Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 12, 2016

Courtroom dramas are a film genre in themselves. From fierce closing arguments to witness-stand confessions to classic lines such as “You can’t handle the truth!” they’ve engaged and enthralled viewers for generations. But what are the greatest of the great lawyer movies?

That’s a matter of opinion — and the American Bar Association has one. Its ABA Journal surveyed prominent attorneys who are involved in the film industry to compile a list of the top 25 greatest legal films. (This was done in 2008, so movies such as 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer are missing.)

We’ll share their top 15 lawyer movies with you — along with our own observations. Then you can deliver your own verdict.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Widely considered the best of the bunch, and written by Wharton, Texas native Horton Foote, this tale of a small-town lawyer (Gregory Peck) defending an innocent African American against a racist charge of rape set a standard for stout belief in the truth — the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
  2. 12 Angry Men (1957). More of a jury room drama than a courtroom drama, this starred Henry Fonda as the lone skeptical jurist in what at first seemed like a clear-cut death-penalty case. The story began as a play, then was adapted for TV before scoring three Oscar nominations for the big screen.
  3. My Cousin Vinny (1992). A favorite of several attorneys of Jim Adler & Associates, this courtroom comedy starred Joe Pesci as a brash, scrappy, loud-mouthed Brooklyn attorney defending his New York cousin and a friend on a murder rap in Alabama. In his last big-screen role, Fred Gwynne played the judge, and Marisa Tomei won a supporting actress Oscar as Pesci’s foul-mouthed fiancée.
  4. Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Inspired by a true case, this riveting tale of an Army officer accused of murder had an all-star cast from top to bottom, including George C. Scott, James Stewart, Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick. But a real-life lawyer stole the show — namely, Joseph N. Welch as the judge.
  5. Inherit the Wind (1960). Over 50 years later, some Americans are still arguing this film’s central case, which involved a teacher on trial for teaching evolution. The great Spencer Tracy and Frederic March played thinly veiled versions of lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan arguing in the famed Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925 Tennessee.
  6. Witness for the Prosecution (1957). Notice how five of the ABA’s top six films are from 1957-62? Call it the era of TV’s Perry Mason, which premiered in ‘57 and ran for nine years. This murder-case movie drawn from Agatha Christie’s work had another all-star cast in Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich.
  7. Breaker Morant (1980). This war-crimes drama involved Australian officers on trial after fighting for the British Empire in 1901’s Boer War in South Africa. At issue is the age-old quandary of whether soldiers who acted “under orders” were guilty of atrocities they were commanded to perform.
  8. Philadelphia (1993). As much about the AIDS epidemic as about law, this concerns a gay lawyer (Tom Hanks) and his personal injury lawyer (Denzel Washington) in a wrongful dismissal suit when Hanks’ law firm fires him due to his condition. Hanks won the first of his back-to-back Oscars, and Bruce Springsteen also won for his haunting title song.
  9. Erin Brockovich (2000). Julia Roberts also won an Oscar for playing a brassy real-life paralegal involved in investigating a real-estate scheme which turned out to mask a power company’s illegal toxic dumping and evolved into a massive class-action lawsuit. Albert Finney portrayed her law firm’s boss.
  10. The Verdict (1982). Oscar-nominated Paul Newman played a struggling, alcoholic attorney who tried to redeem his career by taking to trial a medical malpractice case rather than settling out of court. James Mason played the defense attorney. The director of 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet, also helmed this one.
  11. Presumed Innocent (1990). Harrison Ford played a star prosecutor on trial for killing a deputy prosecutor with whom he’d had an affair. Raul Julia played his defense attorney. The case took dark twists and turns as it careened toward a surprising finish.
  12. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Spencer Tracy played an American judge in 1948 Nazi war crime trials in occupied Germany involving death camps and German judges’ complicity in their atrocities. The film won Oscars for best adapted screenplay and for best actor, who was Maximilian Schell — the first fifth-billed actor to win the top award. (Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark and Marlene Dietrich were billed ahead of him in the credits.)
  13. A Man For All Seasons (1966). This six-time Oscar winner involved a judge (Paul Scofield) turned chancellor in 16th Century England. He became embroiled in conflict when standing up to King Henry VI (Robert Shaw), who wanted to defy the Roman Catholic Church to divorce his wife and marry another woman. The timeless tale concerned fighting for one’s convictions no matter what the cost.
