Few professions are romanticized more in television and film than those who work in a courtroom.
Whether it's the long-running standard of "Law & Order" or the drama of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or the humor of "My Cousin Vinny," the dramatization of the courtroom is standard practice on television and in film.
With that thought, it's fair to wonder which characters who pretend to do law have had an impact on those who actually practice law.
So Edge Magazine asked a dozen or so local attorneys in various fields, "Who is your TV or movie attorney favorite?"
It was a question asked with no boundaries, and some of the answers could be expected — while some are off the wall.
While no one offered Perry Mason or Jerry McGuire, the submissions ranged from emotional to sentimental to hilarious.
Here are the favorite screen lawyers named by some of Chattanooga's top legal professionals:
* Firm: MF Restaurant Group
"While he was only pre-law at the time (or maybe pre-med), I would have to go with Eric "Otter" Stratton ("Animal House"), a lawyer who would not sit there and listen to anyone bad-mouth the United States of America."
* Partner: Husch Blackwell
My favorite TV/movie attorney is Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." As a native Chattanoogan and a member of the Brainerd High School class of 1963 (the first graduating class), race and its implications have informed and shaped my own life and attitudes toward "the other." I have never had to display the courage of Atticus Finch, but greatly admire this character and other real-life attorneys who have been that courageous.
Mollie M Corn, Esquire
* Local Attorney: Focusing on Conservatorships, Basis Estate Planning & Probate
"Hands-down, my favorite movie lawyer is Vincent Gambini – Joe Pesci in 'My Cousin Vinny.' Practicing law in real life goes from stressful to incredibly tedious. Serious courtroom dramas are not for me. The more ridiculous the movie lawyer, the better. Vincent Gambini is ridiculous, from his hair to his clothes and that accent. But the funniest part to me is that he says the things that we lawyers are probably really thinking (and wish we could say). I'd love to insert to quotes here, but it's probably not appropriate. Maybe I will just use his objection to opposing counsels opening argument next time I'm in court. It's time to watch that movie again."
Patrick A. Cruise
* Attorney: The Hamilton Firm
"I'm not much of a TV lawyer or movie fan other than the obvious choices. I guess if I had to pick one that might be different from what you will get from others, I'd go with Denny Crane from 'Boston Legal.' Denny Crane would announce his own name, often multiple times in a single sentence, in order to assure people that they were indeed in the same room with him."
* Partner: Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak
"My favorite TV attorney is Denny Crane ('Boston Legal'). Never lost, never will."
* Attorney: Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel
"Will Truman from 'Will and Grace' because he does what I consider to be the fun part of the law — putting deals together."
Torrey M. Feldman
* Summer Associate: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
"My favorite screen lawyer is Molly Carter from HBO's 'Insecure.' Molly is the perfect depiction of a modern-day, diverse, millennial lawyer who is trying to balance the demands of being a practicing attorney, making social sacrifices, and doing it all with a smile — though sometimes fake, other times with a stiff drink, and often times with crass humor. She is fiercely independent, intelligent, and driven. An inordinate amount of people tell me that I remind them of her — which at the end of the day is very welcomed because she has an immaculate sense of fashion. She is my favorite on screen character because parts of her written life are what I imagine mine might actually look like in a few years.
Can you name the famous movie attorney who uttered these quotes?
1. “Oh, I forgot. You were sick the day they taught law at law school.”
2. “Exactly. Because isn’t the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate?”
3. “It’s that every now and again – not often, but occasionally – you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”
4. “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but if Jesus Christ lived in Chicago today, and he had come to me and he had five thousand dollars, let’s just say things would have turned out differently.”
5. “I have a special practice. I handle one client. Now you have my number, I’ll wait for your call. By the way, I admire your pictures very much.”
1-Daniel Kaffee, “A Few Good Men.”
2-Elle Woods, “Legally Blonde”
3-Andrew Beckett, “Philadelphia”
4-Billy Flynn, “Chicago”
5-Tom Hagen, “The Godfather”
Charles Gilbreath II
* Labor & Employment Attorney: Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel
"Aside from the fact that an episode of 'Law & Order' helped me remember an answer to a law school exam question (true story), Jack McCoy ('Law and Order') has always been my favorite fictional legal character. This is largely due to the fact that he is a morally complex character who often serves as a metaphor for the dangers of becoming too emotionally invested in a case. He always pursues what he believes is just, yet at times he crosses ethical boundaries (e.g., hiding documents and witnesses) and ultimately undermines the very justice he seeks. But while Jack McCoy may not exactly be the best role model, he definitely makes for one very entertaining television attorney."
* Shareholder: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
"My favorite would be Vinny Gambini (played by Joe Pesci) because of his great opening statement: 'Uh, everything that guy just said is bull(bleep). Thank you."
Judge Rob Philyaw
* Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge
"My favorite movie lawyer is Jake Brigance played by Matthew McConaughey in John Grisham's 'A Time To Kill.' I had earlier read 'A Time To Kill' and found Jake Brigance to be a hero who took an unpopular stance in defending his client well despite threats and personal danger. McConaughey played the role perfectly in the movie of the same name. Jake didn't back down to what seemed to be insurmountable pressure and obstacles and won the hearts and minds of the jury with his closing argument which painfully detailed the horror of the original crime for which his client had avenged. The best lawyers are the best storytellers and Jake told the story well. And McConaughey is just plain cool as Jake Brigance. 'Aright, aright, aright.'"
* Hamilton County District Attorney General
"Matlock. I used to watch 'Matlock' episodes with my late grandmother and those episodes got me interested in being a lawyer. Matlock has some very unique qualities which place him on the Rushmore of TV or movie attorneys to include: 1) He is a former Sheriff; 2) He was a sharp-dressed man; and 3) His intellect and ability to communicate with all types of people was highly underrated."
* Member: Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, P.C.
"As a teenager in the early '90s, I found no better way to educate myself than by watching 'The Simpsons.' A satirical masterpiece, 'The Simpsons' opened my eyes to the people I would soon meet as an adult. That is where I met Lionel Hutz – the ambulance-chasing, personal injury lawyer who once represented Homer in a case of false advertisement over the Frying Dutchman restaurant's 'All You Can Eat' offer. In my profession, I have found it helpful to emulate the best attorneys with whom I practice. Through Mr. Hutz, I gained an appreciation for the lawyer I did not want to be. In a backwards and ironic way — which epitomizes 'The Simpsons' — Mr. Hutz taught me the significance of ethics, preparation and competency."
* Elected Public Defender, 11th Judicial District: Hamilton County Public Defenders' Office
"Vinny Gambini, from the movie 'My Cousin Vinny,' is my favorite attorney character. I like Vinny because he isn't afraid to get the job done despite anachronistic conventions and customs that impede getting to the issue."
* Director of Risk Management/Associate General Counsel" Erlanger Health System
"My favorite is Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 'On The Basis Of Sex.' (I loved this exchange) RBG: 'I'm asking you to set a new precedent, as courts have done before when the law is outdated.' Justice: 'The word 'woman' does not appear even once in the U.S. Constitution.' RBG: 'Nor does the word 'freedom' Your Honor.'
Bailey Susanna June Tinsley
* Attorney: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
"As far as my favorite TV/Film attorney, I'd have to go with Atticus Finch from 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I've been passionate about justice from a young age, and Atticus Finch is emblematic of justice delivered against all odds."
* Shareholder: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
"My favorite fictional attorney is Judge Elihu Smails from 'Caddyshack,' (who said) 'Gambling is illegal at Brushwood sir, and I never slice.'"