Chuck, you are the best legal mind I've ever known. Hands down. But your decision-making has become unpredictable. I can't be partners with someone whose judgment I don't trust.
|― Howard asking Chuck to retire for the good of HHM.|
Howard Hamlin is the name partner of Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, a large law firm in Albuquerque. Because of his outstanding success in comparison to Jimmy McGill, the younger brother of his boss Chuck McGill, Hamlin finds himself caught in the middle of the conflict between the brothers and in particular has an adversarial relationship with Jimmy and his girlfriend, Kim Wexler. Howard serves as the secondary antagonist of Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Better Call Saul.
Howard Hamlin was presumably born in the early or mid 1950s.
Howard Hamlin's father George co-founded the Hamlin & McGill law firm with Charles "Chuck" McGill. After being persuaded by his father and being mentored through law school by Chuck, Howard joined the firm—eventually making the new name Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill—and eventually it became one of the most successful law firms in Albuquerque.
Chuck convinced his younger brother Jimmy, a former con artist, to move to Albuquerque and earn an honest living by working in HHM's mailroom. While Jimmy was working there, Howard and Chuck discovered that Jimmy was working on becoming a lawyer. After Jimmy passes his bar exam, Howard came to Jimmy's congratulatory party in the mailroom and, speaking to him alone, told him that HHM would not hire him. ("")
A year-and-a-half before the start of the series, Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity forces him to take an "extended leave of absence" from HHM. Howard practically assumes sole leadership of the firm, while Chuck receives a weekly $26,000 stipend. Jimmy confronts Howard, accusing HHM of cheating his brother out of his rightful share, and demands a $17 million severance package on behalf of Chuck. Howard responds by lowering Chuck's stipend to $857.("") Later, Jimmy tries and fails to offer his services to Craig and Betsy Kettleman, a couple accused of embezzling county funds, but they instead turn to HHM. When the Kettlemans go missing, Howard works to exclude Jimmy from the police investigations even though Jimmy could provide essential evidence. ("")
In reaction to Chuck advising Jimmy to change his name as an attorney to avoid mistakings with HHM, Jimmy intentionally evokes imitation in public by copying the layout of an HHM banner showing Howard for his own advertisement. In the following court action, the judge decides in Howard's favor thus commanding Jimmy to remove his banner. However, Jimmy turns the tide in his favor by combining the banner removal with a publicity maneuver to gain local popularity. Upon seeing these latest news Howard begrudgingly comments Jimmy's action as a mere PR gag. ("")
As Jimmy finds a very profitable new case Chuck offers his help and begins a temporary law partnership with his brother. Later on, he also persuades Jimmy into striking up a cooperation with HHM, an option Jimmy refuses to take at first. When Jimmy is asleep, Chuck dares to leave his house wearing his space blanket and calls an unknown party, which later turns out to have been Howard.
For Chuck's first meeting in the law firm building for a long time Howard gathers the entire staff to shower Chuck with applause upon his arrival. In the meeting Howard agrees with Jimmy on financial terms for his cooperation and furtherance of the case. However, he also states that HHM is only interested in the case itself and not in Jimmy taking up a temporary job as an attorney at HHM, as Jimmy was expecting to be the case. Shocked and hurt, Jimmy seethes that he would rather burn down the whole thing to the ground before giving it to Hamlin.
