Saturday, June 7, 2014

They had been lawyers. . . lawyers who were notable in other fields.

As those who occasionally stop in here know, the purpose of this blog has been to gather, record and explore information for the purpose of a historical novel I'm theoretically writing.  I have to emphasize theoretically, as I'm not getting much of it done.

Anyhow, I thought I'd make one of the characters a lawyer, although I'm not going to reveal too much of that plot line here.  Given that, I started taking note of well known, or at least somewhat known, characters in history or even in today's world who have been lawyers or whom at least have a close connection with the practice of law.

It's been really surprising, to say the least.  There's a lot of characters who are well known to history, or at least well known in their respective spheres of influence and activity, who fit this definition.  A short discussion of the ones I've found so far is provided below.  Perhaps, as people stop in here, they'll list others the are aware of.

Careers that I generally didn't note.

I should provide the caveat that I generally avoided listing any lawyer who became a politician in this list, but not exclusively so. There are a lot of lawyers who became politicians, or who are politicians, and it's generally not noteworthy, even if they are.  Therefore, for example, I haven't listed an individual such as Abraham Lincoln.  Yes, he was a very great man, but he basically went right from being a lawyer to being a politician. The fact that he remains so widely admired by the public shows that not all lawyers or politicians are scoundrels, but it doesn't fit the qualifiers of this list.

I made an exception, however, if they had occupied some other career prior to their political one.  FDR, for example, had a law degree, but he also had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy prior to that, and his legal career is so buried that it tends not to be noted.  Mitt Romney, the recent unsuccessful candidate for the Presidency, also had a law degree, but never used it, so he's listed.  I thought about listing Barrack Obama, as he's never really practiced law, but did not.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson make the list, even though they were lawyers who became politicians, as they had done other things in between. 

I did list revolutionaries, which are sort of a species of politician, as their revolutionary nature is just different.,  Hence, Lenin and Castro make the list.

Careers that seem to repeat

There are some entries that repeat, in terms of categories, which is interesting in and of itself.

One that notably repeats is that of Christian cleric.  Indeed, there are fair number of saints who had been lawyers or who started off to become lawyers.  No doubt that will spark some mirth, but it makes sense.  Those souls were no doubt highly reflective and intellectual, and their having studied law, or their having practiced it, reflected that.  But their thoughts obviously ranged to other topics, and in the end, they followed those thoughts.

Journalist of various types also reoccurs.  That's not too surprising either, as one thing lawyers do is write.  People either love writing, or they hate it, but it would be natural that a person who likes delving into things and writing would start to want to write about stuff other than cases.

Solder repeats fairly frequently.  I'm not sure what this says, and I also suspect that there's a lot of "learned professions" that would be represented in any similar such list.  At least one well known New Zealand general from World War Two, for example, started off as a dentist.  General Leonard B. Wood was a physician.

Trailing Post

This is a "Trailing Post"   which means that it gets additional entries from time to time, and then gets reposted as a current post. Indeed, that's already happened.  I'll post the dates of new entries, so that people don't have to go back and re-read the entire thing every time that occurs.

John Abt

John Abt was an acknowledged member of the Communist Party of the USA and represented the American Communist party, along with other radical groups, in his post 1948 legal practice.  The Verona files later revealed that Abt had been involved in espionage to some degree for the Soviet Union.  He'd earlier been revealed by Whitaker Chambers to be a member of the Ware Group, a 1930s vintage Communist cell in Washington D. C.  Prior to his public exposure as a Communist, he'd held various positions in the Federal agencies in the 1930s and 1940s.

Category:  Civil Servant, Spy, Revolutionary.

Date Added:  November 20, 2013.


John Adams

Adams was a 18th Century polymath who played many parts in life, including that of lawyer.  Adams came from a well to do Massachusetts farming family and studied law early in his life. That lead him to a career as a lawyer, and farmer, both of which he loved.  His legal career was not without controversy, as he undertook those British soldiers who were charged with murder due to the Boston Massacre. 

His career as a lawyer was cut short due to the American Revolution, and he never was able to really return to it.  Playing a prominent role in revolutionary circles, he hoped to become a Continental Army officer, as military affairs were another of his loves.  He was never able to see that wish fulfilled.  He went on to become an American representative to France, and later, of course, President.  Of his various careers, farming was the only one that he was able to engage in throughout his life, so in some ways he's an odd example of somebody who loved the law, but wasn't able to work at it for most of his life.  Indeed, almost all of his professional live can be characterized in that fashion.

Category:  Diplomat.  Civil Servant.  Politician.  Farmer.


Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine of Hippo is justifiably famous for being one of the Doctors of the Church, a great intellect, and a major philosopher and theologian.   In his early years, however, he lead a much different life.  The North African Saint started off in a field which included law, and therefore was a type of lawyer, before taking up teaching in Rome.  Ultimately becoming a professor of rhetoric in Milan, Italy, he underwent a profound crisis of conscience and converted to Christianity.  Shortly thereafter, he was ordained a Priest, and became a Bishop soon after that.  He was, of course, a major theologian and remains widely read today.

