'Law & Order: For the Defense': What We Know About Franchise Spin-Off

A month after one Law & Order spinoff launched, Dick Wolf and NBC announced another expansion to the franchise. Law & Order: For the Defense will follow a criminal defense firm, a first for the franchise. Not too much is known about the project, we do know approximately when the series will air. The latest incarnation shows Wolf's continuing interest in expanding the Law & Order brand in new ways. The project does seem like the perfect opportunity to bring back fan-favorite former Law & Order: Special Victims Unit A.D.A. Rafael Barba.

For the Defense will debut in the fall. It will air on Thursdays, which will now be "Law & Order" night for NBC. The new series will kick things off at 8 p.m. ET, with SVU Season 23 following at 9 p.m. ET. Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 will air at 10 p.m. ET. Wolf's One Chicago shows will still air on Wednesdays. The busy producer is also working on LA Fire and Rescue, a documentary series about the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The new L&O show will bring CSI veteran Carol Mendelsohn into the fold as showrunner and executive producer. The other executive producers are Wolf, Peter Jankowski, Julie Weitz, and Arthur Forney. "This new show is exciting for me personally," Wolf said in a statement on Monday, May 3. "We spent the last 30 years on shows that played offense. 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."

“We can’t wait to bring audiences the latest chapter of Law & Order, which will explore a different angle of the criminal justice system,” Lisa Katz, President, Scripted Programming, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, added. “We’re excited about Dick Wolf’s perpetually thought-provoking approach as well his collaboration with Carol Mendelsohn, who we have been eager to do a series with for a long time.”

Casting was not announced, but considering the quick success of Law & Order: Organized Crime, it would make perfect sense for Wolf to use the return of another fan-favorite character as a foundation for For the Defense. While it would be hard to replicate the excitement built up surrounding Christopher Meloni's return as Elliot Stabler after a 10-year absence, fans already know and love Rafael Barba, played by Raul Esparza.

Barba was introduced as an assistant district attorney on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, starring in Seasons 14 through 19. He has made a handful of appearances since, most recently in the January 2021 episode "Sightless in a Savage Land." In that episode, it was established that he is now a criminal defense attorney. He would be the perfect character to bring back as the lead for the new series. Then again, it's worth noting that Law & Order has a long, long history of ADA characters becoming defense attorneys and any of them could come back. Even the very first ADA on the original Law & Order, Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks) became a dense attorney after leaving the district attorney's office.

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For the Defense comes just after Organized Crime launched, featuring a whole new format for Law & Order. Instead of going with a case-of-the-week format, the show features Stabler trying to stop only one criminal syndicate in the first season. It also stars Ainsley Seiger, who exclusively told PopCutlure that she is excited to see For the Defense. "I'm so excited because I think one of the best aspects of Law & Order is, 'Who's your favorite ADA? Who's your favorite Assistant District Attorney?' It's like the most common question that I get from fans," she said. "So to have an entire spin-off dedicated to that side of the system, I think is so genius of them to do."

Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, with Organized Crime following at 10 p.m. ET. You can stream episodes on Peacock and Hulu.

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