When Jimmy's friend Kim Wexler learns about his disapprobation she questions Howard about the reasons for this decision. Howard tells her that this is none of her concern and kindly advises her to keep her questions for herself in a harsh undertone. Just moments after insisting upon Kim leaving his room, he changes his mind and tells her to come back and close the door as what he is going to tell her apparently needs to be maintained as a secret. Through this conversation Kim seems to learn that in fact Chuck begrudges Jimmy his success as a lawyer and that Howard turned down Jimmy's application and his appointment just upon Chuck's instruction to do so. ("")
After learning of Chuck's actions, Jimmy turns the case over to Howard as well as taking care of Chuck. Howard reveals that he only kept Jimmy out on Chuck's orders and actually really likes Jimmy and respects him. In return, Jimmy apologizes for his opinion of Howard. Later, when HHM has to partner with another firm on the case Jimmy brought them, Kim works to get Jimmy a job there and tells him that Howard was pushing for him to get the chance too as its at a place Chuck has no control over. ("")
At HHM, Kim is brought in front of Howard and Chuck, and Howard chews out Kim over her failure to inform them about Jimmy's commercial. As a result, Kim is demoted to document review. ("")
With Chuck's help, she is reinstated to her old position, but she is treated coldly by Howard who gives her the most humiliating and menial assignments, such as sending her to try and argue unwinnable motions at court. ("")
Kim accepts Jimmy's offer, Howard accepts Kim's resignation, and they both race to secure Mesa Verde as a client. Kim succeeds, and she agrees with Jimmy to set up their practices in a re-purposed dentists' office. Howard reports Kim's resignation, the loss of Mesa Verde, and her teaming with Jimmy to Chuck. ("") Howard calls Jimmy to inform him that Chuck has quit HHM. ("")
Howard is invited to Chuck's house and listens to his cassette tape of Jimmy's confession to doctoring the Mesa Verde files. While Howard is outraged by Jimmy's actions, he reminds Chuck that the tape can't be used against Jimmy in court, nor can it be used to lure Mesa Verde back to HHM. He is later present when an enraged Jimmy, having been tipped off about the tape's existence as part of Chuck's master plan, breaks into the house and destroys the tape. With Howard and Chuck's private investigator being witnesses to the incident, Jimmy is arrested for the break-in. ("") ("")
Howard represents Chuck when he, Jimmy, and Kim meet with DDA Kyra Hay to discuss a pre-prosecution diversion agreement in which Jimmy confesses to the break-in and submits that confession to the New Mexico Bar Association (which would guarantee Jimmy being disbarred) in exchange for avoiding jail. After the meeting, Kim confronts Howard and Chuck and informs them of her intent to suppress the tape, which Chuck had duplicated. ("")
Before Jimmy's bar hearing, Howard tries to dissuade Chuck from testifying, reasoning that the case will be strong enough with his own testimony; Chuck dismisses this advice, eager to see through his plot to have Jimmy disbarred. During Howard's testimony, Kim undermines his claims that Chuck blocked Jimmy to avoid nepotism by making him admit that he himself is the son of one of HHM's named partners. Howard also admits to the fact that Jimmy didn't know about Chuck's actions and states that he sees a lot of potential in Jimmy. Later, Howard, along with everyone else, watches in shock as Chuck delivers a rant showing his resentment towards Jimmy and desperation to get him disbarred. ("")
Two weeks after Chuck's meltdown, Howard runs into Kim having a meeting with Paige and Kevin while he has his own lunch meeting and intrudes briefly upon it to pointedly remind Kim of her time in doc review at HHM. Immediately afterwards, Kim writes a check to Howard for the money he paid for her law school loans. After their guests leave, Howard angrily confronts Kim, particularly due to the timing. Howard tells Kim that he has spent the last two weeks meeting with clients for every meal to try to do damage control on the firm's reputation. Kim is unrepentant, telling Howard she merely represented her client and if he hid Chuck's true condition from his clients, its on him. Howard tears up Kim's check, stating that her debt is forgiven, but everything else is not. He later visits Chuck at his home to talk about Chuck's malpractice insurance and is amazed and pleased to learn that Chuck has gone grocery shopping on his own. ("")
During a meeting with HHM's insurance representatives, Howard learns that they wish to double the premium of each of the firm's lawyers in response to learning of Chuck's EHS and breakdown in court. They offer an alternative where a senior partner monitors Chuck in court for free, either of which is bad for HHM. After the meeting ends with Chuck threatening to sue, Howard attempts to get Chuck to retire as Howard no longer trusts Chuck and his decisions. In response, Chuck sues HHM for breach of contract. ("")