Category:  Teacher, professor, Cleric, Theologian


Elfego Baca

Baca was a New Mexican born Hispanic who is primarily recalled as a late 19th Century Southwestern gunman.  His principal trade was that of being a lawman, at which he was very effective, but he was admitted to the New Mexico Bar after finishing a term of being a U.S. Marshall.  He practiced off and on, and apparently steadily from 1994 to 1904, being in private practice that entire time.  He also was a county attorney for two seperate New Mexico counties.

In spite of that, being a law man is apparently what he mostly craved, and even after being admitted to the bar he held a set of highly eclectic occupations.  He was a representative of the Mexican government in the US at one time.  He acted as a private detective, and even as a bouncer in Juarez Mexico.  He held public office from time to time, and ran for some offices he did not obtain.  At the time of his death in 1944 he had just completed an unnsecessful campaign to be the Democratic nominee for an upcoming gubenatorial race.

Category:  Politician, law man.


Arthur Seaforth Blackburn

On the July 23 SMH Today in History Thread:
BLACKBURN Arthur Seaforth:  World War One.  2nd Lieutenant.  Australian Forces  Citation:  On 23 July 1916, at Pozières, heroism in action.

Blackburn was a lawyer from Adelaide who had enlisted as a private in the Australian Army.  He landed at Gallipoli as a scout and received a battlefield commission there.  He resumed military service during World War Two and rose to the rank of general.
I don't really know much about Blackburn, other than that he was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

What's somewhat surprising here is that Blackburn had enlisted as a private.  We'd expect that a man with his education would have entered the service as an officer, but we might be surprised to learn that this wasn't as uncommon as we might suspect.  From 1940 on through the Vietnam War it wasn't too uncommon to conscript lawyers as enlisted men into the U.S. Army. Their education was not regarded as necessarily predisposing them towards being officers and there were more than an ample supply for the JAG Corps.

Category:  Soldier

John Bodey

John Bodey was an English Catholic in the era in which it was very dangerous to be one.  He studied law in France but returned to his native land as a school teacher.  He'd left it in the first place due to the difficulty in practicing his faith in England, and his return was not to be a long one.  He married upon his return, but was soon arrested and ultimately executed.

Category:  Saint.  Martyr.


Inez Milholland Boissevain

Boisevain was a noted suffragette who died young in 1916 when she was only 30, after falling suddenly ill.  She was also a lawyer, however, who had applied to, and been rejected by, several significant law schools before  attending New York University.  She was admitted to the bar in 1912, but is mostly remembered to day as a suffragette.

Category:  Political activist.
Date Added:  July 30, 2013.


Frederick W. Bradshaw

Bradshaw was an attorney from South Carolina who is remembered to history as the man who organized, trained and lead the Alamo Scouts, the 6th Special Reconnaissance Unit, that famously served in New Guinea during World War Two.

Bradshaw entered the service through South Carolina's National Guard, in which he was serving as an officer prior to the war.

Category:  Soldier


Herbert J. Brees

Residents of Laramie Wyoming might recognize this name in the form of the name that until fairly recently applied to their airport, Brees Field.  Brees Field was named for Herbert J. Brees.

Brees was born in Laramie in 1877, when it was still a frontier town.  He group there and attended the University of Wyoming, graduating in 1897 and joined the 2nd U.S. Volunteers as  2nd Lieutenant in 1898, during the Spanish American War.  Later that year he transferred to the Regular Army.  He served initially in the artillery after joining the regular Army, but thereafter served principally in the cavalry branch until his retirement in 1941. One of this last roles in the Army was as the Chief Controller for the Louisiana Maneuvers.  He obtained a LLD in 1939.  At the time of his retirement he was a Lt. General.

Category:  Soldier


St. John of Capistrano

Prior to being a cleric St. John of Capistrano studied law.  He moved into a political position, as is not uncommon for lawyers, being appointed the Governor of Perugia by the King of Naples.  He was, in that position, taken prisoner during a regional war and while a prisoner he began to study theology.  Upon his release he became a Franciscan Friar.

Category:  Roman Catholic Priest.

Date added:  October 28, 2013. 


Henry B. Carrington

Henry B. Carrington is remembered in history for being in command at Ft. Phil Kearney at  the time of the disastrous Fetterman  battle, and his anemic command abilities combined with Fetterman's insubordination are often credited with causing the disaster.  Like Custer's 1876 commander, Alfred Terry, Carrington was a graduate of Yale Law School and had practiced in Ohio.  He entered the Army during the Civil War and mostly served in administrative roles with Ohio troops.  The Fetterman disaster ruined his military career and he subsequently went on to be a teacher at the university level, and civil servant and an author.

Category:  Soldier, Author, Educator, Civil Servant

Date Added:  April 6, 2014

Howard (Hoagy) Carmichael

Songwriter, singer and actor Hoagy Carmichael was a 1926 graduate of Indiana University College of Law, but was writing music within a year of passing the bar.  He quit practicing law by 1930.

