Perry Mason and Atticus Finch are two of the most influential attorneys - who never lived. That is brought to our attention by a provocative new book by three off-beat thinkers: Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan and Jeremy Salter. Their book is "101 most influential people who never lived." The authors are interested in much more than the legal profession. Seasonal worker Santa Claus, salesperson Willy Loman and single reporter Mary Richards also are highlighted.
So, that should get all us legal obsessives to thinking about other attorneys who never lived but reside in our national memory bank. For me the most important bunch goes back to the 1986 "L.A. Law." Those characters, whom we cared about and even loved, seem to have become the archetypes for many current fictional lawyers.
For instance, I have no doubt that drop-dead gorgeous Arnie Becker is the platform on which "Boston Legal" Brad was constructed. Leland McKenzie becomes the earnest scold Paul. Grace Van Owen becomes Denis.
But I am convinced that "Boston Legal" Alan Shore is a new creation in TV legal fiction. His combination of ruthlessness and the hunger for connection is riveting. The creators of "Shark" tried a mutation of that but it doesn't seem to be working.
Other influential make-believe lawyers? Scott Turrow has created a lot of good stories but the lawyers in them I have a hunch will outlive Turrow's present popularity.
And maybe that brings us to the artistic question about why aren't there more fictional lawyers who stay in our minds and hearts for decade after decade? We sure have no shortage of private eyes in that area of influentials, ranging from Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade to the current crop of CSI investigators. Maybe that says something about the nature of law or the kind of human beings who become lawyers.