At a meeting with the senior partners, Chuck offers to drop the lawsuit if they will let him return. Instead, Howard clears the room and states that Chuck has gone too far with his vendettas. Howard offers Chuck a $3 million check with a promise of two more payments as per the partnership agreement. Howard reveals that the money comes from both his own finances and a few loans, causing Chuck to realize that Howard is buying him out out of Howard's own pocket. With Chuck's financial blackmail removed, Howard announces his immediate departure to the rest of the firm and watches from the lobby balcony as Chuck departs HHM for the last time. ("")
After Jimmy ignores a call from him, Howard calls Kim's apartment and leaves a message for Kim, who had been urged by Jimmy not to pick up the phone, that he urgently needs to reach Jimmy about Chuck. When Jimmy arrives at Chuck's burned-out house, he finds Howard behind him, standing near a coroner's van. As Jimmy realizes that Chuck is dead, Howard urges him not to look before walking away, leaving Jimmy alone with his grief. Howard talks with the fire inspector alongside Kim to learn exactly what happened to Chuck. Howard later calls Jimmy with the obituary he wrote for Chuck, but Jimmy gets emotional and Kim has to finish the call for him. After comforting Chuck's ex-wife at the funeral, a grieving Howard visits Kim and Jimmy and tells them that he thinks Chuck committed suicide. Howard admits to forcing Chuck out of the firm after the incident with the malpractice insurance and believes he pushed Chuck to suicide. Howard and Kim are both left shocked by Jimmy's nonchalant response to Howard's revelation, unaware that the problem with the insurance was really Jimmy's fault. ("")
Howard attends a meeting with Rebecca where they sign paperwork regarding Chuck's estate. When Kim arrives on Jimmy's behalf, Howard explains that Chuck left the house to Rebecca and as executor of Chuck's estate, Howard will be liquidating the property. The two offer to let Jimmy go through whatever is left and take whatever he wants, but Kim lets them know that Jimmy doesn't want any of it. Howard gives Kim an agreement letter to disperse Jimmy's share of the estate. Howard admits that it will be $5,000 which Kim recognizes is the amount you give someone when you want to cut them out of the estate but don't want them to contest the will, just enough money to show that the recipient isn't forgotten. Howard tells Kim that Chuck also left a substantial endowment for a scholarship for deserving youth and he hopes that Jimmy will serve on the board, something that Kim promises to tell him about as well as a personal letter for Jimmy's eyes only. Once Rebecca is gone, Kim angrily confronts Howard over his actions since Chuck's death, berating him to the point that Howard's voice breaks when he asks what he can do to make it better, but Kim tells him that there's nothing he can do besides stay away and storms out. ("")
A year after Chuck's suicide, Howard attends the dedication of the Charles L. McGill Reading Room and does an interview with Joey Dixon. Howard admits that although its been a tough year for HHM, the firm is back. Although Howard wishes he could take credit for the dedication, he admits that he's only a guest and that it was an anonymous donor instead. Later, Howard leads a meeting to determine who will receive scholarships from the firm and is impressed by Jimmy's argument to hold a revote for a candidate that only Jimmy voted for. However, she is voted down. ("")
Deaths connected to Howard
- Charles McGill Jr. After Jimmy deliberately revealed his brother's mental illness to an insurance company out of spite, a conflict between Howard and Chuck occurred which ended with Howard forcing Chuck out of HHM when he threatened to sue the firm's insurer for raising their rates over Chuck's mental illness and this would be a vital contributing factor to Chuck's tragic suicide. ("") Howard would blame himself for Chuck's death, unaware of Jimmy's role. ("")
- Howard: "... we've been using this particular font for 12 years now, and it, in concert with our tri-rectangle graphic and Hamlindigo Blue, constitutes a trademarked brand identifier."
- Jimmy: "Whoa, whoa. Back up. Hamlindigo Blue?"
- Howard: "Yes. That is our trademarked name."
- Jimmy: "Holy crap. You seriously named a color "Hamlindigo"? That is... yikes."
- Howard: "Yikes? From the man dressed exactly like me. Your Honor, I feel like I'm in the mirror routine with Groucho Marx, like we should be standing, waving our arms at each other!"
- ―Howard and Jimmy are appearing before a judge, due to Jimmy erecting a billboard that deliberately imitates HHM's logo and branding.[src]
- Kim: "I don't know what image you have of him, past or present, or whatever he did or said, but Jimmy is a good lawyer. And he works very hard."