Category:  Songwriter, Singer, Actor

Date Added:  April 12, 2014


Fidel Castro

Castro joins some other famous Communists in having been lawyers. . . not sure what to say about that.  Anyhow, he was a graduate of the University of Havana and a partner in the firm of  Azpiazo, Castro & Resende. Really.

Category:  Radical politician.  Revolutionary.

Cajetan (Gaetano)

An Italian born lawyer who graduated with a law degree from the university at Padua at age 24, he left the law and was ordained a Priest and became an influential figure in that role.  He was a reformer prior to the Reformation.

Category:  Saint.  Cleric.

John Cleese

British funny man John Cleese has a law degree from Cambridge but has never practiced law.  I guess he decided to do "something completely different."

Category:  Actor

Robert W. Cook

Robert W. Cook was a Denver lawyer who left the practice of law to become a Catholic priest, and as a priest became the first President of the Wyoming Catholic College.

Category:  Cleric, Educator.

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro

Cortes is known for being the Spanish conqueror of Mexico.  But he had a legal education and his family had hoped he'd practice law.

Category:  Soldier

Howard Cosell

Howard Cosell is instantly recalled by anyone of a certain age as being the emblematic sportscaster, and the comic foil, with his own cooperation, for Mohammed Ali. But prior to that, he was a lawyer, being a graduate of the NYU School of Law.

Cosell actually became a lawyer as he thought it would make his parents proud and he passed the New York bar, a difficult bar to pass, in 1941.  His career was immediately interrupted by World War Two, however, during which he was a Transportation Corps officer.  He resumed his practice after the war but gave it up in the mid 1950s when he started doing some sports broadcasts locally, was good at it, and was offered a job with ABC.

Category:  Broadcast journalist.


Ann Coulter

Firebrand conservative columnist and author Ann Coulter is a 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and served as the editor of its law review while attending there.  After law school she worked as a judicial law clerk for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, a distinguished clerkship.  She thereafter entered private practice and then went on to work as a lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She switched to journalism in the mid 1990s.

Category:  Political Commentator.  Author.


Jubal Early

Early was a West Point graduate who served in the Regular Army only briefly before leaving it to practice law.  He came back into the U.S. Army during the Mexican War, but became famous for his effective service to the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  Early was a Confederate diehard whose effective generalship is considered by some to have extended the war by six months.  After the war, he returned to practicing law, but he remained an ardent and outspoken Confederate and held extremely racists views.  He was one of the authors of the Southern romantic "Lost Cause" view of the Civil War.
Category:  Rebel.  Soldier.  Author.

Dated added:  June 15, 2013.

 Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Fidelis of Signaringen was born Mark Rey in 1577 in Sigmarigen, Germany.  Always very religious, he started off his adult years as a student of law and lecturer, ultimately becoming a courtroom lawyer, where his inclinations lead him to be an advocate for poor clients.  His courtroom conduct was noted to be beyond exemplary, as he eschewed everything associated with invective behavior as a lawyer.

Nonetheless, his piety caused him to be uncomfortable with the law, and he grew increasingly uncomfortable with what he saw as the evils associated with the profession.  He therefore became a Capuchin friar.  He was murdered by Calvinist soldiers in 1622, exhorting God to forgive his attackers.

Category:  Cleric.

René Descartes

Descartes is remembered today as a philosopher, but in his early adult life he studied law and obtained license to practice.  It was his father's desire that he be a lawyer, a career he did not pursue.

Category:  Philosopher.  Solder.

Date Added:  April 12, 2014.


Francis de Sales

Francis de Sales was a 16th and 17th Century Frenchman who studied law and theology at the university at Padua, Italy.  Highly intelligent and very sensitive, he struggled with his direction as a student but had committed himself to a religious vocation by the time he graduated university, in spite of having a tailor made career, wealth, and an advantageous marriage all set at his feet by his father, who wished for a legal and political career for his son.  Instead, he became a devoted Priest and then Bishop, and is remembered today for his very effective and surprisingly modern writing style.  He remains widely read today and is regarded as the Patron Saint of Writers.

Category:  Saint.  Cleric.  Author.

John Foster Dulles

Senator, and more famously Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was, before that, a practicing lawyer with the New York firm of Sullivan & Cromwell.  Still somewhat of a controversial Secretary of State, Dulles was aggressive in his opposition to Communism and was one of the very few Secretary of States to be open about his Christian world view.  He was a George Washington Law School Graduate.

Category:  Politician, Civil Servant, Diplomat

Date Added:  February 21, 2014


Felipe, Prince of Asturias

Crown Prince Felipe of Spain, who will soon become the King of Spain,  (Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia) has a degree in law, although he has of course never practiced law.

Category:  Monarch

Date Added:  June 7, 2014


Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Born Mark Rey in the German town of Sigmaringen, Fidelis practiced law in Alsace, where he had a reputation for representing the poor.  He became disenchanted with the evils he observed in the profession and left it to become a Capuchin friar.  He became a major figure in the Counter Reformation in Austria and was murdered by his opponents.

