Amoral Attorney

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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 unlikeable, cynical, slimy characters, even more so 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 innocence. If the main character is poor, the Amoral Attorney is the Goliath in the David Versus Goliath scenario. If his client testifies against him, expect him, no matter how knowledgeable, to futilely try invoking attorney-client privilege and promptly be told it doesn't work that way.

In reality, attorneys are simply acting 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. 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. Ideally, a strong defense of their client serves as an important check against Dirty Cops, Hanging Judges, and Kangaroo Courts. What an attorney may 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?

A possible reason lawyers form such Acceptable Targets may be that people generally only interact with them directly at difficult times in their lives (when facing criminal sanction, civil suits, or the complexity of land laws when buying a house), meaning individuals are not associated with the good parts of the legal system, like public order and good lawmaking.

A more likely reason is that lawyers are under no obligation to uphold the public interest; they (at best) uphold the interests of their client who (inherently, given the adversarial structure of the system) will be in the wrong at least half the time. Respected professions like doctors and nurses, architects and engineers are required by a professional code of ethics to uphold public safety; the lawyers' code of ethics typically carries no obligations except to their own client or the profession itself. There's a "win at all costs" mentality in which the ends justify the means. Anything from silencing whistle blowers through non-disclosure agreements, non-disparagement clauses or "catch-and-kill journalism" to having a key witness followed by a private eye to re-victimising sexual assault victims by attacking their credibility and treating them as the accused to intimidate them into silence while their assailant, sorry, alleged assailant sits there grinning after taking the Fifth? Just Doing My Job, ma'am. Bankrupting an opponent in legal fees, then imposing a settlement where the victim accepts an undisclosed sum for not discussing the case ever again, while the perpetrator goes free to continue to harm others? All just business as usual.

In any case, the lawyers - as a profession - do not have to answer to anyone other than other lawyers. The judge is a lawyer, the Bar Association or other regulators are lawyers and, even if the calls for reform go before the Legislature, typically half of the elected legislators are themselves lawyers. Those with money and counsel might get justice, those with neither fall by the wayside.

Remember, the Amoral Attorney, odious strawman though he may be, is competent. They do not bring silly Frivolous Lawsuits —- that's the Ambulance Chaser. Although often unethical, this villain isn't necessarily corrupt. Being lawyers, they don't necessarily break the law to win, they merely work around and within the law's limitations.

Contrast the Simple Country Lawyer and Crusading Lawyer. There are a few lawyers who do what they do out of some sense of principle or justice, but they're too few and far between.

Examples of Amoral Attorney include:

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.

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 Ten 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.
  • Marvel Comics has both straight examples and aversions:
    • Matt Murdock could be one of the biggest aversions of this trope ever written.
    • Jennifer Walters is also quite an aversion, and is likely the first lawyer a hero with legal troubles should call.
    • 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.
    • Janice Lincoln (daughter of notorious hitman Lonnie Lincoln, aka Tombstone) could well be an Evil Counterpart to Walters and Murdock, being a defense attorney who specializes in defending villains. Her father would much prefer she pursue this career and stop acting as a villain herself in her identity of the Beetle, but it seems the thrill of doing so is too much a temptation for Janice...
  • The classic Carl Barks Donald Duck 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.
  • In the short-lived Penthouse Comix series, the villain Doomblood (a Corrupt Corporate Executive in his "civilian" identity and something of a pervert in both) has one, his decision to open fire on Captain Adventure and Hericane while the two are, uhm, intimate, done on said lawyer's advice:

Lawyer: Don't worry, D.B., everything's strictly according to the code. They've clear violated certain public standards of decency and under the relevant New York City zoning regs - 436-67A&B as well as the anti-hate crime and bias laws. You were clearly authorized to use deadly force to protect your airspace.
Doomblood: Well that's just peachy. And they call me evil.

  • Unfortunately, when Doomblood demands a Scarpia Ultimatum to Hericane in return for Captain Adventure's release, she brings her Amoral Attorney to negotiate film and pictorial rights!
  • But unfortunately for both, it turned out that the bigger villains were the two lawyers themselves, who were Playing Both Sides to profit off of it.


  • 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.
  • 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 in the film Blade II:

Blade: You're human?
Kounen: Barely. I'm a lawyer.