- Howard: "Did your friend send you in here to say that?"
- Kim: "No. I'm saying it because I believe it."
- Howard: "Well, duly noted. Want to know what I believe? I believe that you're way out of your depth in this matter. So the next time that you want to come in here and tell me what I'm doing wrong, you are welcome to keep it to yourself. Because I don't care."
- ―Kim and Howard argue about HHM's treatment of Jimmy.[src]
- Howard: "Chuck, you're at a crossroads. You can keep looking backwards, stay focused on your brother, what he's up to, or you can go forward. And Chuck. listen to me. Jimmy's just not worth it. Where would we be if, say, Clarence Darrow had deveoted the best years of his life to supervising ne'er-do-well relatives? Think of the cases he wouldn't have taken, the injustices that would have gone unanswered. What a waste. I say, put your energy into the future. Anything else is a waste of your time and intellect. What do you say?"
- Chuck: "[After a moment] To new beginnings."
- ―Howard trying to remobilize and remotivate Chuck around a very good bottle of alcohol.[src]
- "You know what I'm doing in there? Take a guess. I'm doing damage control. And I'm doing it three meals a day for the past two weeks with every one of our clients! I am busting my ass, trying to repair the reputation of the firm after you and Jimmy dragged it through the mud!"
- ―Howard venting his anger at Kim at a lunch meeting.
- Chuck: "Look. You see? I'm better! Howard, I'm fine!"
- Howard: "This is not what 'fine' looks like."
- ―Chuck and Howard about Chuck's condition.[src]
- Chuck: "Yes, I'm suing HHM for breach of contract."
- Howard: "Do you have any idea what you're doing?"
- Chuck: "I believe I do. I'm calling your bluff. This is MY firm. I built it. Your father was working in a 2 room office when I joined him, and you, I tutored for the bar exam. You're not kicking me out. If you can't trust my judgement then, as you say, so be it. But you're going to have to pay me for my share. I believe it comes to around 8 million dollars. We both know the firm doesn't have the money."
- Howard: "You'd rather tear down HHM than retire?"
- Chuck: "You think I'm trouble now, as your partner? Imagine me as your enemy."
- ―Chuck and Howard arguing after Chuck decided to sue HHM.[src]
- Howard: "17 years. 18 in July, actually. All those years we built this place together. And all that time I've supported you. Looked up to you, deferred to you. Because I always thought you had the best interests of the firm in mind."
- Chuck: "I have."
- Howard: "You did. For a long time. But you've let personal vendettas turn your focus away from what's best for HHM. You've put your needs first. To our detriment."
- Chuck: "I don't think that's accurate."
- Howard: "And the moment that I mildly suggest, with empathy and concern, that maybe it's time for you to consider retirement the first instinct you have is to sue me?! To sue the firm? Well, I I-I don't even know I-In what world is that anything but the deepest betrayal of everything we worked so hard to accomplish? In what world is that anything but the deepest betrayal of our friendship?"
- ―Howard confronting Chuck.[src]
- Chuck: "Three million dollars?"
- Howard: "The first of three payments, as per the partnership agreement."
- Chuck: "The firm can't afford this. Are you... ? You're not shutting down, are you?"
- Howard: "I would never endanger the firm. This is mostly from my personal funds... and a few loans."
- Chuck: "You're paying me out of your own pocket?"
- Howard: "You won."
- ―Howard eliminating Chuck's leverage over HHM.[src]
- Howard indirectly (and unintentionally) caused the death of Chuck McGill by forcing him to retire. By this act he took Chuck's main reason to live away, however Jimmy is the one who revealed Chuck's mental illness to the Insurance company out of spite and is what let to the argument between Howard and Chuck.
- As of season 4, Howard never meets Mike Ehrmantraut, Nacho Varga and Gustavo Fring.
- Howard drives a 1998 Jaguar XJ8.
- In early press announcements for the series, his name was "Burt" and described as a "Kennedy-esque lawyer who's winning at life"