Though there are plenty of admirable lawyers on television — Alicia Florrick from The Good Wife, Jack McCoy from Law & Order, and Ally McBeal from the eponymous series, to name a few — a truly terrible lawyer can either be used for plot development or for pure comedy.
Not every fictional lawyer can be a paragon of virtue, and even a layman can usually figure out when a lawyer is unsavory, unethical, or simply not a bright light. Here are a few terrible television lawyers that no attorney should emulate.
Saul Goodman (Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul)
Everyone who loved Breaking Bad likely remembers all the crimes committed by Walter White during his descent into pure evil, but nobody should forget that he was frequently aided and abetted by his lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Thanks to a one-dollar transaction during Breaking Bad, Saul officially took Walter on as his client, citing “attorney-client privilege” to cover any number of sins committed by the drug lord. Thanks to the success of Breaking Bad, AMC couldn’t resist a spinoff, Better Call Saul, which tells the full story of how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman. Between using his instincts as a scam artist and getting involved in the underground criminal world, no matter which show he’s appearing on, Goodman might be a charmer at times (and even sympathetic), but he’s certainly not an esquire to emulate.
Barry Zuckerkorn (Arrested Development)
With all the extraordinary and feckless characters running around on Arrested Development, it can honestly be hard to keep track of who’s the most incompetent, but Barry Zuckerkorn, the Bluth family’s bumbling attorney, still manages to stand out. The Bluths are admittedly tough clients, as they’re constantly embroiled in everything from fraud to “light treason,” but Barry is still probably the worst man for the job. Between his complete lack of understanding about the California legal system, his own personal rap sheet (including plenty of run-ins with prostitutes), his numerous enemies among other lawyers, and his completely dimwitted attitude, it’s not hard to see why Barry shouldn’t be representing anyone at all, much less a family that needs as much legal help as the Bluths. Maybe they should have gone with his rival, Bob Loblaw — after all, he’s known for his law blog and lobbing law bombs.
Ted Buckland (Scrubs)
The doctors on Scrubs might be at the top of their game, but there’s one professional at Sacred Heart hospital who doesn’t seem to have a clue — Ted Buckland, the hospital’s attorney. Ted, who took the bar exam in Alaska because they have so few laws, might have been a better lawyer had he not been constantly and soundly abused by the Chief of Medicine, Dr. Bob Kelso, who tended to spend his time openly humiliating Ted in front of the entire staff. Certainly, Kelso had plenty to go on, between Ted’s constant flop sweat and the fact that he lives with his mother, but it still seems pretty cruel. In any case, Ted is far from a capable attorney, considering he seems to be afraid of everyone and sometimes physically freezes in front of opposing counsel. He’s likely the worst possible candidate to represent an entire hospital.
Jackie Chiles (Seinfeld)
The characters in Seinfeld, who literally close out the series on trial for being the four worst people anyone has ever met, are desperately in need of legal representation, and none of them need that more than Kramer, who is absolutely the most erratic member of the group. Once he stumbles upon Jackie Chiles, a larger-than-life New York lawyer, he keeps turning to him for legal help, but Chiles (who was a parody of Johnnie Cochran) isn’t exactly great at getting Kramer out of tight spots. However, this isn’t always Chiles’s fault, as Kramer isn’t a particularly easy client and frequently destroys his own case in one way or another, but Chiles’s bombastic attitude and complete lack of control over his client doesn’t help (he did tell Kramer not to put the balm on, after all). In the finale, Chiles fails to get the gang acquitted of breaking the “Good Samaritan” law, proving that even at the very last second, he can’t come through — for someone whose catchphrase is “I am outraged,” maybe it’s actually his clients who should be angry.