  • 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 Devil's Advocate. Satan himself is apparently a scummy defense attorney.
    • Well, of course. He is canonically a prosecutor. You think you can just change sides in the courtroom and do just as well?
    • He's more like an inspirator and coordinator of a whole army of amoral attorneys. 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.
      • Which ties into the biggest hotspot of the movie: at the end, the Reset Button is pushed, and he decides to walk away from defending the pedophile - while saying that he'll be disbarred for the act. IRL, lawyers are legally compelled to do everything Lomax did throughout the movie (besides screw their half-sisters to sire the Anti Christ). If there's the slightest chance the jury will swallow a given defense, lawyers have to present it to them - it's Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught!
  • 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 the lawyer and the criminal he defends up 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 Complete Monsters 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, of course, 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 Did Not Do the Research. 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 Punch Clock 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.


  • 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).
  • 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. He is also quite quick to abandon his partners in crime.
    • 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.
    • It should be noted that 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.

  • 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.
  • Actually, the unwillingness of the judicial system to grant justice to a pro se litigant in forma pauperis was a familiar concept even in biblical times. From one parable on the power of prayer:
There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’
—Jesus in Luke 18:2-5
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.
—Luke 11:46
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.
—Luke 11:52
  • 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 anal rape.
  • 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.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Played with like you would not believe! 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. Of course, 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.

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. Sucka).
    • As well as some of the prosecutors. Jack McCoy, in particular, is known for hiding evidence, bullying witnesses, and generally abusing the hell out of 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 (except Shambala Green). McCoy often has friendly relationships with them.
    • 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.
    • An even bigger exception would be Danielle Melnick, plays by Tovah Feldshuh, a one-woman crusader for the Bill of Rights whose sole justification for working so hard to defend some of the worst dregs of humanity is that the Constitution says that even the worst deserve a defense in court. A Jewish woman, she even once defended a Neo-Nazi because of her belief in the Constitutional right to a fair trial.
    • 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.
    • And Paul Robinette, a former prosecutor for the first 3 seasons of the show. He returns to defend several clients out of sheer principle.
    • Law and 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.
  • Cop Rock: the spin doctors hired by the legal team sing about how they will portray Vincent La Russo as having shot the suspect in self-defense. Cop Rock - No Problem
  • 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.
  • 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 Complete Monster (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 with :" I don't know, I guess I just liked rapists." Then he laughs and says that that's not the real reason.
  • 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 BBC 1 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 Complete Monster 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. Of course, 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 heck of a 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.
  • 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.
  • Jeff Winger in Community is an unapologetic version of this 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.
  • 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.
  • As the page quote shows, Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. Irish guy who takes a Jewish sounding name because he thinks criminals prefer a Jewish lawyer. When Walt and Jesse kidnap him, he initially begs for his life. But once he realizes that they're not the drug dealers he thinks they are, he starts calmly talking shop. He even asks them why they don't just kill the dealer they want him to defend. Has his own website, too.
  • 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."
  • Heavily 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, his lawyer said that he'd need the signatures of his parents. Francis quickly forged their signatures in front of the lawyer, who simply went ahead with the emancipation.
      • Maybe the lawyer knew his parents.
  • Recurring characters Fenn and Geller (portrayed by Special Guests Penn and Teller) on The Drew Carey Show; much like the whole administration at the company Drew worked for, they were pretty crooked.
  • 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 totally 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.
  • Suits features a Villain Protagonist Amoral Attorney (although he's nice-ish to his newbie partner). Also noteworthy for being 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 and 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.
  • Double-subverted (to an exaggerated degree) on The Closer in the episode "Power of Attorney." At one point, Brenda and Sergeant Gabriel confront a slick lawyer who represents their chief suspect in a series of brutal rapes, the last one of which ended in murder, and ask him how he can represent such a reprehensible person and live with himself. The lawyer gives an impassioned speech arguing that, since those accused of sex offenses face not only harsh sentences but lifelong punishment in the form of mandatory public registration, they deserve an even better defense than other criminals. Of course, in the end, it turns out that not only is the suspect guilty, but the lawyer was his accomplice all along (and the one who actually committed the rapes and the murder); he was just defending the guy so he could muddy the waters enough that he could never be convicted of the crimes.

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."
  • 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. It's obvious he has never taken an ethics class in his life. Still, he's not the most successful lawyer, only taking hopeless cases. One case that he won was defending a woman who was obviously guilty of brutally murdering her husband, the not guilty verdict completely ruining Steve's plans to sell the movie rights.


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

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • 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.


  • 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.

