Ally McBeal is a young lawyer working at the Boston law firm Cage and Fish. Ally's lives and loves are eccentric, humorous, dramatic with an incredibly overactive imagination that's working overtime!
It's a new year at the firm, which means changes - big changes! Still getting over Larry and renewing her faith in love, Ally decides to start fresh and let nothing get in her way. That is until she barrels into a woman on the street with her Razor Scooter. She runs into Jenny Shaw (Julianne Nicholson) and instantly bonds with this new broken-hearted stranger. In the time it takes to walk the rest of the way to the office, Ally finds out that Jenny's best friend is her ex-boyfriend, former co-worker and that Jenny is a lawyer without a firm and with a class action lawsuit housing 72,000 plaintiffs! Ally brings Jenny into the firm and announces that she's hiring her. Of course Richard is surprised because only he has hiring authority. He then lets Ally know that he already hired the latest addition to the firm.
Jenny insists that Ally should go out with Glenn, and Ally insists she doesn't have a crush on him. The three are assigned to chair the telemarketing case. They have a very hard time with the main plaintiff, Claire Otoms, a purple-haired, flashy-looking lady who lives in a 'colonial house'. Raymond, knowing that if the judge listens to her he'll rule in his favor, takes the deposition to the court. Claire keeps drifting from the questions, for Ally's desperation. But what appeared to have gone so bad turned out good. Coretta convinces John that he must look good to cause a good impression, and John ends up dressing a fake muscle suit to try to get rid of his weird-women magnetism. Ling and Nelle 'compliment' twin babies on the street. The mother of the babies - the Massachusetts governor - is so flattered by the compliments that she offers Ling a judge position. Overwhelmed, Ling makes a purple robe and starts to give more-than-quick sentences.
Ally has a dream about Raymond and Glenn. She thinks it's a sign they'll lose the phone company case, and Glenn sees it as a secret attraction of Ally for him. After Raymond makes a 125,000 dollars offer for the phone company case, Ally decides to make an infomercial using Ling's TV show crew and Claire Otoms as the announcer. They threat to run the infomercial nationwide on primetime, and the threat of losing hundreds of millions of dollars scares Raymond's client. Cage & Fish settle for 15 million dollars, the biggest settlement ever, which makes Richard cry of happiness. Meanwhile, Ally is still divided with her feelings for Glenn and if she should date him or not. Glenn says he's not interested in her, and Raymond asks Glenn if he should date Ally. To make things even better, John decides to confess his feelings for Ally and is very disappointed when she says they will never be more than just very good friends.
Ally and Glenn continue their flirtation, which leads to their conscious avoidance of each other, which does not go unnoticed by the others at Cage and Fish. She insists he’s too much of a “boy” for her, but continues to be attracted to him. He’s drawn to her because she’s a little older. Both use Jenny’s feelings as an excuse to not date as well. John takes off for parts unknown, which worries the ladies of the firm, especially Nelle. Richard takes it in stride, and takes over John’s abandoned hole off of the unisex. Raymond is sued by a former coworker for sexual harassment, and asks Jenny to represent him...
Jenny's mother comes to hire the firm to take her wrongful termination case. She's being fired from her job for dating a 20 year-old. Jenny wants Ally to purposely lose the case but Ally can't do that. The case ends up serving as a mirror to Ally and Glenn's relationship. Ally's closing makes Jenny change her mind and she accepts her soon-to-be step-father. Glenn tries to reach Ally, but Ally, as always, is afraid she's going to end up broken hearted. Meanwhile, Ling looks for more exciting cases for her show and brings an entire orchestra to her court. Richard obsesses with Ms. Shaw's waddle, but Francis shows him he's way out of her league.
John makes a surprise return and is shocked after hearing from Raymond that Richard threw a party in his "hole". After confronting Richard, John gives the office a speech, in which he reveals the reason why and where he left to. Raymond gets Glenn and Ally to double date with him and Jenny. It's Jenny's birthday, and everyone forgets it. Glenn is the only one who didn't get her a present, so he sings a very romantic Elvis song at the bar for her. He asks her back, and she accepts. Ally wonders if she should hook up with John, but the ghost of Larry is still present in her thoughts. Meanwhile, Ling poses nude to boost her TV character; Corretta and Richard find themselves involved in a police investigation on a woman who used to marry rich old men for the money
Ally helps a minister who was fired from his church for not believing in God. Ever since his wife was brutally murdered, he has been questioning his beliefs and he asks Ally to talk to his son. Ally is surprised to see Malcolm again and encourages him to sing at his father's service after he is hired back. Meanwhile, John takes a case opposite a mayor who cancelled the Christmas parade of his town due to a disaster in which people died. Very moved, John proves that Christmas is what they need the most in this time of deep grief. Back in the office, Jenny and Elaine confront each other about Elaine's performance with Glenn in the office's Christmas party.
