Defense lawyer, the review: a legal drama on the road

The review of Defense Lawyer, the new series available from May 13 on Netflix based on the novels of Michael Connelly, written by David E. Kelley starring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.

There are three certainties in life: about what you want, what you believe in and what you must do, and they do not always coincide

It has all the characteristics of the legal drama that moves halfway between generalist and cable Defense lawyer, the new series available from May 13 on Netflix based on the novels of Michael Connelly. It starts from a complicated and long production history, which has an impact on the final result, to finally land on the platform, as we will explain in our defense lawyer review.

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Lincoln’s attorney

Defense attorney: a scene photo

David E. Kelley, a regular in legal drama, adapts the novel The List (The Brass Verdict) by Michael Connelly, part of the saga starring the character of the lawyer Mickey Haller, but not the first novel Defense attorney (The Lincoln Lawyer) which in turn became in 2011 the homonymous film directed by Brad Furman with Matthew McConaughey. In the television adaptation, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (already seen in Kelley’s Goliath) plays the role of Haller, a lawyer who does not like working in the office and prefers his Lincoln branded NTGUILTY (short for “not guilty”, “not guilty “) on the streets of Los Angeles (hence the title appellation), so he can prepare for a case as he moves from place to place. He had a surfing accident that led to an oxycodone addiction that he cleaned up, but he hasn’t exercised in a year.

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Defense attorney: a picture from the series

The deus ex machina of the serial is that a lawyer friend dies mysteriously killed in a parking lot and surprisingly leaves him his own studio and therefore his own cases, including a very high profile one involving the videogame genius Trevor Elliott (well found, Christopher Gorham). Thus begins the new professional life of the protagonist – in a typical American story of redemption – which he must balance with his personal one, made up of two ex-wives: the first, Maggie McPherson (Neve Campbell), the great love of his life, gave him teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Warner), and he’s an equally good lawyer. The second, Lorna (Becki Newton), is her assistant who tries not to close the studio after what happened and rather wants Haller to take the ball to get back on track.

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Get back on track

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Defense attorney: a scene from the series

The story of a defense lawyer is the typical story of second chances that Americans like so much, of starting over after a dark period, a story of working and private redemption, with a protagonist at the center with that right attitude between arrogant and lovable. The structure can be seen that it is a hybrid result between generalist and cable, it does not always and only have the so-called “case of the week”, and at the same time it is not only focused on horizontal storylines: the two main ones are dedicated to the mysterious death of the a lawyer friend of Haller who starts the affair, and the case concerning Trevor Elliott. The investigations and the clashes in court will reserve various twists, in the style of Kelley, with a resolution perhaps partly too concentrated in the last episodes, but the cast chosen is excellent and demonstrates great chemistry, and it gives satisfaction to see most of the interpreters on TV.

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Defense attorney: a still photo from the series

Born in 2018, the idea for this series passed from Epix and CBS – from which it was discarded precisely because of the pandemic that just broke out at the Upfronts of that year – starring Logan Marshall-Greene and Kiele Sanchez, before landing on Netflix two years ago as a project with a new cast but the pandemic has further delayed production and release until today. Fun fact: Mickey Haller should have met Harry Bosch from the series of the same name in some kind of crossover, a character always born from the pen of Connelly, but that can no longer happen because they are now on two competing streaming platforms (Bosch is on Prime Video). A complex inter that we can also detect in the final result. In Defense Lawyer we move into the nuances of legality and into the spheres of corruption to bring to light inconvenient truths, social disparities and flaws in the US judicial system, as is typical in Kelley’s legal writing. An advocate for the rich but also for the people, who encompasses two souls to try to make all spectators happy.


Balance between generalist and cable, cases of the week and horizontal storylines throughout the season, a charismatic protagonist and a well-chosen cast, well-placed twists: these are the characteristics that return at the end of the review of Defense Lawyer and that they make a legal drama that entertains and surprises, even without too many flickers along the way, the one that crosses the Lincoln of the lawyer of the title.

Because we like it

  • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a charismatic protagonist who balances his two souls well.
  • The accompanying cast is well chosen, starting with the ex of the protagonist Neve Campbell and Becki Newton.
  • Kelley’s style is unmistakable, amidst complaints of social disparities and flaws in the judicial system …

What’s wrong

  • … But this also applies to the less successful aspects such as concentrating too much on the last episodes some resolutions and some plot twists already seen.

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