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The Practice was a long-running (March 4 1997 - May 16 2004, eight seasons) ABC legal drama TV series created by David E. Kelley about a Boston, Massachusetts law firm. It also led to the spin-off legal drama, Boston Legal, which began in fall 2004.
The Practice originally focused on the law firm Donnell, Young, Dole and Frutt, featuring the firm's involvement in a number of high-profile criminal and civil cases that often mirrored events occurring in real life. There were a number of crossovers with other David E. Kelley shows, including Boston Public, Ally McBeal and the short-lived medical drama Gideon's Crossing , but The Practice is overall one of David E. Kelley's most serious shows.
The main theme of the series as a whole is the uneasy balance between moral ethics and legal ethics. The problem in several episodes involved a dilemma between the two. One classic example is the episode in which Jimmy Berluti learned that a young boy had an aneurism in his brain that could pop at any moment. But he was in the employ of the insurance company, and the client did not want to disclose the aneurism. Berluti decided to let the parents know about the aneurism. The boy was operated on before the aneurism could cause any damage, but Berluti was nearly disbarred.
Very often the lawyers needed to remind themselves and others that they defended murderers and rapists for the common good of all people.
Another important theme of the series was lawyers being fooled by their clients. Joey Heric (played by guest star John Larroquette) literally got away with murder in every episode in which he hired Donnell, Young, Dole & Frutt. Another example is the psychotic William Hinks, who convinced his therapist and later Lindsay Dole that he was a serial murder wannabe rather than the real thing.
By the end of the seventh season, faced with sagging ratings, ABC conditioned the show's renewal on a drastic budget reduction. As a result, several cast members left. The addition of James Spader and Rhona Mitra to the cast for the eighth season helped to revive the ratings somewhat; however, on March 11, 2004, ABC announced that it would not renew the series for a ninth season, but that Kelley would instead create the new spin-off series starring Spader, Mitra and William Shatner, who began appearing as Denny Crane during the final months. 
The remaining members of the law firm go their separate ways. Eugene becomes a judge. Ellenor focuses more on her family. Jimmy and Jamie become neighborhood lawyers. The final scene shows Bobby Donnell behind a desk thinking about his law firm and the impact it has made.
- Dylan McDermott as Bobby Donnell (1997-2003, 2004), head of the firm. Bobby often is forced to toe the line between ethical obligations and the obligations to a client.
- Steve Harris as Eugene Young (1997-2004), co-partner of the firm (and head of the firm for the final season). Eugene often came off as heartless in court, but his ex-wife and his son bring out his emotions.
- Camryn Manheim as Ellenor Frutt (1997-2004), co-partner of the firm. Ellenor, a single mother, had a child via artificial insemination, a process that took her to court fighting for custody of her child.
- Kelli Williams as Lindsay Dole (1997-2003), Bobby's wife and a lawyer/co-partner at the firm. Lindsay was convicted of murdering a cannibalistic client who went after her, but the verdict was reversed on a technicality.
- Michael Badalucco as Jimmy Berluti (1997-2004), a lawyer, and later co-partner at the firm. Jimmy is a compulsive gambler, and many storylines involved dealing with his gambling problems.
- James Spader as Alan Shore (2003-2004), a highly unethical friend of Ellenor's who was hired by the firm in the final season. The popularity of the character led to the spinoff, Boston Legal.
- Lisa Gay Hamilton as Rebecca Washington (1997-2003), a lawyer at the firm. At the beginning of the series, Rebecca was the firm's receptionist until she passed her bar exam.
- Lara Flynn Boyle as Helen Gamble (1997-2003), the Assistant District Attorney who often prosecuted cases in which the firm was involved. Helen, a personal friend of the firm's members, is nevertheless relentless in her attempts to prosecute those who do wrong, sometimes even crossing the line of legal ethics.
- Jason Kravits as Richard Bay (1999-2001), a hard-nosed District Attorney. Richard was gunned down after prosecuting a murder trial, despite numerous death threats.
- Marla Sokoloff as Lucy Hatcher (1998-2003), a wise-cracking receptionist for the firm. Lucy is also a counselor for rape victims.
- Jessica Capshaw as Jamie Stringer (2002-2004), a high-strung Harvard graduate and lawyer at the firm. Jamie was brought in when Lindsay was convicted of murder.
- Rhona Mitra as Tara Wilson (2003-2004), Alan's assistant. Tara left the firm when Alan did, in the final few episodes of the original series.
- Chyler Leigh as Claire Wyatt (2003), Lindsay's assistant. After Lindsay's conviction was overturned, she left the firm to found her own, and she hired Claire. Claire's character only lasted for about a half-season.
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