9 Famous People with Law Degrees

Ebi Banayan

We all know that it's a long hard slog to get a law degree. But as we discussed in our last post, the places you can go with it are almost endless. We have rounded up a list of notable individuals who before their fame went through the rollercoaster that is law school - and have been highly successful in their endeavours that aren't all law-related. Disclaimer: some of the people on this list may surprise you! 

 

Rebel Wilson

 

Rebel is best known as for her funny girl roles such as Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect franchise or Brynn in the film Bridesmaids, but before her successful Hollywood career gained a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws conjoint at the University of New South Wales. She has described herself as being 'very serious and academic' during school and that her law degree has been incredibly useful to her work in the entertainment industry, such as negotiating her own contracts in the early days of her career! That is definitely a way to put your law education to use. 

 

The Obamas

 

 

Is there a bigger law power couple that the Obamas? The couple first met when they were both working at the Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP in 1989. The best part of the story is that Michelle was assigned to be Barack's mentor during his time as a summer associate; and actually turned down his initial dating invitations! They later married in 1992, with Barack going on to specialize in civil rights law whilst Michelle held public sector positions in Chicago city government. Needless to say, the former President and First Lady of the United States show that law degrees can take you far! 

 

 

 Gerard Butler

 

A-list actor Gerard Butler is better known for his prolific film career than his law career. It is a little-known fact that he went as far as becoming a trainee lawyer at an Edinburgh law firm after graduating from the University of Glasgow, as well as being president of his university's Law Society. However, he was fired a week before becoming qualified due to drinking-related issues, which led him to pursuing his interest in acting. (Naturally, this isn't an example we recommend you following to the letter!)

 

John Cleese

 

One of the best known members of the comedy group Monty Python, John Cleese undertook at law degree at Cambridge where he joined the well-known university dramatics club the Cambridge Footlights as a scriptwriter. It was here that he met fellow Monty Python member Graham Chapman, and the two regularly collaborated on British Television before teaming up with fellow comedians Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam in Monty Python's Flying Circus. The rest, as they say, is history. 

 

Amal Clooney

This one will come as no surprise to you; Amal was already a prominent lawyer when she married actor George Clooney in 2014, working on cases such as the defense of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles to Greece. She gained her law degree at Oxford in 2000 before completing her masters in New York, and has since practiced law both in the UK and US as well as holding positions at the UN. A total girl boss? We think so!

 

Mahatma Gandhi

The most famous activist of the Indian independence movement who advocated non-violent forms of protest, Gandhi trained as a lawyer in London before being called in the bar in 1891. However, he found that he struggled with cross-examining witnesses, which prevented him from opening his own practice, making him to decide to move to South Africa. It was here that he first experienced the racism which drove him to fight for civil rights within India, taking a central role in India's split from the British Empire.

 

 

Nelson Mandela 

 

Another iconic civil rights activist, Nelson Mandela was studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before practising in Johannesburg, where he first become involved in anti-colonial politics. It was during his time at law school in Witwatersrand, where he was the only black student and experienced racism, that he became increasingly politicized and started joining peaceful protests against Apartheid. He famously spent 27 years in prison before being released in 1990, becoming president of South Africa in 1994 and the 'father of the nation'. 

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton

 

The former First Lady and presidential nominee for the democratic party, Clinton attended Yale Law School and became the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979 in Arkansas (where she actually outearned her husband!) and developed a stellar reputation for bringing in clients. She only began using her husband's name when he ran for Governor to reassure voters of a commitment to traditional values, but went from strength to strength as the First Lady where she played key roles in healthcare reform and women's advancement. Her law career has since informed her roles as senator of New York and Secretary of State as well as her own bid for the Presidency. 

 

 Abraham Lincoln

Widely considered as the best US president in history who led the country through a brutal civil war and abolished slavery, Lincoln first had a prolific law career but never actually attended a formal law school; instead he taught himself law using books alone and was admitted to the bar in Illinois in 1836, where he quickly developed a reputation for formidable closing arguments. Whilst this obviously isn't possible today, it definitely shows how far its possible to get independently if you work hard! 

 


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