Category:  Cleric

Date Added:  April 24, 2014.



Yes, that's right. Gandhi was a graduate of University College London and passed the bar in 1891.  He returned to Bombay to practice, but found he was so shy, he couldn't speak in court.

Category:  Politician.  Revolutionary.

Earl Stanley Gardner

Gardner was the author of the Perry Mason novels.  He started practicing law in 1911, quitting for five years to run a sales agency, and then returned to law until his writing career took off.  When that occurred, he devoted his full time to writing. Gardner liked doing trial work, but found much of the rest of the practice of law boring.

Category:  Writer

Date Added:  April 12, 2014.


Rupprecht Gerngroß

Gerngroß is a truly enigmatic figure.  Elsewhere on this list there are several German lawyers who were members of the July 20, 1944 plot against Hitler, although not every lawyer in the plot has been listed, due to this list's criteria.  Gerngroß is unique, however, in that he sponsored his own plot very late in the war which was wholly unconnected with the much larger, and earlier, July 20 plot.

Gerngroß was born in China to German parents who returned to Germany following World War One.  Of military age, he was a volunteer in the German Army in which he served as a communications officer.  At the same time he managed to attend law school and graduated while still serving in the German Army.  Having become disillusioned with the Nazis, he gathered together a circle of plotters who rose up extraordinary late in the warHe was only a captain at the time, and therefore he was also remarkable in that his position in a rebellion did not match that of the higher ranking officers who were involved in the July 20 plot.

Category:  Revolutionary.


Mikhail Gorbachev

The Soviet Union's last leader, and the man who can be credited with helping shepherd the country out of Communism, started off to be a practicing Soviet lawyer.  Always of a somewhat questioning mind, he ran some risks with his views as a student during Stalin's last year. During that time period the Soviet Union banned new lawyers from being prosecutors, so Gorbachev went into Soviet politics and administration instead.

Category:  Politician.  Civil Servant.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greewald is columnist who has written for the British newspaper The Guardian and for Salon.  He's been associated with the Edward Snowden story.

He is also a 1994 graduate of NYU's law school, and practiced as a trial lawyer for several years before evolving into a jounralist.

Category:  Journalist

Date Added:  January 26, 2014


Võ Nguyên Giáp

Giap is famous for being the Viet Minh, and then the North Vietnamese, military leader who is sometimes credited with the Viet Minh's strategy in combating the French in Indochina and with North Vietnam's strategy against the US during the Vietnam War.

He also studied law and graduated with a degree in law form the University of Hanoi in 1938.  He may not have passed his bar exam, however, and therefore never practiced.

Category:  Soldier, Revolutionary, Teacher

Date Added:  February 5, 2014


John Grisham, Jr

Grisham is the author of a popular series of novels all involving lawyer.  He gave up practicing law upon becoming a successful author.

Category:  author.

Date Added:  May 29, 2013.

Savannah Guthrie

Guthrie is the new Today Show co-anchor, which is no doubt how she's likely to be remembered from here on out.  She is, however, also a lawyer with a 2002 JD from Georgetown University.  Having said that, however, she was already working as a broadcast journalist prior to that and continued to occupy that role, somewhat, while in law school.  She practiced law from 2002 to 2008, after which she went back into journalism, a career switch which she seems unlikely to return.

Category:  Broadcast journalist.

John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardin is a character known to every student of the American West.  He was the son of solid American stock, descending from characters who played significant roles in the American Revolution.  However, he was involved early in life in violence, not necessarily by his own fault, and took to a violent lifestyle.  This ultimately lead to prison, where he studied law, and upon his release, he took the Texas state bar.  
Hardin probably doesn't belong on this list, as he didn't leave the law to take up something else, but became something else due to his early, criminal, career.  But I've noted him here anyhow as his violent life was not something he was able to escape. Even after becoming a lawyer he was involved in one negligent homicide and he died when an argument turned violent and he was outdrawn.

Category:  Criminal.

Date Added:  May 27, 2013.

Alger Hiss

Alger Hiss was a Harvard educated lawyer who made a career in government service in the 1930s and 1940s.  He rose in government service to a fairly prominent, if not publicly prominent, position in the State Department and was present at the Yalta Conference and involved in late World War Two and post war activities that were of great significance. 

His is remembered, however, as his name broke into the public when Time magazine editor Whitaker Chambers revealed Hiss to be a member of a 1930s era Communist cell of which Chambers had also been a member.  This resulted in two legal and has remained an enduring controversy, with Hiss having defenders to this day.  The better evidence seems to support Chamber's accusations that Hiss was an underground Communist and involved in espionage.  Hiss denied the accusations until his death and was active in trying to get records from the Eastern block to support his position.  He was tried and convicted of perjury, served three years of a five year sentence, and lost his license to practice law.  He ultimately had his license restored by the Massachusetts State Bar late in his life.

In spite of his supporters, it should be noted that Chambers had indicated that Hiss was a Communist as early as 1939 and 1942 and that there were at least to other sources that implicated Hiss as a Communist agent prior to Chamber's 1948 testimony.

