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[Already a lawyer? See Lawyer Burnout]

Last updated 06/08/2015

A salute to Nicholas J. Carse, Georgia State University Law, '08, who left the practice of law in 2011 to sell popsicles. Not just any popsicles. Gourmet popsicles.






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The skills that you learn as a lawyer--analytical thought, the ability to separate relevant facts from philosophical clutter, the ability to write clearly and concisely, the ability to present yourself and your ideas persuasively--are skills that you can easily transfer to other careers. Knowing law, and knowing how to find the law, is an asset that can pay off handsomely in many areas, as famous people in all walks of life have discovered. So don't give up all of those youthful fantasies! 

A good many European and South American university graduates have taken degrees in law, because in those countries law is an undergraduate rather than a graduate degree, and  you can trace the law's influence in their work. Anthony Bradney's essay "Raising the Drawbridge: Defending University Law Schools" examines the importance of legal study.

What (other than your textbooks) should you read while in law school, in order to keep up your ability to talk to non-lawyers? The eminent scholar John Wigmore had some suggestions.  If you really get interested in this subject, remember that a lot of very interesting information is not on the Internet; consult the library for more reading suggestions.


Some lawyers turn to acting or writing as a career. They may have taken law degrees to pay the bills, or because they liked law, but they also honed the legal skills that allowed them to shine in other areas.John Cleese, who got his start as a comedic and improvisational actor during his university years, and later went on to become a founding member of the immensely influential comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe, studied law at Cambridge. He is very familiar to today's audiences as a founding member of the comedic group Monty Python, its series and its spin-off films (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian) and as the star of Fawlty Towers, as well as as the star of such films as A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. The late Ross Martin (1920-1981) graduated from the National University School of Law (now George Washington University School of Law) before turning to acting.  John Davis Lodge graduated from Harvard Law, and was both an ambassador (to Argentina among other countries)  and an actor (The Scarlet Empress (with Marlene Dietrich) and Bulldog Drummond at Bay) Those Bulldog Drummond films were very popular.

Sheila James, who as Zelda Gilroy ceaselessly chased Dobie Gillis in the popular sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, left acting for Harvard Law, graduated at the top of the class (1978) and has served as a member of the California Legislature. She now uses the name Sheila (James) Kuehl. Isaac Lidsky, who turned up on Saved By the Bell after Dustin Diamond (Screech) left the show, also left acting for Harvard Law ('04); he later clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and is now in London as a Temple Bar scholar.

William Sanderson, famous from the Nick at Nite television network as the marvelously eccentric Larry, of "Larry, Darryl and Darryl" on Bob Newhart's Newhart television series, and from the cult film Blade Runner, graduated from Memphis State Law School (now the University of Memphis Law School). Paul Robeson was a noted actor, as well as a gifted singer (see under Composers and Musicians). Taylor Simpson-Wood, a Tulane Law School graduate, appears in such films as Monster's Ball, French Silk, False Witness and House of Secrets, a remake of the classic thriller Diabolique. She is also a a member of the law school faculty at Barry University.  Former Senator Fred Thompson (TN) had a fairly successful motion picture career before turning to politics. He received his JD from Vanderbilt University. Portia de Rossi ("Nelle Porter" on Ally McBeal) was in law school when the acting bug bit.

And of course, some practicing attorneys parlay their success as lawyers into acting or writing careers, with varying degrees of success. Johnnie Cochran, one of the members of the "Dream Team" that defended O.J. Simpson, has tried his hand at acting. Ving Rhames played him in the miniseries American Tragedy.  Christopher Darden, one of the O.J. prosecutors, played a detective at odds with the female district attorney in the television movie The Trophy Wife's Secret (also called One Hot Summer Night), and also has started writing novels; among them is L. A. Justice, featuring an African-American female attorney named Nikki Hill. He writes these with Dick Lochte who has written several mysteries set in Louisiana. Jim Pritchett became known as Dr. Matt Powers on the daytime drama The Doctors after earning a JD from the University of North Carolina Law School; here's more about his long career.  Lawyer Dean Obeidallah co-founded the Arab American Comedy Festival.

Jeff Cohen was a child actor (The Goonies) who got his law degree at UCLA and opened his own firm in Los Angeles. Josh Saviano (The Wonder Years) earned a law degree from Cardozo Law School and practices in New York (curiously enough) at Morrison, Cohen. Charles (Charlie) Korsmo (Dick Tracy, Hook) attended both M.I.T. (physics) and Yale Law School and clerked for the Hon. Ralph Winter (2d Circuit). He now teaches at Brooklyn Law School as a visitor.

John Kerr (South Pacific, Tea and Sympathy) enrolled at UCLA School of Law in 1966, graduating in 1969. He began practicing law full time but still performed occasionally until his death in February  of 2013.

Less well known lawyer-actors include Edwin Adams (JD University of Illinois) and James Brincefield ("Beau James"). I can't overlook Melvin Belli, who appeared as "Gorgan the Friendly Angel" on an episode of  Star Trek called "And the Children Shall Lead." Michael Schwartz is an actor-lawyer-teacher. Tom Schmid quit a successful legal career to become a full-time thespian. Mike McLaren (The People vs. Larry Flynt; A Time to Kill) is also a lawyer in Memphis. Christopher Rich (born 1657) was a lawyer and theater manager. Australian-born Julian McMahon, son of a former Prime Minister, quit law school to star in a couple of primetime dramas. Cajardo Lindsey, an Indiana University Law graduate, works in Denver, but also carries on a career as an actor. Jerry O'Connell (Sliders, Crossing Jordan) is pursuing a law degree at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. He's married to actress to Rebecca Romijn. Gerard Butler (300, P.S. I Love You) earned a law degree from the University of Glasgow before the acting bug bit). Ed McDonald is a New York lawyer who had a part in the film "Goodfellas."