  14. A Few Good Men (1992). Tom Cruise played an undistinguished Navy lawyer defending two Marines accused of killing another Marine, with Jack Nicholson as a crusty colonel. Based on a true case, the highly charged courtroom drama was a huge hit, grossing $141 million, and received four Oscar nominations. It also coined Nicholson’s fiery line, “You can’t handle the truth!”
  15. Chicago (2002). Though known more as a lively Jazz Age musical drawn from Broadway, this tale of a notorious, fame-fueling murder case also is a legal movie, with a deft turn by Richard Gere as singing and dancing lawyer Billy Fynn. It won six Oscars, including Best Picture.
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I was dropped from a previous law firm regarding my case before I called Jim Adler. They immediately took up my case and worked hard on it - I was always up to date with each step they took and the benefits or consequences of each. In the end, I am highly satisfied with the outcome and would not have it any other way. It took some time but I truly appreciate and want to thank everybody who helped me on this journey and worked tirelessly on it.read more
Tori Barroga
Tori Barroga
14:17 11 May 17
I am a Patrol Deputy for the Sheriff Office and while working one night, a drunk driver crossed the center stripe on the highway and struck my patrol vehicle head on with his pick up truck. Needless to say we (the drunk driver and I) were both lucky to survive, as the accident occurred at highway speeds. Following my release from the hospital, I knew that I would need to have someone represent me. My employer was happy to represent me in regards to prosecuting the driver for criminal charges but, can do little in respect to the recovery of financial losses for medical bills, pain and discomfort, time lost from work etc... This is how my relationship with Jim Adler and Associates began. Yep, you probably guessed correctly when you think of what made me choose the "Texas Hammer" to represent me. Those half obnoxious, half way entertaining commercials and radio announcements most Texans have been seeing and hearing on the TV and radio for years instantly came to mind. Yes, I wanted to "hammer" this S.O.B. for trying to kill me but, more importantly I was worried about the costs associated with the life long injuries I had sustained as a result of this drunk driver's negligent behavior. I contacted Jim Adler and Associates and so began our relationship. I was immediately surprised by the prompt attention and the expression of genuine concern for my well being that I received from the employees of Jim Adler's office. Now as you can imagine, lawyers are not a breed that is held in very high regard by people in my profession but, my experiences with Jim Adler's office and his employees have forced me to amend my way of thinking, at least on the civil side of the house anyway. I have to chuckle when I say that because my experience as a client of Jim Adler's firm has been exceptionally pleasant. So before I venture down one of the stereotypical and infinite number of rabbit holes associated with the relationship between members of law enforcement and lawyers; I will do my best to stay focused on my experience with Jim Adler & Associates. Upon being informed that my case had been accepted by Jim Adler's office; I was contacted by Iris Sanchez who informed me that she was to be my case manager and any questions, comments and concerns could be directed to her. I was pleasantly surprised to receive regular calls from Iris assisting with my medical appointments and future follow up appointments. Iris had informed me that Jim Adler's son, Bill Adler would be handling my case and I was even more surprised to receive several calls from Bill to discuss my case. Now you might be thinking "what's the big deal" with the person who is representing you contacting you? In reality, you are correct in that it isn't a big deal but, what is noteworthy and what separates Jim Adler's Office from the multitude of other lawyers is the genuine expressions of concern and the desire Bill Adler conveyed to me to do their best to help me. I felt an immediate connection and instantly realized I had made the correct choice in contacting Jim Adler & Associates to handle my case. One thing I think lawyers and police officers can agree on is the proverbial wheels of justice turn very slowly. Months go by and our professional relationship is never neglected. Through the unwavering attention of Iris Sanchez and Bill Adler himself, I never felt "out of the loop" so to speak and always had a clear understanding of where my case was at in regards to the legal process. In conclusion, I know my brief description of my experiences with Bill Adler and, his assistant Iris Sanchez, cannot provide the credit they deserve. Together they have done an outstanding job representing their firm/employer. If you are seeking a great firm to represent your legal interests and, take comfort in establishing a professional relationship that feels more like a friendship than a casual business acquaintance, then I highly suggest Jim Adler & Associates.read more
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Bernard Orozco
Bernard Orozco
17:16 23 Feb 17
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Lorenzo Preston
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