In a culture shaped by law, the top trial attorneys can become cultural icons. Part predator, part prophet, the best can earn an uneasy respect in the public and almost mythical standing in the bar. A select few have become fixtures in the great American gallery of personality.

Of course, the very greatest trial lawyers often garner little attention, handling hundreds of cases in relative obscurity, legendary only within their local bar. But lawyers in famous cases have a natural advantage in any ranking. Not surprisingly, all four of my candidates for the title “Trial Lawyer of the 20th Century” were counsel in one or more great trials, central characters in our most celebrated legal dramas.