Category:  Civil Servant.  Probably Revolutionary and Spy.

Date Added:  November 20, 2013.


Ives of Kermartin

Ives was the son of a noble family who studied law at the University of Paris, and following that went on to study Canon LawHe took Holy Orders and went on to be a significant parish priest in his diocese.  His tomb was marked in his praise with Sanctus Ivo erat Brito, Advocatus et non latro, Res miranda populo.  He is a Patron Saint of lawyers.

Category:  Cleric

Date added:  August 1, 2013.


James the Merciful (James the Almsgiver)

This 7th Century saint had been a wealthy married lawyer but suffered early tragedy when his spouse and children died.  He left his legal career to take Holy Orders and was noted as a very merciful and generous Saint.

Category:  Saint.  Cleric.


Washington Irving.

The famed early American writer was a lawyer, having passed the bar, but as far as I know, his legal career was either brief, or non existant.

Category:  Author.


Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson, "Old Hickory", is remembered for being the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, the War of 1812 battle the U.S. actually won, even though the war was actually over at the time (the combatants weren't aware that peace had been reached), and then President of the United States, but he was also a practicing lawyer.

Jackson had lived a very rough and ready life in his native state of Tennessee and worked a variety of professions before being admitted to the bar in 1787.  Even while practicing he engaged in other occupations, including being a "planter", a type of large scale (slave owning) farmer.  He was also a militia officer, and in that role he rose to prominence due to the Battle of New Orleans, which later gave him sufficient national fame to allow him to convert the fame into a successful run for the Presidency.

Category:  Farmer, Soldier, Politician

Date Added:  January 25, 2014


Jamie Jeffers

Jamie Jeffers is an attorney in Oregon who lost his associate's position in the Great Recession of the late 2000s.  Indeed, that economic event proved to be extremely hard on attorneys in the United States in many localities and there has been a great deal of speculation as to whether or not the attorney draw downs reflected merely the economic crisis or rather reflect a deep and permanent shift in the position of lawyers in the United States.

Whatever the case may be, Jeffers started using his free time to become a blogger on British History.  At some point he determined to make that his full time occupation, and has done so.

Category:  Historian.


Thomas Jefferson

The revered but enigmatic Jefferson stands in contrast to the nearly as revered and less  enigmatic John Adams, with whom he shared an interrupted friendship and bizarrely coincident life.  Both were lawyers, but unlike Adams, Jefferson did not like the profession and did not practice at it.

Otherwise defining Jefferson's career path would be difficult.  In some ways he simply did everything.  He was a farmer of the planter class, in terms of occupation, more than anything else, but he was also, of course, a politician and diplomat.  And, he was an inventor.

Category:  Politician. Diplomat.  Inventor.


Star Jones

Star Jones is yet another current broadcast journalist, or figure, who started off as a lawyer.  Having been recruited in 1991 to offer commentary on the William Kennedy Smith trial, she has been in her second career from that point in time.

Category:  Broadcast journalist.


Franz Kafka

Writer Franz Kafka was a lawyer by training, and found early work for an Italian insurance company in that capacity.

Category:  Writer

Date Added:  April 12, 2014


Francis Scott Key

Key, the author of The Star Spangled Banner, was an attorney whose main occupation was that.

Category:  Poet, Songwriter

Date Added:  April 12, 2014


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov

Yes, the big commie was a lawyer by training.  I don't think Lenin actually ever practiced, however.  He was a flaming radical from day one, so his law degree didn't even receive the same workout as Castro's. There was, therefore, no Lenin, Smith & Jones PC.

Category:  Radical politician.  Revolutionary.  Sponsor of Genocide.


Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Alphonsus Maria de Liguori was an Italian lawyer who achieved a certain measure of fame in that profession.  Nonetheless, he was troubled by the occupation and related to a friend  "My friend, our profession is too full of difficulties and dangers; we lead an unhappy life and run risk of dying an unhappy death. For myself, I will quit this career, which does not suit me; for I wish to secure the salvation of my soul."  This is an interesting comment in that it could almost read like the comments of many unhappy lawyers today that are occasionally discussed in the ABA Journal or state bar association journals.

De Liguori did indeed leave the profession and became a Priest and then ultimately a Bishop.  He was the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.  He suffered from scrupulosity for much of his life, although he saw that affliction as a blessing  in that he regarded it as having focused him on his conversion.

In some ways, I think this particular saint is one that lawyers should particularly take note of.  He was a courtroom lawyer, but what caused him to abandon the law is the conditions that still afflict the law.  Lawyers tend to forget the pain they inflict on average people, and come to view it as excused by the existence of their profession. But the pain is real, and that shouldn't be ignored.  It's far too easy to be callous to that fact.  This saint, however, seems to have become extremely sensitive to it, so much so that he left the law.

Category:  Cleric. Saint.