Michael Maguire, who earned a music degree at the University of Michigan and went on to win a Tony for his performance on Broadway as the original Enjolras in Les Miserables earned a J.D. from Southwestern Law School. Mr. Maguire continues to perform around the world.

The similarities between acting and lawyering are not lost on commentators. See the discussion by Rob Waring on the Picturing Justice website, Bernard Hibbitts' The Senses in Law  and my Law and Drama page.  Read suggestions on how to turn an actor into a lawyer in "From a Distance", by James C. Freund. If you're particularly interested in using your background or interest in literature, film or television during your law studies, consider writing a paper or doing some research into the area of law and film, law and literature, or law and popular culture.

I have some difficulty knowing where to classify Sterling Johnson. Trained as a lawyer and engineer, he is also a bubblemaker.


Alex Barnett went the other way. He graduated from St. Johns University School of Law, practiced for a while, but really wanted to be a stand-up comic (yes, I know--what's the difference between a lawyer and a comedian--lawyers eat better?). He made the jump; read about it here. Mr. Barnett isn't the first attorney to see the humorous side of life. The late defense attorney Kenneth Kahn was also a standup comedian, who wrote about his life in the book The Carny Kid: Survival of a Young Thief (2005).  Demetri Martin dropped out of NYU Law School after two years to pursue a career as a comedian, and has done rather well. And Al Lubel left a thriving practice to become, well, a thriving comedian. San Diego lawyer Christian Spicer combines the two careers. The late Greg Giraldo was an attorney (Harvard Law School) before he gained fame in comedy clubs and on television. Dean Abeidallah, another lawyer, got his start when his colleagues told him he was funny. Susan Sparks is a lawyer, a minister, and a comedian. Azhar Usman, with the "Allah Made Me Funny" comedy tour, has a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School. Jerry Blaine, a lawyer who goes by Jeff Lisabeth when he works as a comedian, is yet another stand-up guy. More here.


Otto Preminger, whose films include Anatomy of a Murder, Laura, and the controversial The Moon is Blue, was trained as an attorney in his native Austria. Lovers of TV's Batman series may also remember him as the villainous "Mr. Freeze." After the premiere of Preminger's four hour film Exodus, comedian Mort Sahl is reported to have said, "Otto! Let my people go!" David Merrick (born David Margulois) earned a law degree from St. Louis University before moving on to produce such hits as The Male Animal and Fanny. Frederick Wiseman graduated from Yale Law School and practiced before becoming a full-time director, and one of the best known and most celebrated U.S. directors alive today. The impetus for his change of career? His documentary Titicut Follies, which arose out of his interest in the rights of the mentally ill. Federico Fellini started out to study law at the University of Rome but thought better of it, turned to journalism and then to cinema.


Lew Wallace was both a noted lawyer and diplomat and a successful military officer, reaching the rank of Major General. His most famous work is Ben-Hur (filmed in 1959 and starring Charlton Heston). Owen Wister (The Virginian) graduated from Harvard Law School in 1888. The French writer Tristan Bernard studied law before turning to write for the stage. English novelist John Galsworthy studied law, was admitted to the bar, and actually intended to practice admiralty law before he turned to writing. The leading French playwright of the eighteenth century, Pierre Marivaux, honed his observations of human nature through law study  as did classical French playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-1684). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the son of a lawyer, also studied law.  

The radical poet Ernest Charles Jones also practiced law. Edward Bellamy, better known as the author of the science fiction classic Looking Backward: 1887-2000, was admitted to the bar but abandoned law for journalism. Royall Tyler (1757-1826), was one of the first American-born dramatists as well as a lawyer and Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.  Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748-1816) and  Philadelphian Richard Penn Smith also contributed to the early American stage. William Schwenck Gilbert was law trained; his knowledge of law helped flavor many of the works he wrote with composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. John A. Quinby was an admiralty lawyer turned poet and soldier. Charles Perrault (1628-1703) the author of the Mother Goose stories was a lawyer by training. John Luther Long, who practiced law in Philadelphia, wrote the short story on which the David Belasco play and Giacomo Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly were based. Charles L. Harness, the author of numerous science fiction novels and stories, was a full time lawyer from the late nineteen forties until 1981. The law professor Lawrence Joseph (St. John's University) is also a noted poet.

David E. Kelley turned from a Boston law practice to a phenomenally successful career as a producer, director and writer of hit television shows like Ally McBeal, Picket Fences, and The Practice after writing the screenplay for the legal comedy From the Hip. One of Kelley's writers on The Practice is Ed Redlich, a Yale Law School graduate, and classmate of Professor Stuart Green, who was formerly on the faculty at LSU Law Center. Redlich is also the son of Norman Redlich, former dean of New York University Law School. Peter Blake (Harvard Law '95) contributed a script to the television show The Practice that helped launch him as a screenwriter. John Jay Osborn could lay claim to being the dean of law and pop culture authors: he received a law degree from Harvard, currently teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and wrote The Paper Chase as well as many other books and scripts. M. Diane Vogt is a Tampa-based lawyer who also writes mysteries that feature judge Wilhelmina (Willa) Carson.  Jacqueline Girtner was a family law attorney before turning to writing mysteries. William Deverell, who also created the television show Street Legal, writes mysteries as well; he is a University of Saskatchewan Law School graduate. While viewers were never quite sure what Ozzie, of the television show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, did for a living, the real Ozzie Nelson had a law degree from Rutgers. Want a list of lawyers who write science fiction and fantasy? Check here.

University of Virginia law grad Will Shortz is an "enigmatologist": a crossword puzzle creator. He is the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle and regularly appears on NPR's Weekend Edition. Adam Taylor is a comic poet.  Maybe that makes him a poet-lawyer-ete. Australian High Court Judge Ian Callinan also writes novels. Matthew Pearl (Yale Law School 2000) is the author of The Dante Club and the new novle, The Poet Shadow. Sig Libowitz (University of Maryland Law '07) wrote and produced (with the school) The Response, based on transcripts from Guantanamo Bay interrogations.

