Hollywood Loves A Great Criminal Lawyer

Court room dramas, whether real or fictional, are something that have always gripped the public’s attention. And when Hollywood is involved, you can be sure there will be a star made out of the criminal lawyer, whether this be a fictional character in a movie or TV show, or a real lawyer defending someone connected to Hollywood.

Perhaps it all started with Atticus Finch. In 1962 Harper Lee’s classic Pulitzer Prize winning novel was adapted into a movie starring Gregory Peck as Finch. To Killing A Mockingbird won 3 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck. There are many lawyers who say the reason they went into law was because of Atticus Finch. An honorable, moral and honest man, he agrees to defend a young black man in a racially divided town in 1930’s Alabama, who is accused of the rape of a white woman.

More recently Matthew McConaughey played the lawyer Jake Brigance in A Time To Kill, a role that propelled him from an unknown actor into the film star he is today. In a similar theme to To Kill A Mockingbird, a young white family man defends a black man, though this time it is in modern-day Mississippi. The black man, Carl Lee Hailey, who was played by Samuel L. Jackson, killed two men who had rape his 10 year old daughter.

The movie is a based on a novel by John Grisham, who has written some of the best books about lawyers, and was in fact a criminal lawyer himself. The Firm, The Client, The Pelican Brief, Runaway Jury and The Rainmaker are just a few of his other books that have been hit movies.

Johnnie Cochran, who died in 2005, was not a fictional character. This real life criminal lawyer though was perhaps as famous as any character we saw in a movie. He was brought into the public eye during the infamous trial of O. J. Simpson where he was part of the team that was responsible for the defense and acquittal of Simpson for the alleged murder of his ex-wife Nicole. After the O. J. Case he went on to represent a number of other celebrities, including Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Sean Combs and Todd Bridges. He has been parodied in many movies and on television, and even went onto appear as a guest star in a few TV shows including The Hughleys and Family Matters. For a time he had his own show, Johnnie Cochran Tonight, which ran on CourtTV.

Even a socialite like Kim Kardashian, really owes her fame to a criminal lawyer. Her late father, Robert Kardashian, was also a part of the O. J. Simpson defense. He and Simpson had been friends for twenty years, and he went as far as re-activating his inactive law license to aid in the defense of his friend.

It is thanks to the television shows The Practice and Boston Legal, both created by David E. Kelley, another former lawyer, that the world got to meet two TV icons, who happen to be criminal lawyers, Denny Crane and Alan Shore. Crane, played by the evergreen William Shatner is an aging legend in Boston law, while James Spader’s Shore is a wild card with very few scruples, but lots of principle.

All of these characters, and so many more have proved how important a criminal lawyer can be. Most of the fictional characters and cases have been based on real events and people and it comes as no surprise that court dramas continue to be as popular today.

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