A survey of lawyers on film
The conversation about great lawyers on film used
to begin and end with Atticus Finch—with maybe
Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Sir Wilfred Robarts or young Abe
Lincoln tossed in for good measure.
During the last year, Super Lawyers asked
attorneys from across the country to name their
favorite legal movie, and To Kill a Mockingbird, with
Gregory Peck as the thoughtful, pacifist Southern
lawyer fighting racism in 1930s Alabama, didn’t
come out on top; it didn’t even place.
The winner, by a landslide, was My Cousin
Vinny. Here are the top choices from the 84
Our Cousin Vinny
Move over, Atticus: Lawyers have a new favorite cinematic lawyer BY ERIK LUNDEGAARD
What accounts for Atticus’ fall from favor? Some
might blame the recent, controversial publication of
Go Set a Watchman, in which an older, less saintly
Atticus rails against integration and the NAACP
in 1950s Alabama. But half of the votes occurred
before Harper Lee’s sequel was published; and most
of Mockingbird’s picks came after that date.
More likely, Mockingbird was simply a victim of
its own success. It was too obvious a choice.
“The answer you’ve probably heard a million
times is To Kill a Mockingbird,” says J. Guthrie True
of Frankfort, Kentucky, before opting for Witness for
My Cousin Vinny 19
A Few Good Men 9
A Time to Kill 5
Legally Blonde 4
To Kill a Mockingbird 4
12 Angry Men 3
A Civil Action 3
“Honestly, my favorite legal movies are To Kill a
Mockingbird and The Verdict, but I figure there’s a
90 percent chance that others have written about
them,” says Martha E. Gifford, of Brooklyn, New
York, before recommending The Informant!
The lawyers who chose My Cousin Vinny, mean-
while, mention how light-hearted and funny it is.
More than a few wish that they could repeat Vinny
Gambini’s memorable opening statement: “Every-
thing that guy just said is bullshit.”
They also identify with him.
“He doesn’t give up,” says David McGuffey, an
elder law attorney in Georgia. “And at the end of
the day he prevails, as much as anything, because
of his tenacity.”
“The critics call it satire but I would call it reality,”
says Bradford C. Berge of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I’ve
taken on cases that I shouldn’t have. I’ve represented
my relatives. I’ve been in over my head with no way
out. I’ve been ‘hometowned’ by opposing counsel
who called the judge and jury by their first names. I
have felt the wrath of judges who made no effort to
hide their feelings that I was wasting their time.”
“If you are enthusiastic and diligent and you really
love being a lawyer,” adds Dean T. Kirby Jr. in San Di-
ego, “that’s got to be about 90 percent of success. In
a weird way, it’s an uplifting take on the profession.”
There’s also this: Atticus lost his case; Vinny won.