Several Star Trek: The Next Generation scripts profited from the writing of Melinda Snodgrass, a lawyer turned science fiction author. SF writer Nat Schachner (Space Lawyer) practiced law before turning to writing. He wrote his first story with fellow attorney Arthur Leo Zagat.

The playwright Elmer Rice passed the bar but decided to write plays, many of which show legal themes.  Abraham Polonsky is another lawyer who became a writer and political activist. Frederick Knott earned a law degree from Cambridge before becoming known as a playwright ("Wait Until Dark," "Dial M For Murder.") Eleazar Lipsky, who earned his law degree from Columbia, and worked as an assistant DA in New York, saw two of his novels turned into hit films: The People Against O'Hara and Murder One. He also wrote for the stage and the radio. Russian-born, French-educated Nathalie Sarraute earned her law degree at the Sorbonne and practiced law from 1926, retiring to become a full time writer in 1941.

Attorneys Sarah Caudwell, Steve Martini, Scott Turow, John Grisham, Richard North Patterson, Lia Matera, Louis Begley, Mark Lindquist, all put their legal training to good use in crime thrillers and novels, of very different styles and periods. Other lawyer-writers include Jim Fraiser (author of Shadow Seed and M is For Mississippi; he's also been an actor in New Orleans). Jay Brandon, author of Fade the Heat, is a practicing lawyer. Richard Dooling, a Saint Louis University law school grad, wrote the novels White Man's Burden, which became a movie starring John Travolta, and Brainstorm. Jeffrey Deaver was a journalist before earning a law degree. He wrote The Complete Law School Companion before turning to mystery and suspense novels. He's also been a poet and a folksinger. Practicing attorney and child rights advocate Andrew Vachss is another lawyer/novelist. The noted poet Pauli Murray (1910-1985) also practiced law for many years. David J. Walker was a priest and a police investigator before turning to law, and then to mystery writing. Other lawyer-novelists include Alan Richard Gordon, Sheldon Siegel, Peter Lance and Loyola (LA) Law prof Yxta Maya Murray.   Judges who have penned fiction include "Robert Traver" (actually Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker) author of Anatomy of a Murder, one of the best legal novels ever written (it inspired a terrific film starring James Stewart and the young Ben Gazzara) and Manhattan (NY) Supreme Court Justice Edwin Torres (Carlito's Way). Noted medico-legal ethicist Alexander McCall Smith, born in what is now Zimbabwe, is the author of the very popular series of books about a Botswanan detective, including The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. He teaches medical law at the University of Edinburgh.  Charles L. Black, of the University of Texas Law School, wrote poetry as well as legal tomes. Hailey North began her legal career as a "game show lawyer" for NBC. She published her first romance novel in 1993 but hasn't given up a day job: she is head of Tulane's paralegal studies program. Rebecca M. Hale abandoned the practice of patent law for mystery writing. Her sleuth and her two cats, Rupert and Isabella, solve mysteries in the San Francisco area.

A surprising number of lawyers were or are also poets. Archibald MacLeish, John William Corrington, and  Wallace Stevens (New York Law School, JD 1903) are among the better known US lawyer/poets. For a film based on Corrington's work, see Decoration Day (starring James Garner)  Like several other scholars, MacLeish was also Librarian of Congress (1939-1944). William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) practiced law for ten years before turning full time to writing. Among his best known poems is Thanatopsis (1821).   a professor at the University of Memphis, was assistant attorney general for the state of Oklahoma. Her poetry has won numerous awards.  University of Georgia Law School professor Alex Scherr started out as a poet, then went to law school, and now combines his love of words and his love of the law as director of the civil clinic program at U Georgia.  Oliver Mbamara, an administrative law judge for the state of New York, has also pursued his interest in writing, performing and producing the lively arts. Lawrence Joseph is both a law professor and a published poet. Edgar Lee Masters ("Spoon River Anthology") was a Chicago attorney.

James Weldon Johnson had many talents, including songwriting (he composed "Lift Every Voice and Sing") but he was also the first African-American admitted to the Florida Bar. The early nineteenth century lawyers William Ross Wallace and George Watterston were also poets and writers.

Federico Garcia Lorca studied law before becoming famous as a writer of dramas and poetry. He was a noted anti-Fascist who was murdered by Francoist forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  (Other Spanish Civil War sites are available at http://www.docuweb.ca/SiSpain/english/history/civil.html and http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/History/War/Regional/Spain/Spanish_Civil_War/.) The French language writer Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), born in what is now Vietnam, studied law at the Sorbonne. Carlos Fuentes, the internationally renowned novelist, took a law degree at the National University of Mexico and also served his country as a diplomat.

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) wrote many plays satirizing and criticizing the German states of his day. The English novelist Henry Fielding and the biographer James Boswell both had successful legal careers although they are better remembered today for their contributions to world literature. If you want to read some fictionalized work about Fielding's brother, also a lawyer and judge and Boswell's famous biographee Samuel Johnson, try the works of Bruce Alexander (Fielding) and Lillian de la Torre (Johnson). Wilkie Collins, author of the classic chillers The Moonstone and The Woman in White, was also an attorney. Victorian lawyer Henry Newbolt was also a writer.

Harvard Law School-educated Richard Henry Dana (1787-1879), an expert in maritime law, wrote the classic Two Years Before the Mast.  Other lawyers better remembered for their writing include John Buchan, Sir Walter Scott, and Albion W. Tourgee. Rafael Sabatini, who wrote the popular Flashman novels, was also a lawyer. The seventeenth century legal scholar Sir John Davies also achieved fame as a poet. Britisher John Gibson Lockhart, son in law of Sir Walter Scott, was also a lawyer-novelist, as was Vermonter Daniel P. Thompson. Trinidad and Tobago native Maxwell Philip was both a writer and Attorney General of his country.