Robert W. Mackay

Robert W. Mackay is a Canadian author who has written a novel concerning the Canadian cavalry during World War One, loosely based on his father's experiences.  In addition, however, Mr. Mackay has been in the Canadian navy and he was a rancher.  He was also a lawyer.

Category:  Author.

Date Added:  May 29, 2013. 

Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish was a polymath who started off practicing law in Illinois, but over his career was a writer, soldier and Librarian of Congress.

Category: Writer, Soldier, Civil Servant

Date Added:  April 12, 2014


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is remembered as a campaigner for full equality for blacks in South Africa, but he started off as a South African lawyer.  He was born into Thembu nobility and started off towards a career as being a tribal adviser.  Given that, he pursued a law degree and entered practice in the 1940s. Already active in the racial struggle in the region, he still found time to open his own practice in 1953.  He rose to leadership of the African National Congress in the 1960s and ultimately came around to supporting violence in its goals, which lead to his arrest and imprisonment.  After release from prison he resumed his efforts without violence and became President of South African in 1994.

Category:  Activist.  Revolutionary.  Politician.

Date Added:  November 7, 2013.


Ruth Marcus

Marcus is a columnist for the Washington Post, and is well known in that role, which she has occupied since 1984.  She graduated from Yale with a degree in journalism and went to work for the National Law Journal, which lead her to attending law school.  While attending Harvard Law School she went to work for the Washington Post, where she has remained. She graduated from Harvard Law in 1985, but she's never practiced law.

Marcus is the author  of one really fine example of career advice, that being "there are no mistakes under 30."  That is, she feels people have absolute liberty to follow career tracks or goals that they later abandon while in that age bracket.  With certain limits being implied, I agree with that.

Category:  Journalist

Date Added:  June 12, 2013.

Robert R. McCormick

Robert R. McCormick was a legendary newspaper publisher, and the owner of the Chicago Tribune. Today, to the extent he's remembered (and in the publishing industry, he is remembered) that's what he's remembered for. But, McCormick was a graduate of the Northwestern School of Law, which he attended following his graduation from Yale.  He practiced law for three years before moving over to the Tribune.

McCormick was from a wealthy family and it's hard to tell if he had any actual interest in the law, even though during the short period of time in which he practiced he was the founder of a firm.  His real loves seemed to have been the newspaper industry, and more particularly the Army.  Even though he wasn't a career soldier, he was a prewar Illionois National Guard cavalry officer and a WWI artillery officer.  The Pritzer Military Libary was founded and endowed by the McCormick foundation, which remembers him as Col. Robert R. McCormick.

Category:  Correspondent, Publisher, Soldier


Brett McKay

McKay is a lawyer who started writing about the Art of Manliness while still a law student. Realizing shortly after graduating from law that he didn't care to practice, he converted his blog into a full time job, which now grosses well into the six figures annually.

Category:  Author
Date added:  May 30, 2013.


Roche S. Mentzer

Roche S. Mentzer was a Cheyenne lawyer who was from a family of lawyers.  A near relative of his (I'm not sure if it was a father or brother) was a judge in Cheyenne.  Mentzer was also a significant legislator in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Mentzer is remembered, however, as being the commander of the 115th Cavalry Regiment, Wyoming National Guard, in the 1920s and early 1930s.  It was while serving in that capacity that he tragically passed away, on July 10, 1933, while the unit was on a very extended mounted march.  Mentzer fell ill in the Snowy Range and then died of a heart attack. The unit memorialized him with a rock cairn in Fox Park, although I do not know if it still remains.

Category:  Soldier.

Date added:  July 11, 2013

John Singleton Mosby

Famous for his role as a Confederate partisan ranger commander, Mosby was a Virginia lawyer. After the war Mosby, who personally opposed succession, resumed practice but also was active in Republican politics.  He practiced law in a number of occasions, and was sometimes a lawyer for the Federal government.

Category:  Soldier

Date added:  August 10, 2013.


Ralph Nader

Activist Ralph Nader is a 1958 graduate of Harvard Law School, and did practice law in Hartford Connecticut in the early 1960s.

Category:  Activist

Date Added:  April 12, 2014


Jawaharlal Nehru

Nehru is remembered as the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in the movement for Indian independence.   He was also a barrister, a trial lawyer having been admitted to the English bar in 1912.

Category:  Politician.  Revolutionary.

Date added:  February 21, 2014


Oswald "Ozzie" Nelson

Nelson had a long career as an entertainer, starting off as musician and then becoming an actor, but he was also a graduate of Rutger's law school.

Category:  Musician.  Entertainer.  Actor.


Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye

Bill Nye was a very widely read and famous humorist in the late 19th Century.  He was also, however, a lawyer, or had been.  He had "read the law" (i.e., studied independently and took the bar)  and was admitted to practice in Wyoming, where he had relocated to, in 1876.  He was never able to find sufficient work as a lawyer, however, and he worked a variety of jobs, including being the postmaster of Laramie, Wyoming.  After his writing career took off, his legal career ended.  He died at only age 45 of meningitis.

Category:  Journalist.  Civil Servant.  Humorist.  Author.


