clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who Gets a Seat at the Table? Movie Lawyer Edition.

If you were putting together a lunch for six cinematic attorneys, who would get the invite?

Ringer illustration

This is not complicated, so let’s not complicate it. We’ll do a Quick Catch-up Thing and then jump into the Actual Article.

The Quick Catch-up Thing

At this particular moment, I am the cohost of a podcast called The Connect. In each episode, Jason Concepcion and I take a theme and then talk about two movies that are unexpectedly connected by that theme. (For example, two weeks ago the theme was “It’s Dangerous Outside.” Jason picked The Martian, on account of the atmosphere being dangerous, and I picked The Purge, on account of all of the murder.) There’s a recurring segment in each episode called the Cafeteria Table. The way it works is: Jason and I pretend that we are populating a six-seat cafeteria table, like what you’d find in high school, except we’re allowed to pick characters only from movies that fit whatever theme it is that we’re discussing for that week. (So with the It’s Dangerous Outside episode, that cafeteria table had Mark Watney from The Martian, Mr. Sandin from The Purge, Tre from Boyz n the Hood, Brie Larson’s character in Kong: Skull Island, Kristen from The Strangers, and Mrs. Carmody from The Mist.) That’s what will happen in this article.

The Actual Article

This week, Aaron Sorkin’s new courtroom drama, The Trial of the Chicago 7, comes out. As such, we’re doing the Cafeteria Table thing here, with the goal of populating the table with lawyers from various movies. The only rule is that the character must be a lawyer (or something approximating a lawyer, like when Gerard Butler’s Clyde Shelton defended himself in court in Law Abiding Citizen). Tyler Perry’s Tanner Bolt from Gone Girl? Sure. He’s in play. Julia Roberts’s Erin Brokovich from Erin Brokovich? You’re setting yourself up for a lot of conversations about tap water and chromium, but sure, she’s also in play. That one guy from Kramer vs. Kramer who gives Meryl Streep a hard time? Technically, he’s in play too, yes, but fuck that guy. I can tell you right now he’s not getting a seat.

Jim Carrey’s Fletcher Reede in Liar, Liar? George Clooney’s Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton? Tom Cruise’s Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men? Paul Newman’s Frank Galvin in The Verdict? Joe Pesci’s Vincent Gambini in My Cousin Vinny? Keanu Reeves’s Kevin Lomax from The Devil’s Advocate? Matt Damon’s Rudy Baylor in The Rainmaker? They’re all in play. They’re all eligible to be picked.

The First Seat of Six

The first invite that gets extended goes to Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. And yes, I understand that that might appear to be a way-too-cavalier pick for the first seat, but consider these eight things:

  1. The only reason Elle Woods decided to go to law school was because she was trying to win her boyfriend back.
  2. Completely unprompted, she scored 179 on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The highest possible score on the LSAT is a 180. Walking into the LSAT and hanging up a 179 despite having never wanted to be a lawyer is like the courtroom version of that time Vince Carter did the full-extension windmill dunk off of just three steps from behind the rim.
  3. She flipped that score (and an appearance in a Ricky Martin video) into admission to Harvard Law School.
  4. Once there, she realized not only that her ex-boyfriend would never take her back because he thought she was dumb, but also that everyone else at school thought she was a joke. She then dedicated herself further to her studies and immediately became one of her class’s top students.
  5. She was so impressive, in fact, that she not only earned a prestigious internship, but was also eventually allowed to help on a high-profile murder case. And not only that …
  6. She was so impressive in her internship duties, that she was not only allowed to help on the aforementioned high-profile murder, she eventually became the lead defense attorney on the case. And not only that …
  7. She was so impressive in her role as the defense attorney, that she not only was able to get her client an innocent verdict, but also she was able to get the guilty person to confess during her cross-examination by telling a story about a perm. And not only that …

Elle Woods gets a seat.

The Second, Third, and Fourth Seats

Let’s give the second seat to Joe Miller from Philadelphia. He was able to successfully sue a high-powered law firm that illegally fired an employee after discovering he was gay and had AIDS. Successfully suing a powerful law firm with scrupulous morals is just about as high up on the Lawyer Difficulty Chart as you can get. And so that’s part of the reason he gets the invitation. The other part of the reason is because he’s Denzel Washington, and you always have to grab Denzel Washington whenever you can grab Denzel Washington.

(Incidentally, I suspect that Elle Woods and Joe Miller would get along exceptionally, and that’s important here. Because the goal isn’t just to gather together the six best movie lawyers ever. No. That’s not that much fun. That’s easy to do. The goal is to gather together the six movie lawyers who [a] would make for the most interesting table conversation, and [b] would make sense if you saw them all sitting together. That’s much harder to do because you have to account for personalities and ideologies and the such. You very well would never see Ethan Suplee’s Seth from American History X sitting at a table with, say, Wesley Snipes’s Sidney from White Men Can’t Jump if you were putting together a cafeteria table of people who like to play basketball at the beach, you know what I’m saying?)