Louis Auchincloss (University of Virginia Law School JD 1941) has continued to practice law while writing many novels, including The Rector of Justin. Demonstrating that law and life are seamless webs, Auchincloss is also related by marriage to the late Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (as is the novelist Gore Vidal who is also related to former Vice President Al Gore).  New York attorney Marissa Piesman (Assistant New York State Attorney General) writes the popular Nina Fischman series and is also co-author of The Yuppie Handbook (1984). Studs Turkel (Working)  is another successful writer/lawyer.  After working for a number of years as a legal aid attorney, Martin Espada turned to teaching college English. Arizona attorney Richard Parrish is also a published novelist (Defending the Truth (1998); Nothing But the Truth (1996)). Of course, one of the most famous lawyer-novelists was Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason. Gardner wrote other mystery and courtroom novels as well, including several "D.A" novels and the Bertha Cool/Donald Lam series (under the name A. A. Fair. One of Fair's novels is Owls Don't Blink, some of which is set in New Orleans.) Other lawyer novelists include Jeremiah Healy (his sleuth is John Francis Cuddy) and Lisa Scottoline. Attorney Louis Begley has won awards for his writing. Eleazar Lipsky was a novelist and director as well as a lawyer. London born Louis Nizer wrote extensively about his career in such books as The Implosion Conspiracy and The Jury Returns. Among his clients were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and John Henry Faulk.

Doreen Cronin is a St. Johns Law School grad and attorney who writes delightful children's books like Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type about a herd of cows who demand electric blankets from the local farmer before they will produce any more milk. Her newest books are the popular Diary of a Worm and Duck for President. George Wallace is a former actor turned attorney and poet.

University of Alberta graduates Greg Ball and Steve Blackman created the television series The Associates, about young attorneys.

Want to find more novels with lawyers as protagonists (or authors) ? Try Mystery-B Discusses: Mysteries in Which a Lawyer is a Main Character and check out the Lawyer Briefs website and Findlaw's Infirmation.com on lawyers. And check out these short bibliographies on the writings of lawyer-novelists.

John Grisham
Scott Turow

Want to read about other lawyer-poets? See Lawyers and Poetry, a page maintained by James Elkins of the University of West Virginia Law School. Or see the following articles:

Elizabeth Cohen, Man of the law, and of letters as well, New York Times, April 1, 1994, at B8. About law professor and poet Lawrence Joseph.

Jerry Crimmins, A Specialist in all, even iambic pentameter, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Sept. 19, 2005, at 3. About attorney poet Paul Homer.

“Spoon River” at the firehouse, The Ithaca Journal, June 8, 2000 at 4C. About Edgar Lee Masters.

Dana E. Sullivan, From briefs to poetry, a classic change of pace, New Jersey Lawyer, March 28, 2005, at 1.  About attorney lawyers through history, including Francis Scott Key, James Russell Lowell, Sidney Lanier, Edgar Lee Masters, Wallace Stevens, Archibald MacLeish, Steven M. Richman, Scott Alan George, and C. Megan Oltman



Henri Matisse studied law to please his parents and worked in the field for a couple of years before turning to painting. Wassily Kandinsky actually taught law before devoting himself to art. Gabriel Garcia Marquez enrolled as a law student at the Universidad Nacional de Bogota (Colombia) but abandoned law for literature.  Paolo Venini practiced law for a few years before turning to his true love, glassmaking. Almost singlehandedly, he revitalized the tradition of Italian art glass by founding the Venini glass factory, world renowned for its beautiful objects. Philip Moulthrop, a nationally known wood turner, also practiced law. Montana ceramicist Peter Meloy and his brother Henry devoted many years to creating their own wares as well as endowing a collection now housed at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. Henry Chapman Mercer, a Pennsylvania historian and artist, and founder of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, studied law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1880/1881) although he never practiced, Stuart Drysdale, a Scottish lawyer, founded Perthshire Paperweights. (Note that Paul Levenson, a New York City intellectual property attorney, has had to become expert in the area of quilt patterns; one of his clients is the designer and quilt maker Judi Boisson). Alan Gerson, a gifted painter and cartoonist, earned a law degree from Tulane and now entertains us art collectors with his punningly named creations. Charlie Fincher shares his unique view of the world with us on his LawComix website. Sally Forth is the creation of a lawyer-cartoonist, Greg Howard. (Trivial Pursuit fans take note: Calvin's father (Calvin and Hobbes) is a patent lawyer; Hazel's employer "Mr. B." is a lawyer as well). Australian lawyer John Spooner turned to cartooning as well

Leo Castelli, the famous art dealer, earned a law degree from the University of Milan before moving into the art world.

Gardner Fox earned a law degree from St. John's College and practiced for a short time before beginning his career as a creator of classic comics. He wrote for Batman and created the characters Skyman and The Face. Nathan Sawaya quit law for LegosÒ in 2004; now he's a fulltime artist creating sculpture out of those tiny plastic pieces.

Elizabeth Holloway (Marston), Boston University Law 1918, with her husband William created Wonder Woman.


Lawyers put their organizational and analytical ability to work in all kinds of careers. Leonard Horn went to work at the Miss America pageant as the Chief Executive Officer; the pageant now gives scholarships in his name.

Hal Schaffel (died 1993) started out as an attorney but soon went into show business production. He was the producer of The Patti Page Show and Howdy Doody and also worked on such series as The Nurses, Naked City and The Defenders. Among the movies he helped produce were Midnight Cowboy, Silence of the Lambs and Dances With Wolves. Another lawyer, Joseph Hazen, served as the Warner Brothers Studios attorney  for many years, but also as a producer, and joined Hal Wallis to form Hal Wallis Productions in 1944. The pair produced such movies as King Creole, True Grit, and Anne of the Thousand Days. Hazen was also a philanthropist, giving funds to the History of Science Society and to various cultural and educational organizations. 

Pamela Wisne, a University of Detroit  Law School trained attorney, produces many of the Ally McBeal episodes. Kelly Costello is an associate in a Los Angeles law firm who is producing a "mockumentary" on the "dotcom" industry.

