14 Best Legal TV Dramas of All Time

Here are 14 of the biggest and best legal dramas of all time. Most should be available on Netflix, Disney Plus or other streaming services. We’ve picked shows (in no particular order) featuring hotshot lawyers from the UK and the US as well as some great foreign language dramas too.


Law & Order

There have been many legal dramas on US TV over the years but for a long time, Law & Order was the boss. The show featured many great characters, from Chris Noth’s Mike Logan and Jerry Orbach’s Lennie Briscoe to the brilliant assistant district attorney Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston.

The show is original in that the first half covers the police investigation of a crime while the second half looks at the prosecution case.

Damages

While Law & Order tended to focus on one case each episode, each of the five seasons of Damages concentrated on one major case.

This allows the producers to show the time and effort lawyers devote to cases and their clients and the show breaks down how legal proceedings go. Another advantage of the show is the terrific cast led by Glenn Close who will do almost anything to win a case, no matter how immoral it may be.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a South Korean drama which tells the story of autistic lawyer Woo Young-woo played by actress Park Eun-Bin who works at a large law firm. Attorney Woo has a photographic memory that makes her a brilliant lawyer as she is able to recall complex laws to refute the opposing lawyer’s claims and build strong arguments to support her cases.

As she is different from other lawyers, her manner of communication is initially seen by many as awkward. The show consistently tries to break down the commonly held misconceptions of autistic people lacking ‘social skills’ and ‘emotional intelligence.’ Instead it dives deeply into the struggles that people face in dealing with someone who is highly intelligent but also disabled due to sensory issues and communication differences, and in accepting a way of being that falls outside of recognised social conventions of appropriate behaviour and relationships.

The show is available to stream on Netflix internationally.

Legal English Online Courses

Rumpole of the Bailey

“The Bailey” refers to the Old Bailey, which is the central criminal court for England and Wales. Rumpole is an old-fashioned barrister who primarily defends legal aid clients using his unique talent of cross-examination and ability to read complex evidence. The television drama was shown in the 1980s on British television and is occasionally repeated.

Goliath

Goliath aired on Amazon Prime Video and starred Billy Bob Thornton. The series lasted for four seasons before it was cancelled in 2021 and told the story of a down-and-out lawyer looking for redemption. The show was important in that it showed how corruption ran rampant in the legal system, which favoured the wealthy.

Thornton gives a compelling performance as Billy McBride, a formerly brilliant lawyer who helped a man get off a murder charge and then learned he killed his family. Thornton won a Golden Globe award for the show’s first season.

Perry Mason

Perry Mason was the original legal drama that inspired all that came after it. It first aired in 1957 in the US with Raymond Burr as defence attorney Perry Mason, based on the character of the same name by author Erle Stanley.

Each episode showed Perry Mason taking on a new case and solving it by the end, with nine seasons and 271 episodes before it ended. There was also a revival in the 1970s and some made-for-TV movies, proving this show’s popularity stretched out over four decades.

There is also a recent TV show featuring Mason as a detective and starring the great Welsh actor Matthew Rhys which is worth checking out.

Ally McBeal

While many Magic Circle law firms are trying to make things fun for their busy lawyers, they they never are quite like this. From Barry White to dancing babies, it was silly and brilliant. You either fell in love with one of the characters (often Ally herself) or just wanted to be them. It was everything we hoped for in the profession. Wasn’t it? It was always amusing to watch John Cage’s collections of sneezes and creaky shoes to put off opponents in court. Highly inappropriate, mind you! This would never happen in the UK now, would it…

The Irish RM

This British TV show from the 1980s concerned a retired English army officer who becomes the Irish Resident Magistrate at the turn of the 20th century when Ireland was part of the UK. Based on the book ‘Some Experiments of an Irish R. M.,’ by Edith Somerville and Martin Ross, it featured Peter Bowles in the title role.

American Crime Story

The first two seasons of American Crime Story took the world by storm – particularly the first season, which was one big re-enactment of the infamous trial of O.J. Simpson and featured David Schwimmer and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Though the second season wasn’t as well-received, it was still enjoyed by audiences, as it followed the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace. The third season is coming soon and will be about Bill Clinton.

Boston Legal

More than any other shows, legal dramas get so many spin-off shows. Law & Order has several spin-off shows, Breaking Bad received a legal drama spin-off in the form of Better Call Saul, and of course, the great Boston Legal is a spin-off of The Practice. It’s one of the rare times in which a spin-off is better than the original.

Boston Legal is slightly different than The Practice, as it’s known to break the fourth wall a lot more, but there’s just as much law mumbo-jumbo for any fan of procedural courtroom dramas to love.

Kavanagh QC

John Thaw is superlative in the title role as a working class boy from Bolton in the north of England who becomes a top barrister .

Each episode devotes a significant amount of time to a court trial, meaning that you get to see a skilled advocate at the top of his game. As with all realistic legal dramas, sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses. Sometimes he deserves to win and sometimes he doesn’t.

Suits

Suits focuses more on the internal politics of a top law firm in the US as opposed to the cases it deals with. Suits follows a legal associate who never actually attended law school and shows how he deals with cases while maintaining his secret from his peers.

Watch this in contrast to the scenes from Chambers in Kavanagh QC for the perfect lesson in the difference between the inner workings of how Brits do things compared with our brash American counterparts.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul is currently the highest-rated legal drama of all time on the Internet Movie Database. Better Call Saul takes place before the superb Breaking Bad and expands on the criminal underworld of New Mexico in ways that weren’t even imaginable

From multi-episode arcs about money scandals to the explosive courtroom battle between Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean), the legal drama aspect of the show is why some seasons are rated even higher than Breaking Bad.

Silk

Silk remains one of the sexiest shows about barristers ever shown on British TV. Maxine Peake followed Kavanagh QC as a barrister with a working-class background focused on becoming a silk (senior barrister). The show was broadcast on BBC television.

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