Let’s also give a seat to one of Matthew McConaughey’s lawyer characters. He’s been a lawyer at least four times—I figure such dedication to justice earns him a seat, if nothing else. In terms of our choices, we have to choose between when he was a lawyer in 1996’s A Time To Kill, 1997’s Amistad, or The Lincoln Lawyer or Bernie, both of which came out in 2011. Of those four, I’m the least interested in his Amistad lawyer. That movie was set in 1839, and I don’t think it will work out that great if every 15 seconds everyone else has to stop talking for a bit so Elle Woods can explain to him what a cell phone is. He’s out. We can also get rid of his Bernie lawyer because I just didn’t like that movie. He’s out, too.

That leaves us with his A Time To Kill lawyer and his The Lincoln Lawyer lawyer. Between those two, I think I like Mickey Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer the most. He was cool and he was smart and he was interesting. He was also, as it were, in need of a friend, given that his main friend in the movie was murdered. So let’s go that direction. Let’s invite Mickey to the table. He’s the third seat.

The fourth seat is when it starts to get tricky. Part of me wants to have Kathryn Murphy from The Accused there, but I can’t quite talk myself into it because she was just a little bit too slippery for most of the movie. Another part of me wants to go with a sideways pick and grab someone who defended themselves in court in a movie like what I mentioned earlier with Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen. Matt Damon’s Will Hunting defends himself in court in Good Will Hunting, so that’s one option. And Vin Diesel’s Jackie DiNorscio defends himself in court in Find Me Guilty, and I love Vin Diesel a lot, so that’s another option. But I don’t know. I don’t think I’m ready to take a flyer on someone like that just yet. Let’s make it a safer pick here. Let’s go ahead and reach out to Joe Pesci’s Vincent Gambini from My Cousin Vinny. It feels like he has to be included given that My Cousin Vinny is regularly cited as the most accurate lawyer movie ever made. So he’s the fourth seat.

The Fifth Seat and the Sixth Seat

I think we need at least one wild card at the table. We need a lawyer who, beyond just being a lawyer, is someone who can offer the table access to a conversation that nobody else can. That’s why we have to have Kevin Lomax from The Devil’s Advocate there. Because it doesn’t matter what bizarre thing anyone else in attendance throws out to the group, Lomax will never be caught off guard, or overwhelmed, or at a loss for words. Because Kevin Lomax can always be like, “Yeah, that’s pretty crazy, Elle. Oh, by the way, did I ever tell y’all that my dad—my actual, literal father—is actually and literally the devil? As in, Satan. As in, the Antichrist. As in, Beelzebub. As in, the Angel of Darkness, the King of Hell, the Evil Spirit. That’s my dad. That’s who comes to my house for Christmas.” That sorta thing is why Lomax gets the fifth seat.

That just leaves us with one more seat, and about 200 different lawyers reaching for it.

Who do we go with? Richard Gere’s Martin Vail in Primal Fear? He feels too stodgy. Tom Hanks’s James B. Donovan from Bridge of Spies? I’m still mad that Mark Rylance won Best Supporting Actor over Sylvester Stallone for Creed at the 2016 Oscars, so I’m eliminating Hanks here as collateral damage for that. Dustin Hoffman’s Wendell Rohr in Runaway Jury? No, that’s not it. (If anyone gets an invite from Runaway Jury, it’s either gotta be John Cusack’s Nick Easter or Rachel Weisz’s Marlee.) Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway from A Few Good Men? She was great. She’s in contention for sure. Chadwick Boseman’s Thurgood Marshall in Marshall? What about one of the lawyers from The Social Network, or one of the lawyers from The Firm, or one of the lawyers from To Kill A Mockingbird?

There are so many. Too many, maybe. And somehow, not enough still.

I know what to do. Let’s go backward a bit. Let’s put Vin Diesel’s Jackie DiNorscio in Find Me Guilty for the final seat. It would appear to be a really bad pick here, particularly when you realize that that means we’ve turned away the likes of Demi Moore, Matt Damon, and Tom Cruise, who have all been in outstanding lawyer movies. But, I mean, sure, Find Me Guilty is not that good, but Vin Diesel’s Jackie is just a mountain of charm. He’s gonna do great at the table. He’s the sixth seat.

Our final table roster: Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, Joe Miller from Philadelphia, Mickey Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer, Vincent Gambini from My Cousin Vinny, Kevin Lomax from The Devil’s Advocate, and Jackie DiNorsci from Find Me Guil

Wait. No. I changed my mind. Sorry. Let me go ahead and grab Demi Moore’s JoAnne Galloway from A Few Good Men for the final seat. She’s the one. She’s the better pick. Let’s do that. Sorry.

Our actual final table roster: Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, Joe Miller from Philadelphia, Mickey Haller from The Lincoln Lawyer, Vincent Gambini from My Cousin Vinny, Kevin Lomax from The Devil’s Advocate, and JoAnne Galloway from A Few Good Men.