A new legal drama premieres next week, and it feels familiar. "Harry's Law" is a better familiar because it's written by David E. Kelley, executive producer of "Boston Legal," "The Practice," "Ally McBeal" and "Picket Fences." "Harry's Law" (10 p.m. Monday, NBC) is definitely one of the lesser works in the Kelley oeuvre, but it's better than, say, "Girls Club" (two episodes and done on Fox in 2002). At least "Harry's Law" brings with it the same current-events legal sparring some viewers appreciated on "Boston Legal." Actually, "Harry's Law" brings a whole host of familiar tricks from Kelley's TV-writer bag:

» A character with a tic (Paul McCrane's assistant district attorney repeats everything he says).

» Eccentric visual sequences a la "Ally."

'Harry's Law'
» When: Monday, 10 p.m.
» Channel: NBC
» Info: nbc.com/harrys-law/

» Foul-mouthed old lady (charged with armed robbery).

» Self-described "cartoonish buffoon" lawyer (Christopher McDonald in episode two) most interested in self-promotion.

Kathy Bates ("About Schmidt") stars as gun-toting Harriet "Harry" Korn, a bored patent attorney who gets fired on the same day she's knocked down by an attempted-suicide jumper (Aml Ameen) and hit by a car driven by a young lawyer (Nate Corddry, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"), who then insists on helping her start her new storefront practice in an old shoe store. Harry's assistant, Jenna (Brittany Snow, "American Dreams"), insists on selling off the left-behind shoe inventory and christens the place Harriet's Law and Fine Shoes.

The show's high quirk factor can't disguise that "Harry's Law" lacks the camaraderie of Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) that made "Boston Legal" so popular, but it does have a liberal crusader in Harriet who segues from patent law to criminal defense. She defends a college-bound black man with a drug habit in the first episode and an elderly robber in the second episode. (Scenes of defendants pleading their cases to Harry or thanking one of the lawyers tend to be disappointingly mawkish.)

The series shines brightest in the courtroom where Kelley, a former lawyer, is comfortable playing both sides of an argument without resorting to creating a straw man. Not only does Harry mount a vigorous defense, but her new associate, Adam (Corddry), speaks excitedly in court, rattling off assorted legal principles in a stunning, extended verbal streak.

"Harry's Law" breaks no new ground and even feels a little tired compared to the programming on basic cable these days. But for fans of "Boston Legal" and Kelley's past law shows, "Harry's Law" offers more intriguing legal arguments and entertaining dialogue than many prime-time shows can muster.