Tabletop Games

  • From Dungeons & Dragons; ever enter a contract with an Archdevil and start to have second thoughts? No worries. Glasya might be willing to help out, as she's an Archdevil herself and employs many infernal legal counsels who are willing - for a price - to find any loopholes in that contract you signed that might release you from it. Of course, the price is selling your soul to Glasya herself but since she and her servants are far more pleasant to mortal eyes than the typical devil, some mortals may see this as the better option. Naturally this sneaky way of stealing souls that other devils have already stolen is one of many reasons Glasya has no allies among other Archdevils whatsoever.
    • Also, Tyrants of the Nine Hells claims that if someone believes he was cheated in a Faustian pact, he can challenge it, and Hell actually has a legal system where they will provide a lawyer for someone who does so. These infernal lawyers - usually erinyes or legion devils - are truly amoral as far as the law is concerned, and should the plaintiff have a valid point, will do all they can to argue that point in his favor.


  • 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.

All thieves who could my fees afford
Relied on my orations
And many a burglar I've restored
To his friends and his relations.

Video Games

  • Most of the prosecutors (not counting Payne) in the Ace Attorney series are at least a little bit shady or unethical. All but one of them, however, get some redemption. Since this is All The Tropes, let's go down the line.
    • Miles Edgeworth: Perfection obsessed, but undergoes a lot of character development and gets a Heel Face Turn by the end of the game, and later gets his own Spin-Off game.
    • Franziska von Karma: See above, coupled with an obsession with succeeding where her adopted brother (NOT her father) failed. She also badgers witnesses, either with threats of legal action or with her whip.
    • Manfred von Karma: Besides strong implications of forging evidence and tampering with witnesses, he was also so obsessed with perfection that when a defense attorney got him penalized in court, he took a six-month vacation - his first in the entirety of his thirty-year career. 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.
    • Godot/Diego Armando: Out for revenge against Wright, who he blames for Mia Fey's death. He's also a little on the unstable side.
    • Klavier Gavin: Nope, he's pretty clean. His brother's another story.
    • 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, a character tells you to think about the choice you made then as a sign of what being a defense attorney really means to you.
    • 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.
    • 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 averts the older series' inversion by being perfectly moral from his first appearance.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, 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 he was the one who provided the forged evidence himself.
    • Played with when Phoenix appears in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as he treats the battle as he would a court case in his own game. He seems to recognize that some of the villainous fighters are criminals, but he offers to defend many of them. In his ending, he goes so far as to defend Galactus. Sure, everyone is entitled to due process, but still...
  • 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. Of course, 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.
  • Toontown Online had 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.

Web Animation

  • Dan Mason, the protagonist of 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.

Web Comics

  • In Schlock Mercenary, The Partnership Collective™ 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.

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.

  • Having said that, the Blue Haired Lawyer is one of the few examples on this list to be truly amoral. He's even argued on the Simpson family's behalf a few times, mostly after Lionel Hutz (see below) could no longer appear on the show.
  • 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!"
  • "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 when the good guys can scrape together the cash, South Park!Johnny Cochrane uses his Chewbacca Defense for them instead.
  • 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 Brothers 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 The 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 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.
  • The concept of an Amoral Attorney is lampooned in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, where Grim's lawyer is literally a snake.

