporate law firms go into cases assuming they can push DYD&F around and easily steamroll them. They still assume it after high-profile wins over cigarette companies, gun manufacturers and the federal government.
  • Vigilante Execution: Perpetrated by a number of different clients.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: One killer, George Vogelman, did his dirty work in a nun's habit.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Jamie, when she sees her first dead body.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • These moments become increasingly common as the series goes on, and are the main contributing factor to the series' conclusion. The firm is dissolved, and the few remaining members enter different legal ranks in the hopes of rehabilitating the damage their What the Hell, Hero? moments have done to their reputations and their own sense of self-worth.
    • Lindsay gets to deliver one to her law professor. Her professor represents corporate clients, including the tobacco company Lindsay filed suit against, and he continually pleads that Lindsay stop working for Bobby Donnell and his criminal law firm and come and work in his more respectable firm. After a case where Lindsay used underhanded tactics to force the professor to either make a deal or turn over incriminating documents on how the company markets tobacco to teenagers (which would be tantamount to making the plaintiff's case for them), the professor goes as far as to say that Lindsay is his biggest disappointment and proof that he failed as a professor. Lindsay then retorts that while she defends total scum, she does so honorably and never helps her clients to kill or hurt people. Conversely the professor represents a tobacco company, a business that knowingly poisons and kills people, and helps them to do it successfully. Lindsay concludes that he is therefore a far worse attorney than she is.
    • The whole group of main characters get one during the final season when they fire Alan (who had, up to that point, kept the whole operation afloat by being their main source of revenue) and sue him for multiple perceived instances of immoral and unethical behavior (including posing as a flight attendant and accessing the office computers to get information). Alan's whole defense comes down to, "Yes, I am an Amoral Attorney and a scumbag, but I brought this practice most of its revenue, none of these lawyers are any more ethical than I am, and I just want my slice of the pie." The court agrees, and awards Alan $2.3 million, causing the dissolution of the practice in the final episodes. Worse, during the entire case Eugene insisted that Alan's lack of ethics disgraced the firm, that the firm had integrity. While that is partly true, in regards to non-criminal cases, the firm mainly gained its reputation defending known killers and being underhanded in doing so, suggesting that Eugene is delusional and that his beef with Alan is mostly personal.
  • White Sheep: With the exception of his parents, Jimmy's family is mostly made up of pretty unpleasant people; he defends two separate cousins for discriminatory firings on different occasions.


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