William Owen "Buckey" O'Neill

William "Buckey" O'Neill was a Missouri born son of Irish immigrants who attended and graduated from the National Law School in Washington D. C. He thereafter took the Civil Service exam and briefly worked as a civil servant for the Navy.  He didn't feel office work suited him, however, and he soon left that position for the frontier of Arizona, where he occupied a variety of positions, starting off as a newspaper man, but then becoming a judge, and then switching to the position of sheriff.  He's famous, however, for leaving that position in order to join the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, the famous Rough Riders, in which he was killed while exposing himself to fire in Cuba.  He was fondly remembered by that unit and was widely regarded as heroic.

Interestingly, quotes attributed to him are usually delivered in a folksy style, but he was actually a very well educated East Coast American, so if they're accurate, he acquired that speaking style after he relocated to Arizona.

Category:  Civil Servant.  Journalist.  Law Enforcement Officer.  Soldier.

Steve Pastis

Steve Pastis was a tort lawyer, working for the defense, but didn't care of the anxiety it produced and the adversarial nature of the work.  A fan of cartoons since he was a child, he began to work on his cartoons while still working as lawyer.  He ultimately transitioned completely over to law by 2002, and draws Pearls Before Swine.

Category:  Cartoonist.

Date added:  May 29, 2013.

Paulinus of Nola.

This French born 4th and 5th Century Roman Senator and lawyer  left a lucrative public career to take Holy Orders after converting to Catholicism and renouncing his wealth.

Category:  Cleric.  Saint.

Charles Perrault

Perrault is remembered today as the author of the Tales of Mother Goose. But he spent most of his career as an aid to his brother, who was an architect.  Be that as it may, he was first a lawyer.

Category:  Author.  Architect's Assistant.

John J. Pershing

Pershing is famous for being the second highest ranking general in U.S. history, having been promoted to the rank of General of the Armies during World War One (just below a theoretically higher, by act of Congress, rank posthumously conveyed upon George Washington).  During World War Two the "five star" generals were only holding the rank of General of the Army, just below a still living Pershing.

But Pershing also held a law degree, something that's little known about him.  He acquired it while an instructor in military science at the University of Nebraska, where he was posted by the Army at the time.  He obtained the degree in 1893.  Prior to going to West Point Pershing had been a school teacher, and the Army paid very little at the time, so he apparently had some thoughts of leaving the service, but of course, he did not.

Category:  Soldier.


Lee Pressman

Lee Pressman was a Harvard educated lawyer who is remembered today for being a member of the secret Communist Ware Group.  Pressman served as a lawyer for the U.S. government in the early 1930s before going on to private practice, in which he represented the CIO.  He was one of the Communists exposed by Whitaker Chambers and he admitted that he had been a Communist in the 1934-35 time frame.  After the release of Soviet files  his involvement in assisting the Communist underground movement exposed by Chambers proved to be more extensive than Pressman had been willing to publicly admit, even though over time Pressman himself had conceded elements of the story that validated Chamber's accounts.

Category:  Revolutionary

Date added:  November 20, 2013.

 John A. Quitman

Quitman was an eccentric who started off as a lawyer in Ohio and Mississippi, but only briefly.  He went on to be a politician and planter, and a general during the Mexican War.  After the war he served as governor of Mississippi, dieing of National Hotel Disease at age 58.

Category:  Soldier.  Politician.

Date added:  August 10, 2013.


John A. Rawlins

Rawlins was an Illinois born lawyer who had been practicing there since 1854 when he met U. S. Grant, while Grant was raising a unit in 1861 from Galena, Illinois.  At first an officer in the Illinois volunteers Rawlins became a member of the Regular Army at Grant's request.  Rawlins served as a staff officer, a position in which he was very capable, rising to the rank of Brigadier General.  After the war, he became Grant's Secretary of War.  During this period he contracted tuberculosis, and his loyalty to Grant was so strong that he declined to relocate to  Arizona which his doctors recommended..  He died in 1869.

Rawlins was intensely loyal to Grant, who relied on him enormously during the war, but Grant oddly mentioned him hardly at all when he wrote his autobiography and he was not at Rawlins' bedside at the time of his death.  Speculation has been made that this was because Rawlins had been such a guardian of Grant's reputation that in his later years Grant was embarrassed by that and did not wish to emphasize it.

 Rawlins during the Civil War with his family.

Category:  Soldier

Geraldo Rivera.

Like Castro, or Lenin, I feel less than enthusiastic about noting Rivera's first career, but he was in fact a lawyer, having graduated with high marks from Brooklyn Law School in 1969.  He caught the eye of local broadcasters who liked his style, and his lucrative career, doing whatever it is that he does, took off.

Category:  Broadcast Journalist.

 Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts is a history professor at the University of Wyoming and an author on Wyoming history topics.  He's also a graduate of the University of Wyoming College of Law who was admitted to the state's bar in 1977.

Category:  Historian.  Educator.  Author.

Date Added: November 7, 2013.


