TV Features

Why 1 Forgotten Law & Order Spinoff Never Happened


  • Law & Order: For the Defense, a spinoff focused on criminal defense attorneys, was cancelled before it aired, leaving the reasons for its cancellation up to speculation.
  • The show’s cancellation may be due to its close release date with Law & Order: Organized Crime and the network’s desire to not overwhelm audiences.
  • The premise of exploring the defense’s perspective may have posed a challenge for the experienced crime show creators and contributed to the show’s demise.



The Law & Order franchise has produced some of the most successful and enduring network television, but one of its many spinoff series, Law & Order: For the Defense, never quite made it to air. Back in May 2021, Law & Order: For the Defense was announced as the latest installment in the ever-expanding Law & Order universe. It received a straight-to-series order from NBC and was slated to premiere later that fall, joining the long-running Law & Order: Special Victims Unit along with its Stabler spinoff, Law & Order: Organized Crime, for an all-L&O Thursday night lineup on NBC.

Law & Order creator, Dick Wolf, partnered with former CSI showrunner, Carol Mendelsohn, to bring Law & Order: For the Defense to life. The legal drama focused on the inner workings of a criminal defense firm, following the (literal) trials and tribulations of the firm’s defense attorneys both inside and outside the courtroom. The concept was an intriguing departure from the police procedural perspective of the Law & Order franchise, which has always approached crime and the justice system from the angle of the offense.

Law & Order: For The Defense Was Dropped During Production

This picture shows the defense sitting at their table during a trial.

Unfortunately, Law & Order: For the Defense was scrapped before it ever saw the light of day. In July 2021, just a few months after the initial announcement that the show had been greenlit, it was revealed that NBC would no longer be moving forward with the series. The news was somewhat surprising, considering the short amount of time since its inception as well as Wolf’s own enthusiasm about his latest venture. The Law & Order producer stated that For the Defense was “exciting” for him given the new territory he and Mendelsohn would be exploring. “We spent the last 30 years on shows that played offense,” Wolf told Deadline.Now it will be great to play defense, and being able to do it with Carol is an honor and an opportunity for both of us to do television that hasn’t been done before.”

Though it was reportedly a mutual decision between NBC and Wolf to pull the plug on Law & Order: For the Defense, there was no official reason given for the show’s premature cancelation, leaving room for speculation. The premiere of Law & Order: Organized Crime, which saw Christopher Meloni reprising his Law & Order role as the beloved Detective Elliot Stabler ten years after his departure from Law & Order: SVU, was only a few months earlier in April. Perhaps their release dates were just too close for comfort, and the network didn’t want to overwhelm audiences.

The decision not to move forward may have also had something to do with the premise itself – as previously noted, this would have been Law & Order‘s first venture into the world of the defense, portraying criminal cases from the perspective of the defense attorney instead of the police or the prosecutor. Though Mendelsohn has a bit more experience than Wolf exploring the defense’s side with her short-lived legal drama The Defenders (2010-2011), it could be that Law & Order: For the Defense posed more of a challenge for the seasoned crime show vets than they were expecting.

What’s Happening With Law & Order: Hate Crimes – Is It Canceled?

Fin and Stabler inside a car on Law and Order SVU

This wouldn’t be the first time that a Law & Order spinoff series was gutted before ever making it to the screen. In 2018, Law & Order: Hate Crimes was also given a straight-series order, but later shelved before making it to air. The series has remained in limbo ever since, with no sign of resuming development in sight. Law & Order: Hate Crimes would follow New York’s Hate Crimes Task Force as they investigate crimes fueled by bigotry and discrimination. Warren Leight, former Law & Order: SVU showrunner, was set to be at the helm of Law & Order: Hate Crimes; however, in 2020 he claimed that given the obscene language that often accompanies the subject matter, that Law & Order: Hate Crimes may go to the streamer, Peacock, as opposed to network television, as it might be better suited for streaming.

Though some spinoffs may never come to fruition, the Law & Order universe is still going strong. SVU remains the longest-running live-action drama series on television, an impressive feat among many. The 25th season of the sex crimes-focused series approaches, though it is unclear when Law & Order: SVU season 25 will air amidst the strike.


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