 Bascom Lamar Lunsford established the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in 1931, devoted to the arts of Appalachia. Joel Wachs, a Los Angeles city councilman and lawyer, is president of the Andy Warhol Foundation.


Some lawyers are better known as diarists and essayists, or as activists. Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), who died at Auschwitz, is now known for her work An Interrupted Life. Nelson Mandela, the South African activist who spent most of his adult life in prison for opposing the apartheid regime of his country, had little time to practice law, but was the first post-apartheid President of South Africa. Of course many politicians in various countries have entered politics and government service. Fidel Castro got a law degree in 1950 and Vladimir Lenin studied law before turning to revolution. Niccolo di Macchiavelli (1469-1527), the author of the influential tract The Prince, was trained in the law. Mohandus (Mahatma ) Gandhi earned a law degree but became much more famous as a founder of modern India. His experiences of prejudice while working as an attorney helped shape and confirm his humanist vision. Nigerian activist Ogaga Ifowodo expresses his concern for his people in his poetry. Robert de Forest, an 1872 graduate of Columbia University Law School, worked with charitable organizations throughout his life and served as a trustee and benefactor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His brother Henry was also an attorney, and an art collector and amateur landscape architect. John Graver Johnson represented the poor and unknown as well as the rich and famous, and donated his art collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Judge A. T. Clearwater collected silver for many years; his collection became a major part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's silver holdings. Roger Houston Ogden, a Tulane University Law School graduate, turned his lifelong interest in the arts of the South into a major Louisiana museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Lawyer John Borger is donating his collection of 30,000 superhero comic books to the University of Minnesota's Library. Here's an article by his wife, Judith, who encouraged him to make the gift (I was sorry to read it wouldn't go to Michigan State, which is also my alma mater).

Bishop James A. Pike, whose interests included the study of parapsychology and contact with the dead, received a law degree from Yale.


Arthur Schwartz (Columbia Law School, 1920, admitted NY Bar 1924) teamed with Howard Dietz to write many hit songs, including "I've Made a Habit of You" and the score to Louisiana Hayride, later made into a film starring Bob Hope (Columbia Pictures, 1944). Hoagy Carmichael received a law degree from Indiana University, but turned to songwriting after his composition Stardust became popular. Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) received a law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1917 or 1918 (the sources differ), but the lure of the theater was too strong; he left the law for the artistic life soon after. He wrote the lyrics for such musical plays as The Sound of Music and Show Boat. Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929) wrote the words to "Roses of Picardy", a tune familiar to World War I veterans, and redrafted the "Londonderry Air"; it is now better known as "Danny Boy." The composer Johann David Heinichen (1683-1729), a lesser known contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, wrote much opera, choral, and orchestral music. Other composers who studied law include Igor Stravinsky and Francis Hopkinson, who also signed the Declaration of Independence.

Ed Richard belongs not only in the "composers and musicians" section but also under the "clergy" section: he holds a JD from Louisiana State University Law Center.

Clive Davis received his law degree with honors from Harvard Law School and served as General Counsel of Columbia Records before he became a record producer himself. He has nurtured the careers of any number of great musicians, including the late Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Carly Simon.

The multitalented Ruben Blades is a lawyer/actor/musician. Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) studied law but abandoned it for music. Charles Gates Dawes (1865-1951), composed the tune that gave rise to "It's All in the Game"; he was also a Vice President of the United States (1925-1929). He also won the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize.

The acclaimed soprano Hildegard Behrens took a law degree from the University of Freiburg before beginning her vocal studies.  The great Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff trained as a lawyer and began a career as a magistrate before abandoning the law for singing. Singer and activist Paul Robeson graduated from Columbia Law School in 1923 and worked for a few years as an attorney but turned to acting and singing, appearing in such films as The Emperor Jones. (For more about Paul Robeson see Amiri Baraka's Paul Robeson and the Theater ). John Perrault, a New Hampshire lawyer, is also known for his ballads and poems. Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793) turned from law to drama, including eighty opera libretti. (There's a lot of law in opera, by the way. Check out the Brooklyn, NY based Regina Opera Company's Opera Quizzes for more on the topic.)

Peter Garrett, lead singer for the group Midnight Oil, is also a lawyer and environmental activist. Four centuries earlier the Elizabethan composer Thomas Campion apparently originally intended to study law and studied for several years before being admitted to Gray's Inn. The lesser known Tom Rapp had a rock band when he was young, and he even beat out a kid named Bobby Zimmerman in a talent contest in grade school. Zimmerman, of course, is better known as Bob Dylan. By the way, there's a lot of law in Dylan's lyrics; check here. Rapp (later of Pearls Before Swine) is now a lawyer practicing in Philadelphia.  Barry Melton (of Country Joe and the Fish) is a public defender in Yolo County, California.  Punk rocker Robert Quine (1942--2004) got a degree from Washington University Law School, and practiced tax law until his mid-thirties, then quit the practice to play with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and other musicians including Brian Eno.

The Italian jazz musician Paolo Conte practiced law for several years before turning exclusively to music.

Francis Scott Key, an attorney, is better known for his contribution, The Star-Spangled Banner.


