ABA Magazine Ranks TV's Top Legal Shows

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The Top 25 Legal Shows

1. L.A. Law (1986-1994)

2. Perry Mason (1957-1966)

3. The Defenders (1961-1965)

4. Law & Order (1990-present)

5. The Practice (1997-2004)

6. Ally McBeal (1997-2002)

7. Rumpole of the Bailey (1978-1992)

8. Boston Legal (2004-2008)

9. Damages (2007-present)

10. Night Court (1984-1992)

11. Judging Amy (1999-2005)

12. Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1974)

13. JAG (1995-2005)

14. Shark (2006-2008)

15. Civil Wars (1991-1993)

16. Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (2000-2007)

17. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001-present)

18. Murder One (1995-1997)

19. Matlock (1986-1995)

20. Reasonable Doubts (1991-1993)

21. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present)

22. Judd for the Defense (1967-1969)

23. Paper Chase (1978-1979, 1983-1986)

24. Petrocelli (1974-1976)

25. Eli Stone (2008-2009)

Source: ABA Journal

The ABA Journal, the magazine of the American Bar Association, ranked L.A. Law the top legal show in television history.

L.A. Law beat out Perry Mason in the list of the top 25 legal shows.

ABA Journal editor and publisher Edward Adams tells Madeleine Brand the magazine asked a jury of 12 experts — nine lawyers, two scholars and television critic — for their take.

"L.A. Law topped the list principally because it was a show that us about lawyers themselves," he says. "It's not just a courtroom drama like so many of the shows on our list it actually takes you inside a fictional law firm to see how lawyers practice day to day."

Adams says the interesting aspect of the list is that shows like Perry Mason were popular in the 1950s and '60s at the height of the power of the Warren Court, when the U.S. courts were focused on the rights of defendants. Today, shows such as Law and Order, which focuses on the prosecution, are popular.

"I think sometimes that the larger culture informs which shows become popular with the public," Adams says.



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