Legal Eagles: 8 Must-Watch K-Dramas With Savvy Lawyers
Razor sharp interrogations, dramatic twists, strategic power plays, and maneuvering the moral high ground in the pursuit for justice… if you ever thought courtrooms were dull stuffy affairs, then think again.
Legal K-dramas rate high with their taut storylines of investigative plots, high octane court room action, and thrills and chills. From socio-political and economic issues to highlighting sensitive societal issues, these dramas are filled with moral questions, with just some romance thrown in to lighten up the mood. As the sharp-witted, perceptive legal eagles with a gift of the gab take center stage, they can be charmingly and calculatingly shrewd in their cause for justice.
So here is a list of eight legal dramas featuring some savvy lawyers who can outsmart their way out of the trickiest situations.
“Extraordinary Attorney Woo”
One of the most popular shows and rightly so, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” made its way into people’s hearts and found a permanent corner there. The story focuses on a talented, genius rookie lawyer Woo Young Woo (Park Eun Bin), who has high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and finds herself at one of the biggest law firms in Korea. Young Woo can be socially awkward, but she is a force to reckon with in court. She is brilliant and has a photographic memory, wit, and rather creative ways with which she handles cases. It’s not always a win-win for her as she sometimes fails, falls, and is even conflicted between personal and professional ideologies. But with each case, her “blue whale” eureka moments are endearing and uplifting to watch.
Young Woo has her own cheering squad with her supportive boss Jung Myeong Seok (Kang Ki Young), colleague and friend Choi Soo Yeon (Ha Yun Kyung), and Lee Jun Ho (Kang Tae Oh) from the legal team who not only helps her navigate revolving doors but also steps in to assisst her with cases. Park Eun Bin’s stellar performance as Young Woo is brilliant as the actor brings forth her character with the utmost sensitivity and sincerity. “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is in talks for Season 2, and I can’t wait to watch what Young Woo does next.
You might not expect lawlessness and lawyers to be synonymous, but sometimes one needs to get their hands dirty to fight the system. Bong Sang Pil (Lee Joon Gi) is a former gangster-turned-lawyer who has no qualms in pulling the punches, calling his gangster friends, and manipulating loopholes in the legal system to his advantage to bring justice. Sang Pil is in the pursuit of revenge for his mother’s murder and approaches Ha Jae Yi (Seo Ye Ji), a morally upright lawyer who has been disbarred from court and asks her to work with him. Together they form a formidable team as they find themselves up against villainous adversaries. As Sang Pil and Jae Yi are outwitted and outsmarted, they remain astute in their drive for redemption, and their fleeting romantic moments also bring respite from the tension.
Lee Joon Gi is known for his versatility, and he gives yet another top notch performance as the street smart and defiant lawyer who is so imperfectly perfect that his charismatic swag leaves you impressed. And Seo Ye Ji is fiery as the passionate lawyer who is grounded in her morals and ethics. “Lawless Lawyer” is a thrilling crime drama which keeps up the momentum with its unexpected twists and turns and is truly worth the ride.
Start watching” Lawless Lawyer”:
“Your best source of protection isn’t a gun or a sword. It’s your brain. Don’t forget that,” says the calculating consigliere, Vincenzo Cassano. Vincenzo (Song Joong Ki) is a mafia lawyer who makes a whistle-stop visit home to South Korea to wrap up some unfinished pending business, translated as getting his huge stash of gold and returning back to Italy. However, his best laid plans go awry, and he finds himself drawn into the plight of a ragtag bunch of tenants who want to stop the demolition of their building. As he finds himself getting involved in their cause, he meets the sharp and feisty lawyer Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin), and the two become a team as they take on the powerful conglomerate Babel and are up against very dangerous adversaries and its scheming boss Jang Jun Woo (Taecyeon)
Though Vincenzo has his own ideas when it comes to justice, he unapologetically adheres to how only evil can punish evil. Vincenzo’s fierce loyalty towards Hong Cha Young and the tenants of Geumga Plaza proves that he is a man who can go to any lengths and use any means to justify what is a suitable end for him. Vincenzo is a rollercoaster. The drama gets bloody and violent with cliffhangers thrown in, and it has quirky humor and wit to keep you hooked. And, of course, Song Joong Ki And Jeon Yeo Bin’s chemistry keeps up the momentum.
A dystopian setting where hate is prevalent, chaos reigns supreme, and power-hungry politicians and mercenaries prey on citizens, a ruthless and shrewd judge named Kang Yo Han (Ji Sung) decides to devise his own live courtroom trials and mercilessly punishes the corrupt on the basis of votes garnered from the public. Kang Yo Han is an extremist, a man who makes his own rules and settles scores according to his own rule book. He wants people to exercise their democratic rights and turns into a national hero of sorts. But Kim Ga On (Jinyoung), a compassionate and optimistic rookie judge who has had a rough life, finds himself in conflict with Yo Han. His world view is uncorrupted despite his terrible past, and though his ideologies clash with Yo Han, the former sees the potential in Ga On and tries to make him see the world through his lens to fight injustice.
“The Devil Judge” has a riveting plot as it depicts a scary modern society and its corrosion of the socio-political economic fabric. However, it’s a performance driven show by Ji Sung and Jinyoung, whose on-screen dynamics are so powerful. Despite their warring convictions, these actors together gives some spectacular screen moments you don’t want to miss.