Carl Stern, Bill Kurtis, and Fred Graham are all law school grads who turned to journalism. Catherine Crier was a practicing attorney and judge before moving into television commentary.  Geraldo Rivera earned a law degree at Brooklyn Law School. Philip Graham went to Harvard Law School and clerked for Felix Frankfurter before founding the Washington Post. Gerald Posner, author of the best seller Case Closed (about the JFK assassination) graduated from the University of California, Berkeley law school and worked at Cravath, Swaine and Moore before turning to investigative journalism. Victor Zammit, a retired Australian lawyer, has taken up the cause of the afterlife, writing and speaking on the possibility of conversing with the dead. Jeff Greenfield, a Yale Law School graduate and former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy, hosts Greenfield at Large on CNN. Barbara Olson, a lawyer and commentator for CNN, and wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson, died tragically in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001; she used her cell phone to call her husband from the plane to tell him of the hijacking. Jack Ford has been a Court TV commentator. He used his winnings from appearances on the game show Jeopardy! to pay for part of his law school education. And do you remember Christine Craft, the broadcast journalist fired for being, "too old, too ugly and not deferential to men"? She earned a law degree from McGeorge School of Law in 1995 and continues to work as a journalist. Bob Woodruff, the ABC news anchor, recently badly wounded in Iraq, received a law degree from the University of Michigan. Linda Holmes, who blogs at Monkey See, is a recovering lawyer. Cynthia McFadden, of ABC's Primetime Live and "Nightline", received her JD from Columbia Law in 1984. Erin Moriarty is a correspondant for CBS News and that network's "60 Minutes." She received her law degree from Ohio State in 1977. Her coverage of the Ryan Ferguson case helped get him a successful appeal.


American psychologist Joseph Buchanan (1785-1829), who wrote the pioneering work The Philosophy of Human Nature, was also an attorney and physician, despite less than 2 1/2 years of formal education. Charles Dawson, a British lawyer, discovered Piltdown Man, later determined to be a hoax.  If Dawson was the hoaxer, perhaps he's not a lawyer you should emulate! Many people would consider that Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901) is not a scientist as we conventionally understand the term, but he certainly has had an impact on science: he is credited with the creation of the modern myth of Atlantis. He was also a novelist and poet. Lawyer-scientist James Hamilton was the first person (other than James Smithson) to bequeath money to the Smithsonian. The doctor/scientist/lawyer Thomas Phaer (1510?-1560) popularized all the disciplines in which he was proficient, and wrote the influential Boke of Children and A New Boke of Presidents. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also known as both a lawyer and scientist as well as as a philosopher and writer. Many people have combined science and law into rewarding careers: note Richard Peet and Jayme Huleatt of the law firm of Foley and Lardner, and MIT corporation member Alfred Loomis. Perhaps Edward Kelley (1555-1593?) isn't what one thinks of today when one thinks of scientists; a lawyer who was convicted of various land fraud charges, he became interested in alchemy (the transmutation of metals) and convinced various European royals to back him in his experiments. Alfred Binet received a law degree before beginning his research into the nature of intelligence. Elijah Bond invented the forerunner of the Ouija Board. He assigned the patent to Charles Kennard and William Maupin.

Patent lawyer and inventor Robert Rines headed an expedition to find the Loch Ness Monster and published a famous photo which some believe is an image of the beast. He has also written music and founded the Franklin Pierce Law Center.  Horace L. Hunley, planter and Tulane Law School graduate, invented a submarine for the use of the Confederate forces during the War Between the States. You can thank physicist and patent lawyer Chester Carlson for the Xerox machine. William Francis Gibbs practiced law for two years and then quit to design ocean liners. Among his creations: The S. S. United States.

Margaret Mellon  uses her law degree and her PhD in molecular biology as director of the agricultural and biotechnology program program of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. Patent attorney Chester Carlson invented photocopying.

A number of lawyers abandoned the courtroom for greener pastures, specifically gardening and botanical studies. Charles H. Perkins of the Jackson and Perkins Company, and Edwin De Turck Bechtel (see below under "Other Contributions by Lawyers") helped develop new species of roses. George Harison, a lawyer and rose lover, discovered "Harison's Yellow", later imported into Texas, where it became known as the Yellow Rose of Texas. That roses are consequently popular in that state is no surprise; Houston attorney Donald Ray Burger maintains a webpage devoted to roses. Check out Gary O'Neil's work as well; he's a master gardener as well as a practicing attorney in Bakersfield, California.  Samuel Ruggles, lawyer and real estate mogul, developed Gramercy Park, the only remaining private park in New York City. Park Trammell, Senator and Governor of Florida, was also a fruit grower. 

Lewis Henry Morgan was a New York lawyer whose interest in Native Americans led him to formulate a theory of social evolution, which he explained in his book Ancient Society (1877). Edward Clark entered into partnership with Isaac Singer, and they developed the Singer sewing machine empire. Benjamin Cohen invented the notion of packaging sugar in little packets before he came up with Sweet n Low.

Finally, Nicholas Copernicus studied canon law at the University of Bologna (beginning in 1493) before devoting himself to scientific studies.


While you might recognize Ben Stein from his game show "Win Ben Stein's Money", and from commercials for Visine, he has also appeared in films, and before that was a trial lawyer. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1970 and while there helped found the Journal of Law and Social Policy. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, has also taken to the (radio) airwaves. 1984 University of Sydney law graduate Henry Roth presides over Style Court, and he co-owns a bridal-gown design company.

Being a beauty queen doesn't hurt your chances for success at the bar. Veronica Clark (Miss Maryland 1975) became an attorney, as did Zoe Ann Warburg (Miss Idaho 1952), Pamela Pope Webster (Miss New York 1978), and Rebecca Ann King (Miss America 1974). The newest Miss America, Erika Harold, has been accepted to Harvard Law School. LSU Law grad Jamie Wilson ('07) was Miss Louisiana 2006.

Baseball Clip ArtJason Benetti earned degrees in journalism and law, and then became the voice of the Syracuse Chiefs (baseball) team.

(Image courtesy of http://www.clker.com).

Howard Cosell was a labor lawyer before finding his true niche as the enthusiastic sportscaster for ABC Sports. CUNY law school grad Iyanla VanZant had a short-lived syndicated talk show. University of Michigan law grad Larry Elder has a popular talk radio show.  After years as a prosecutor, Star Jones launched a second career as a talk show host, and is currently seen on the Emmy-nominated ABC program The View.


Would you call a cartoon superhero a media personality? If so, Harvey Birdman (the superhero formerly known as Birdman) had a short-lived career  as a lawyer, handling all the cartoon litigation.