Real Life

  • For that matter, Roy Cohn himself is Truth in Television for this trope. One of Joe McCarthy's main allies (which, of course, would be endearing enough by itself), outside of his association with McCarthy, he faced numerous proceedings for professional misconduct (including perjury and witness tampering) and was eventually disbarred. He once tried to forge a dying and comatose man's signature on a will that would make him beneficiary by forcing a pen in the man's hand and putting it to the document. As if that wasn't bad enough, although himself a closeted homosexual, one of his favourite tactics during his anti-communism days was to relentlessly pursue and expose people for homosexuality (whether true or not), which, in those days, meant complete ruin and even suicide for those so exposed. A charming man and a credit to his profession.
  • Massachusetts Prosecutor Daniel Ford. While Fred Phelps may have the tiniest excuse in being a lunatic, Ford's methods employed during the Bernard Baran case make Phelps seem warm and genuine in comparison. If coaching children to make false accusations of Paedophilia against an innocent man isn't enough, there's this: [3]. These days, he's Judge Daniel Ford.
  • After the OJ Simpson trial, many Amoral Attorney characters who appeared were directly based upon his lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, who successfully convinced a jury to acquit him using a defense based on the argument that racist police officers within the LAPD were attempting to frame him for his wife's murder, with his theatrical rhetorical manner and expensive style of dress making him an easily-recognized target. He has been criticized by the Defense Attorney profession for getting away with tricks and showmanship that many believe destroys the spirit of proper representation, if not the letter.
  • Truth in Television: watch lawyers-to-be go the rounds in a mock trial competition. During the competition, your team switches sides on a regular basis, so you must have a solid defence for both sides of the case.
  • Mike Nifong of Duke Lacrosse Rape Case fame. He withheld DNA evidence that could have exonerated the accused, used his position to try and intimidate a immigrant taxi driver who could place one of the accused across town while the alleged rape was going on, made false statements to the press, and just generally ignored the rules of conduct as he saw fit. He was disbarred and spent a day in prison.
  • It's worth noting that Maximilien Robespierre was a lawyer, although he was amoral in a different kind of way. Some would put Lenin, who also started out as a lawyer, in the same category.
  • Paul Bernardo's lawyers, Ken Murray and Carolyn MacDonald, were well aware of the video evidence that showed Bernado's wife, the infamous Karla Homolka, willingly taking part in his rape and murder of several teen girls. Bernardo even instructed them where to find the tapes when the police had done searching the house. Ken Murray watched the tapes and decided to sit on it, prepared to use it against Homolka when she testified against Bernardo in court. When Murray finally started worrying about his own ass in regards to concealing evidence, it was already too late. Homolka had made a plea bargain to testify against Bernardo, having tricked people into thinking she had been abused and forced into it. She served a few years in prison for the murder of several girls, including her own sister, and was last reported to be living peacefully somewhere in the Antilles of the West Indies...with a daughter. Murray was never punished for what he did.
  • Before he was condemning gays and their "enablers" to hell, Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church was this. In the aftermath of one case, he sued a court reporter who didn't prepare a document on time for him (which didn't affect the outcome of the trial in anyway). He then used the case as an excuse to verbally and psychologically demean her in every possible way on the stand. His actions in that case lead to his disbarment.
    • It appears to run in the family. Several members of the Westboro Baptist Church are both Fred Phelps's relatives and practicing attorneys. Part of the way the church raises money is to go somewhere, try to provoke the locals into a confrontation, and then sue them.
  • Edward J. O'Hare, Sr., also known as "Easy Eddie", was business associate and legal representative of Al Capone. With his help, Capone and many of Capone's associates were able to avoid arrest on gambling charges (he also made a small fortune after cheating some inventor's poor widow out of the inventor's patent rights). Possibly subverted in that O'Hare turned federal informant and was instrumental in Capone's arrest on tax evasion. Legend has it that he did so to provide a good example for his son Butch, who later became a war hero and Medal of Honor recipient. Then again, maybe Easy Eddie just wanted to switch sides before the Feds nabbed him too.
  • Anti-video game activist Jack Thompson, whose antics are the stuff of legend if you followed his crusade against the internet community in general. His relentless and pointless attacks against Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins (of Penny Arcade fame) as well as Scott Ramsoonair (creator of webcomic VG Cats) goes beyond merely amoral and catapults into Cloudcuckoolander territory. He eventually got permanently disbarred for his multiple transgressions, not the least of which included accusing the Florida bar itself of being against him.
  • Paul E. Gutensohn was assigned to Jack Miller in United States vs. Miller by judge Ragon who wrote the law Miller was being tried under (illegal) against Miller's wishes (also illegal). Refusing to enter his client's guilty plea (yet again illegal), Gutensohn gets Ragon to declare the National Firearms Act unconstitutional, then resigns as Miller's council (this is illegal, but Gutensohn falsely claimed to be unable to travel to do so) once the case was appealed and hit the Supreme Court. This left the Supreme Court without any arguments from the defendant (who was murdered before the trial ended) and free to declare the law constitutional. As of 2016 the Supreme Court refuses to hear any case to the contrary under precedent, despite the obvious criminal activity that resulted in the verdict, making the gambit by two highly corrupt lawyers completely successful.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt's Solicitor General Charles H. Fahy, potentially under direct orders from Roosevelt himself, hid exonerating evidence (reports from the FBI and Naval Intelligence that the prosecution's claims were entirely untrue) during his prosecution in Korematsu v. United States to ensure the United States Supreme Court would go along with what is now classed as "crimes against humanity".