Jenny's mom's wedding is approaching, and Ally is shocked when Tim gives her a certain look that suggests a move. She talks to Jenny, and they decide to test him. Ally makes a move on him, and he offers her to have an affair. Surprisingly, Jenny's mom is ok with that, which only confuses Ally more. She's been hallucinating with a 7-year-old boy who keeps saying she's killing him. The boy is a version of Ally from when she believed in love (a conclusion made by Richard), before Billy died and Larry left. Meanwhile, John and Coretta help Kimmie Bishop, who's back suing a matchmaker for saying she's "unmatchable".
Ally impulsively buys a house, to which Dr. Milter concludes is a way of her to take care of herself, since Ally sees herself as a 'work in progress'. Richard gets the others to help paint the house as a surprise for Ally, who hires the handyman Victor to fix the house for her. Meanwhile, Ally handles a case of a man who spent too much money buying gifts for his wife until they went bankrupt. And Jenny has some back problems, to which Coretta recommends a chiropractor who has a special chair. Glenn gets extremely jealous that a chair is giving Jenny more pleasure than him, while Nelle tests the chair.
Ally defends a man who broke into his old house to jump out of his old bedroom window. Harvey Hall believes he can fly using wings he made himself. The house owner allows him to jump from the roof, and Harvey accomplishes his life long dream of flying, at the cost of his own life. Meanwhile, Harriet Pumple tries to find a match for Elaine, Coretta, Richard and John. She matches Elaine with Victor, who would have dumped her if it wasn't for Ally asking him not to. But Harriet can't find a match for John, so the entire office sings "we have to get you a woman" for him. John is profoundly insulted.
10 year-old Maddie Harrington shows up on Ally's door saying she's her daughter. She's the result of a mixup on the egg bank Ally deposited her eggs ten years ago. Since Maddie's father died six months ago, she's been living with her aunt, who sings TV themes on nightclubs for a living. After a lot of talking, Maddie decides to stay in Boston with Ally on a trial basis until they resolve where she will stay. Meanwhile, Richard takes the case of a man who killed his wife after kicking her in the head when he mistook her for a soccer ball. John doesn't think he'll be able to win the case because he can't litigate, but Richard surprises him when he wins.
Maddie keeps testing Ally for her patience and love, something that doesn't go through Ally's mind until Victor points it out. Ally, on the other hand, is being way too protective on Maddie, confronting her school principal, teacher and classmates. She decides to hire a nanny, but can't find one that is fits her standards (liking Moulin Rouge, for example), so she ends up hiring Victor, who has developed a very good bond with Maddie. As if she didn't have enough going on in her life, Ally is offered partnership on the firm now that John is gone. After a lot of consideration, Richard decided to ask her and change the firm's name from Cage & Fish to Fish & McBeal, which upsets Nelle, who thinks she should be the next partner, not Ally. After going through the firm's books, Ally discovers that they're losing money and have to fire someone to avoid problems. Since neither Richard nor John had the guts to fire anyone, Ally decides to do so. Meanwhile, Coretta and Raymond face each other in
Ally decided that in order for the firm to get out of the financial crisis it's going through, someone will have to be let go. She chooses Jenny, who between all the lawyers of the firm had the least number of clients and experience. Glenn takes Jenny's dismissal offensively and decides to quit, taking all his clients with him. Ally accepts his resignation, but Victor convinces her to hire him back since the firm can't afford to lose any clients. Glenn and Jenny decide to start a new firm together and leave Cage, Fish & McBeal once and for all. Now the other lawyers will have to do extra work to make up for the loss. Among the changes Ally is making on the firm, she wants Nelle to be nicer and asks her to perform at the bar, something she has never done before. Afraid of embarrassing herself, Nelle goes to Ling for help. They decide to have backing vocals, a plan that backfires when the singer who was going to dub Nelle suddenly loses her voice and Elaine has Claire Otoms to replace he
Ally decides to take the DNA test after having recurring dreams where Maddie's real parents show up claiming her. Maddie doesn't take that well and escapes to NY to see her aunt Bonnie. Maddie thinks the test is just Ally's way of having an excuse not to love her, but Ally only wants a proof that Maddie is her daughter so no one can take her away from her. The test comes out positive, and they both cry. Meanwhile, a demented woman shows up at Ally's door looking for Vincent, the love of her life who owned the house before Ally bought it. She thinks Victor is Vincent, and he plays along. She has a stroke and dies, and Victor suffers from it even though he only met her for less than a day. Ally also offers Raymond a job at the firm, which he takes. And Claire decides to help Richard reunite with his high school crush, but she had a sex change operation and is now a man, something that shocks Richard deeply.