After getting his law degree Gary Culliss started an Internet company, Direct Hit Technologies. University of Denver law grad John H. Works is CEO of Rompetrol, an international oil and gas conglomerate. Cheryl Numark tired of law practice and opened an art gallery in the D.C. area. Steve Davis was a human rights lawyer before taking over direction of Corbis, an archive of photographs owned by Microsoft. Donald Watkins, a University of Alabama law graduate, is trying to revitalize the fortunes of the Minnesota Twins. Truman Gibson practiced law in Chicago before becoming a member of Harry Truman's "black Cabinet"; he also became a successful boxing promoter.

Nina and Tim Zagat practiced law for decades before deciding to make their hobby of dining out into a full time career. They now publish the enormously popular Zagat Restaurant Survey. Attorney Daniel Dolan decided matchmaking was more fun than corporate deal-making, and is the President and CEO of It's Just Lunch, an up and coming dating service for professionals.   Bernard Jarrier-Cabernet was a lawyer for five years before becoming a painter, and then a restauranteur and then a publisher. Samantha Daniels is a professional matchmaker.

Texas-born Marjorie Scardino earned a law degree from the University of San Francisco and became the first woman to head a company listed on the London Stock Exchange. Colonel Sanders studied law before launching the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.

Frederick Furth practices law and makes wine in Sonoma County, California. Jess Stonestreet Jackson (founder of the Kendall-Jackson Winery) is also a lawyer. Anthony Avis put his legal training to use in management at Hammonds United Breweries. His book The Brewing Industry 1950-1990 recounts his adventures.  California lawyer Steve Pitcher turned to writing about wine after two decades of writing about law. Lawyer Robert Parker publishes the Wine Advocate. Other lawyers who combine wine with advocacy include Paul Beveridge (yes, that's really his name), Jim Paras,  and Robert M. Cohen.  LSU Law graduate William McGehee and his partner Charles Caldwell started Tin Roof Brewing Company in Baton Rouge. Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax quit law for pizza and founded California Pizza Kitchen in 1985; it's now a leading restaurant chain.

New York lawyer Julie Menin is trying to revitalize her restaurant in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Randy Paragary is a McGeorge Law School graduate who runs numerous Sacramento eateries.

Adam Epstein has launched a business that lets people become sports announcers.


Lana Cantrell, the 1960s Australian pop star, is also an entertainment law attorney. Lara Jill Miller appeared on the sitcom Gimme a Break! After college she attended Fordham University Law School and worked at a Manhattan law firm before returning to LA. She is now a voice on the series Digimon: Digital Monsters. Apollonia van Ravenstein is a Dutch lawyer who also directs commercials. The tv series Ed, about a big city lawyer who returns to his home town to practice and to run a bowling alley, has a real life counterpart in Mel Evans. Charles Jenkins was an NCAA gymnast before attending the University of San Diego Law School.

Floridian Joe D'Annunzio came to law school after a lifetime as a successful business executive. He graduated from Florida State University Law School at the age of 73, and was the oldest person to be sworn in to the Florida Bar in the year 2000. 

After the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis became the first U.S. Commissioner of Baseball, serving from 1920 to 1944. He set many of the ethical rules and policies that are still in place in the sport. (Read more about Judge Landis).


Tim Green got his JD from Ohio Northern University Law School in 1992 and is a coach in Hawaii. But another Tim Green (Syracuse University Law School) is an author and commentator for National Public Radio and the Fox Sports Network, jobs he took after playing 8 years for the Atlanta Falcons football team. Paul Robeson was a noted football player (see under Composers and Musicians). Steve Young, the recently retired quarterback, holds a law degree from Brigham Young University Law School. Alan Page played with the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings, obtaining a law degree while playing with the Vikings. He was elected an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. Byron "Whizzer" White was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1937, got his law degree from Yale and ended up on the U.S. Supreme Court. Alan Eagleson was a Toronto lawyer who also became an agent and headed the NHL Players Association.  David Treadwell, University of Denver law graduate, was a kicker for the Denver Broncos before becoming a sportscaster. Baseball has its share of lawyer-managers, including Branch Rickey (Michigan), who integrated baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson as well as creating the "farm system", Tony LaRussa (Florida State), Hughie Jennings (Cornell), Miller Huggins (Cincinnati), and John Ward (Columbia). William Shea, a New York, lawyer, worked to bring a major league team back to the Big Apple after the Giants and Dodgers fled the city. Shea Stadium is named for him. Frank Navin, who was President of the Detroit Tigers team for 32 years, was also trained as a lawyer. Moe Berg (1902-1972), linguist, spy and baseball player, also earned a law degree from Columbia.  Gene Schroer played baseball sucessfully before earning a law degree from Washburn. For more about law and baseball, see Roger Abrams, Legal Issues: Baseball and the Law (1998). Robert Tyre Jones won all four of the major golf championships in one year (1930) but he made other things look easy, too: he took an engineering degree at Georgia Tech in 2 1/2 years, earned a degree in literature from Harvard, and then went to Emory to get his law degree; he passed the bar before finishing. His legalistic legacy endures in professional golf play. Vivien Saunders, also a lawyer, is suing to regain her amateur status after years as a professional golf instructor. Dick Button, the Olympic Gold Medalist  in Figure Skating, 1948, is also a Harvard Law School grad, admitted to the DC bar, and a sportscaster, a writer, and an Emmy winner.

Karen Weekley is a softball coach at the University of Tennessee and a University of Washington Law School grad.  Western New England College School of Law 2002 Grad Jennifer Blum plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Sharks, a team in the Independent Women's Football League. Donald Dell joined the ranks of successful tennis players years ago, (he captained the US Davis Cup team) but earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and practiced law in D.C. for a time. Eugene Scott, who earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1965, helped found the National Junior Tennis League, was a champion tennis player himself, and founded Tennis Magazine.

