Tackling the Tough Legal Question: 'Ally' or 'The Practice'?

What's the skinny on Ally McBeal? Ask a lawyer.

For good or ill, TV networks continue to bombard the public with shows set inside law firms or courtrooms: Family Law, Judging Amy, The Practice, Ally McBeal and Law and Order.

A local legal newspaper even devotes a whole page every week rehashing Ally's escapades and Bobby's bedroom antics.

Now an informal and extremely unscientific survey finally sheds light on the burning question: Do lawyers actually watch these shows?

On the condition of anonymity 10 brave attorneys stepped forward to break their silence on the controversial topic -- coming clean on the fact that they occasionally indulge themselves at the fountain of David Kelley.

"[I] think [Ally McBeal]'s totally unrealistic," says the managing partner of a large San Francisco firm. "Yet [I] have some level of prurient fascination with it."

That's right, let it out.

The results of the survey show that Ally McBeal and The Practice are the most popular shows among lawyers.

Law and Order -- considered the most realistic -- came in at a close third. Neither Family Law nor Judging Amy received votes.

But while Ally McBeal prides itself on being the be-all and end-all of chick shows, some women lawyers blasted it as degrading.

"It's ridiculously stupid and portrays women very poorly," said a female attorney. "Enough with the short skirts and ditsy women."

A male attorney had a different view of the 88-pound fictional lawyer.

"[My wife and I] are attracted to the Kelley shows because of the very witty writing and plots," says an employment partner at a well-known firm. "Even the especially silly episodes on Ally McBeal usually have a point of view that's provocative and worth considering."

But perhaps the attorney is watching just a little too much TV for his own good.

"Do I wish that real life were more like these shows? Tell me which character I can be, and I'll be glad to answer that question."

San Mateo solo attorney Ray Shahani has his own views on lawyer TV: The shows seem very realistic, "in terms of representing attorneys as assholes," he says.

But Shahani adds that he rarely watches most of them. "The People's Court now and then," he says. "I also like Judge Judy."

One attorney suggested the shows need more minority lawyers and judges. (And still maintain an air of realism?)

Another attorney proposed the idea of a show based on a reporter from the legal press. (I would want bionic powers.)

Almost all the attorneys agreed that there are too many lawyer shows on TV.

And the whole thing makes one long for the classics.

Who remembers Night Court?