Richard and Raymond are hired to represent Serena Feldman, a 16 year-old girl who will die unless Judge Hall consents her a heart transplant from her convicted father, who is the her only match. Serena's aunt is against the transplant because Serena's dad murdered her mother , and Claire interferes with both her and the judge in order to help save Serena. The case is tough, and afraid his daughter will die after Judge Hall denies the transplant, Serena's father escapes and kills himself. Meanwhile, Maddie is caught smoking and reveals to Victor that she wanted to be suspended to avoid father-daughter day at school. She questions Ally why she and Victor can't be together, and Victor overhears Ally telling Maddie that they come from different worlds. Angry at Ally for being elitist, Victor quits, but Ally goes after him to ask him on a date. In the last minute she freaks out, and Victor is called in for help. Ally is still in love with Larry and thus can't date Victor.
Ally is about to go on her 3rd date, a.k.a. the "sex date", with Victor. Everybody knows about it, but Ally is nervous because on the 2nd date the tension was so high they couldn't even kiss. Meanwhile, Ally is interviewing for new hires, and meets with big shot attorney Todd Merrick, who gets on her nerves. Ally questions if she's dating Victor to fit hers or Maddie's demands. They finally go out, and when they come home they find Maddie's nanny dead in front of the TV, ruining the rest of the date. At the firm, Richard assigns Nelle to a very important case opposite court devil Liza "Lolita" Bump, a bitchy, young and feared attorney. So feared that Richard has to get John Cage for the case. He's been working at a Mexican restaurant as a mariachi player, and is quickly intimidated by Lisa's actions on and off court. She keeps trying to seduce John in order to settle the wrongful dismissal case, and John feels he must bring "The Biscuit" back to defeat her once and for all. Meanwhile,
The judge forbids the lawyers to interfere on Claire's engagement, and her fiancé decides to call the wedding off. Devastated, Claire goes to Ally for help. Ally is still shaken with the memory of Larry, and isn't sure of her feelings for Victor anymore. In the middle of that there's Todd, whom Ally turned down as an attorney, but who asked her out on a date. He gets on her nerves and they fight a lot. On their date, Ally confronts Victor and tries to pick a fight with him. John and Nelle try to settle upon their imminent lost in court, but Liza has now lowered her offer. John is furious and decides to take her down.
Ally is going to the Bermudas with Victor, and welcomes Liza as the firm's newest attorney. Nelle doesn't like that or the fact that she took John's office. Despite being her first day, Liza hires another lawyer, Wilson Jade, whom she was going to partner with on her own practice, hadn't she joined Cage, Fish & McBeal. Nelle and Wilson represent a woman who's suing her husband for sexual harassment, while John and Liza represent Nicole Naples, a woman who's legally married to two different men. Liza and John develop a great chemistry in court, and save Nicole from going to jail. John almost falls in love with Nicole, who's also interested in singing the mariachi with him. And back at the office, Claire is hot for Wilson, who makes an excellent settlement on the case with the help of Nelle (or should we call her Morgan, her real name, which was discovered by Liza - who's actually Debbie!)
Ally and Victor return from their Bermuda trip. Ally feels their relationship is in crisis because they weren't able to connect without Maddie around. Victor is being sued by his former girlfriend for breach of contract. Ally discovers that Victor is a painter and never told her. She's angry, but not as angry as when she sees his painting of her with cellulite. Nelle and Wilson team up against a woman who was blackmailing their client in order not to come public with a tape of their lovemaking. Richard obsesses over Liza and has Claire do the talking for him through a hearing device, afraid she's going to turn him down - and even more afraid she'll say yes to him.
Elaine auditions for "A Chorus Line", but doesn't get a call back. She accidentally bumps into the casting director, whom she finds attractive and nice. They go out for dinner and end up having sex. The next morning at work Elaine feels horrible for not giving her full self at the audition and Nelle tries to comfort her. Richard's father seeks for his help. He's being sued by his former secretary for sexual harassment. He fired her because he was falling in love with her, which damages his 40 yearlong marriage.
The lawyers at Cage, Fish & McBeal split when both personalities of the same woman hires them to represent each in court. One of her personalities is a strong, decided and bitchy woman that goes by Helena Green. She wants to divorce her husband, who years ago married sweet, warm hearted but weak Helen Green. Helena has Liza and Richard on her side – a couple who is struggling with the imminent commitment – while Helen hires Ally and John – who but those two could represent a suppressed personality of a woman who has love as her life incentive?
After Maddie passes out Ally finds out she is suffering from a nervous reaction to all the changes in her life, so Ally decides that the only way she can help her daughter is to move back to New York. While the news come as a big shock to the firm, Richard anticipates his wedding with Liza so Ally can attend the ceremony. While spending her last hours in the town, Ally gets a visit from Renee, Georgia and afterwards, Billy as a ghost...