Start watching “The Devil Judge”:
Two rivals go to any lengths to get a case, and their sole focus is to defend those with deep pockets translated as chaebols and monied politicians. Jung Geum Ja (Kim Hye Soo) is an opportunist who has no moral qualms in twisting, manipulating, and blurring law books and codes of justice or injustice. Her sole purpose is to make money and get successful. Yoon Hee Jae (Joo Ji Hoon) is her polar opposite – he is an elite lawyer at one of the top law firms Song & Kim, and though confident about his abilities, he is many times outsmarted by Geum Ja in her quest for high-powered clients and wealth. However, things change with Geum Ja joining Song& Kim as a partner attorney. She is teamed with Hee Jae to investigate into cases pertaining to important and influential patrons, and their perceptions change.
“Hyena” has an intricate plot with two badass characters whose methods and means, though questionable, lay bare the loopholes and malpractices conducted in the name of law, politics, and business. As the male lead, Joo Ji Hoon shows a softer, humorous, and romantic side, while we get to see a tough-as-nails female lead in Kim Hye Soo. Geum Ja is a femme fatale who needs no saving but rather is one whom you may need saving from. It’s an intelligent, dark, and dramatic show, and our two leads will have you hooked from the first frame.
Oh Soo Jae (Seo Hyun Jin) is an attorney and a partner at one of South Korea’s biggest law firms. Her work is an extension of her life, and she has risen in the ranks by sheer hard work, battled sexism, harassment, and gender inequality. She is sharp-tongued, cracks the whip, and leaves no stone unturned in winning a case by hook or by crook. After wrongly allowing a young man named Kim Dong Goo (Hwang In Yeop) to pay for a crime that he didn’t commit and later protecting a perpetrator of a crime over the victim, Soo Jae falls from grace and faces the consequences of her actions. Suspended from the firm, she is sent to spend a semester teaching at a law faculty to repair her image. But little does she realize her past would catch up with her, as one of her students is none other than Kim Dong Goo. And Soo Jae finds that reworking her image and character is by far more daunting than passing judgements in court. Though she is supported by Dong Goo, does anyone else want to stand by her anymore?
“Why Her?” is not for the faint-hearted as it deals with some serious and sensitive issues such as child abuse, suicide, rape, and murder. That being said, Seo Hyun Jin carries this show on her shoulders with her powerful performance. Soo Jae embraces her flaws and vulnerabilities and is not one to crave or ask for empathy. The drama does not validate her actions ether by humanizing her – she is a woman who takes things on the chin. You might wonder “why her?” but Soo Jae is likely to snap back with a “why not me.” And while Dong Goo’s devotion towards Soo Jae and willingness to put himself in the face of danger shows a few stirrings of romance, the drama never once steers away from its main tension-filled plot.
Start watching “Why Her?”:
A K-drama favorite and one which continues to rate high amongst fans is “I Hear Your Voice.” This show not only saw a constant spike in viewership, but it was also extended by an extra two episodes at the time. Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk), a 19-year-old high school senior, has an innate ability to read people’s innermost thoughts just by staring into their eyes, a power he develops after witnessing his father’s horrific murder when he was young boy. Though the murder had been dismissed as an accident, a young teenager named Jang Hye Sung (Kim So Hyun) testifies against the suspect, who is rightly put in prison. This incident leaves a deep impression on Soo Ha, who vows to protect Hye Sung. Years later, when they are thrown together, an older Hye Sung (Lee Bo Young) is now an aloof and brusque public defender who is disinterested in the lives of the people she represents. But Soo Ha dutifully stands by her and wears his heart on his sleeve, with his sole aim to protect and help her as the murderer is let out of prison and planning his revenge.
“I Hear Your Voice” cleverly weaves in many subplots as the different cases and stories shed light on how the law and codes of conduct designed by human beings are not etched in stone and should be questioned when the need arises. Lee Bo Young is a versatile actor who holds the fort with her “in your face” personality of Hye Sung, while Lee Jong Suk delivers a mature performance as the lovable and calm Soo Ha. To top it off, the chemistry between these two is the perfect foil to the tense courtroom scenes.
Start watching “I Hear Your Voice”:
Meet prosecutor Noh Ji Wook (Ji Chang Wook), a man who is notoriously good at what he does, is a bit of a stern snob, and cannot stand criminals all in the same breath. Eun Bong Hee (Nam Ji Hyun) is a trainee under Ji Wook, but when she is falsely accused of murdering her boyfriend, Ji Wook, who is in two minds, takes to defending her in court and falls from grace. It’s a downward spiral for him from there as Ji Wook becomes a private attorney at a law firm but is no longer interested in what he does. He tries to keep away from Bong Hee, who has developed feelings for him, but Ji Wook wants to steer clear from her. To complicate matters, Ji Wook, Bong Hee, and his one time best friend Ji Eun Hyuk (Choi Tae Joon) find themselves thrown together with a serial killer on their heels.
Ji Chang Wook as always makes every frame look rich with his presence, but that apart, he is good at articulating his characters. From the stern and grouchy prosecutor to the bored attorney and a man willing to face his demons, Ji Wook is charming to the core. Nam Ji Hyun as Bong Hee has her heart in the right place, and her personality, which oscillates between reckless, cute, and sassy, grows on you. And who could forget Choi Tae Joon, who is brilliant in masking his character’s true self beneath his non-serious, funny exterior. Plus Ji Chang Wook and Nam Ji Hyun’s sizzling chemistry and on screen romance will give you several toe curling moments.
Start watching “Suspicious Partner”:
Hello Soompiers! Which one of these legal dramas is your favorite? Tell us in the comments section!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Song Joong Ki and Lee Jun Ho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.