Sad to note, newly hired gymnastics coach and University of Denver law graduate Mari-Rae Sopper was among those killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, September 11, 2001.

Football players who later became lawyers and who also have the distinction of being Native American include Bill Gardner and Albert Exendine, both of whom were members of the Carlisle Indian Institute team. Both also earned law degrees from Dickinson School of Law. Gardner joined Eliot Ness's team of "Untouchables". After coaching college football, Exendine practiced law with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  For more about lawyers involved in sports see The Political Graveyard. Bill Lewis was the first Black American football player to be named an All-American. He was also the first Black American to be admitted to the American Bar Association. He served as an U. S. Assistant Attorney General.

Paul Tagliabue was the National Football League's 4th commissioner. He introduced the notion of the salary cap. Baseball umpires who are lawyers include Jeff Chamberlain (former prosecutor) and Alan S. Goldberger.

Shannon Miller, a member of the 1996 Olympic Gold-winning gymnastics team (she earned 7 Olympic medals), earned a JD from Boston College in 2007. She now runs the Shannon Miller Lifestyle Website and works as a sports analyst. More about her here.



Kirstin and Mindy Martone-Gulling still practice law, but they also run a farm: Lucky Clover Microfarm to be exact, while raising five children. More here from the Washington Post.



Animation courtesy of Animation Factory

Several members of the present Dutch Royal Family (House of Orange-Nassau) have law degrees. The reigning queen, Beatrix (born 1938, acceded 1980 on the abdication of her mother Queen Juliana) received a law degree from the University of Leiden. Her brother in law Pieter van Vollenhoeven also holds a law degree from the University of Leiden. Her son Prince Constantijn holds a law degree from Leiden University.The Queen's nephew Prince Pieter-Christiaan graduated from the University of Utrecht with a law degree in 1999. Her nephew Prince Floris received a law degree from Leiden University in 2002.


Roland Berrill and Lance Ware, two English lawyers, founded MENSA, the international society for individuals with high intelligence. Edwin De Turck Bechtel was an art historian and scholar and wrote an important book on printmaker Jacques Callot. He also grew and wrote about roses and was the subject of a biography by Louise Bechtel, The Boy With the Star Lantern (privately printed, 1960). In the horsing around category: Glen Keller, a noted bankruptcy attorney and judge, is also active in "equine activities" and was Colorado Horseman of the Year in 1995.Henry Clay Folger was a lawyer whose collection of Shakespeariana became the nucleus of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Charles Penney donated an important collection of twentieth century art to Buffalo State College. Greek lawyer Alexander Soutzos donated his collection to the National Art Gallery in Athens.

Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816-1874) was an early convert to Spiritualism and claimed to have developed abilities as a medium himself. Carroll Righter (1900-1988) was a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate who developed a second career as an astrologer.  Bernard Ernst, who acted as Harry Houdini's attorney, was himself elected President of the Society of American Magicians. Other lawyer-magicians include Warren Kaps, John McManus, who donated his collection of magic memorabilia to the Library of Congress, Henning Nelms (1900-1986), who also wrote under the name Hake Talbot, Charles Carter,  Alton Sharpe and Karl Germain,,


John William Corrington, a Tulane Law School graduate, was both a legal scholar, having worked with our own Robert Pascal, but also a mystery writer, science fiction writer (Battle for the Planet of the Apes) and writer of daytime dramas. Tony (Anthony) Dunbar is a New Orleans attorney who writes the popular Tubby Dubonnet mysteries.


For more ideas on combining your personal interests with the practice of law try the following publications:

Alternative Careers

Arron, Deborah, What You Can Do With a Law Degree (4th ed., 1999).

Career Options for Lawyers Association Website

Eberle, Terri Lynn, A Lawyer and a Person

Greenberg, Hindi, The Lawyer's Career Change Handbook: More Than 300 Things You Can Do With a Law Degree (1998).

Hieros Gamos Career Center

Mantis, Hillary, Alternative Careers For Lawyers (1997).

Miller, Cara, Lawyers, Toys and Hobbies: Arizona Attorneys Let Loose With Out-of the Ordinary Toys and Hobbies, 36 Ariz. Atty. 8 (Dec. 1999).

Profession of Law Homepage (from Nova University)

San Diego Historical Society: Lawyer Biographies

Strausser, Jeffrey, Judgment Reversed: Alternative Careers For Lawyers (1997).

The website LawBuzz also features some stories about lawyers who did other things (see under "Did You Know"?). For an entirely original if somewhat jaundiced view of the legal profession, check out The Rodent's comments. See also the Career Options for Lawyers website.


For more movies see the Louisiana Mystery and Detective Page: Louisiana Films



As you pursue your studies take an hour or so off once in a while and watch episodes from these current series. How realistic are these shows? If you don't think they portray lawyers and the law accurately, why not? 

(NB: This section lists shows that feature lawyers. The networks also program many police dramas, which also have legal themes).



Barry Levensen, a self-described "recovering lawyer", left his Wisconsin practice to found the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. The museum is now called the National Mustard Museum. Now there's a new career with some spice to it!  Bing Crosby studied law briefly before abandoning it for song.

Cooper, Corinne, Letter to a Young Law Student

Bibliography: Books For the Law Student

Do I Want to Be a Lawyer? (reprinted from Baylor University website)

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, The Common Law ().

Osborne, John Jay, The Paper Chase ()

Turow, Scott, One L ().

Lawyers and Poetry (website maintained by Professor James Elkins)

A Fiction of Law: a page devoted to legal fiction and lawyer-authors

The Ranking Game. Check out how your school ranks in various reports and evaluate the criteria used.

University of Minnesota Law Library, What You Can Do with a Law Degree

Hot Alternative Legal Careers for 2013



My thanks to my friends Francisco and Ana Maria Reyes for providing additional information for this page. Mark Kramer provided information about Barry Melton and Tom Rapp and their legal training.

Last updated 06/08/15









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