Manfred Rommel

The son of the legendary World War Two German field marshal, who was himself drafted at age 14 into the Luftwaffe in order to serve as an anti aircraft gunner, attended law school post war and became the long serving mayor of Stuttgart.  He declined to run for higher office in Germany, in spite of his popularity, declaring that he was not an ambitious man.

Category:  Politician

Date Added:  November 11, 2013


Willard Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is a graduate of a Harvard program which conferred a joint MBA/JD.  He never worked as a lawyer, however, having had a career in business and politics.

Category:  Businessman, Politician 


Franklin Delano Roosevelt

 A young Franklin Roosevelt.

FDR is famously remembered as the only four term President the United States has ever had, the President during most of the Great Depression, and the President for almost all of World War Two.

He also attended Columbia Law School from 1904 to 1907, dropping out after he passed the difficult New York Bar.  He worked as a lawyer for a period of time thereafter but left the law forever when he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913.

Category:  Politician.

Theodore Roosevelt

 Theodore Roosevelt in 1911.

I probably ought not to include Theodore  Roosevelt in this category, but I will note that after he graduated from Harvard he attended Columbia Law School from 1880 to 1882.  Like his cousin Franklin Roosevelt, he did not graduate.

Part of the reason that I have included him here is that the requirement of law school attendance in order to become a lawyer did not exist at that time, and is actually a fairly recent requirement.  "Reading the law" was the norm for decades, which is how such figures as Abraham Lincoln became lawyers. They studied law on their own and took the bar, or moved for admission to the bar.  Law schools have been around for quite awhile, but now simply having graduated from law school generally means that the general public regards a person as a lawyer, whether or not they took the bar.

In Theodore Roosevelt's day, as with Franklin Roosevelt's day, having attended law school would have been a preparatory and associative advantage, but not a requirement for taking the bar.  To become a lawyer, you had to pass the bar. Franklin Roosevelt did that, Theodore Roosevelt did not.  TR simply left law school and did not return, his having gone into it in the first place having been an occupational diversion which was probably caused by family pressures about the young newly married TR being able to make a living.  However, in modern terms, his two years of law school would nearly equate with graduating from one, and in his own time would have conferred upon him a fairly typical status for a person intending to take the bar. If TR had desired to take the bar, he would have been fully qualified to do so. Therefore, we're including him here.

Category:  Rancher, Writer, Soldier, Politician.

Charlie Rose

Television journalist Charlie Rose graduated from Duke's college of law in 1968 and worked until the early 1970s as a lawyer for Banker's Trust.

Category:  Journalist.

Date Added:  April 12, 2014.


Allen Rosenberg

Allen Rosenberg was an attorney and Civil Servant in the 1930s and 1940s whose name appears in the Verona Files and who is implicated as having been a Soviet spy during World War Two.  He was never charged with espionage.

Category:  Civil Servant, Spy.

Date Added:  November 20, 2013.


Salvius of Albi

This 6th Century saint was originally a lawyer but became a Monk and then a Bishop.

Category:  Cleric.  Saint.

Satyrus of Milan

Saint Satyrus of Milan had a career as a lawyer and Roman prefect before taking Holy Orders.  I do not know a great deal about this 4th Century saint otherwise.

Category:  Cleric.  Saint.


Charles H. Sherrill

 Sherrill leading a preparedness parade in World War One, prior to the advent of the American entry into the war.

Sherrill was the U.S. Minister to Argentina in the Taft Administration and later the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey in the 1920s.  In the 1920s and 30s, reflecting an athletic youth, he was on the International Olympic Commission.  He was also a lawyer in New York City, when not otherwise serving in the capacities noted.  He was the Adjutant General of the New York National Guard during World War One.

Sherrill threatened the Nazi Germans with a lack of support for their Olympic games over oppression of German Jews, but he later became one of those individuals who was impressed with both Hitler and Mussolini, being blind to the oppression of fascism and instead impressed with what seemed to be the efficiency of those regimes, a naive erroneous impression that wasn't entirely uncommon on the political right at that time, just as being impressed with Stalin's Soviet Union wasn't uncommon in the political left.

Category:  Ambassador, Soldier, Athelete

Date added:  February 14, 2014.

Will Shortz

The famous "puzzlemaster" has never practiced law, but he has a 1977 JD from the University of Virginia.

Category:  Specialized Journalist.


W. Morgan Shuster 

Shuster was a New York City lawyer who also occupied a collection of civil servant roles.  That experience lead to an appointment to the Iranian government in Iran where he became the Treasurer General of the country. British and Russian opposition to his appointment ultimately caused his forced resignation, after which he wrote the book The Strangling of Persia to condemn British and Russian roles in that country.  He then turned to publishing and was successful at that as well.

 Category:   Civil Servant.  Author.  Publisher.

Date added:  August 8, 2013.


Persifor Frazer Smith

Smith was a successful New Orleans lawyer who entered the Army, through the Militia, during the Mexican War and stayed in it thereafter.  He was California's last military governor.

Category:  Soldier

Date added:  August 10, 2013.


Ben Stein

Ben Stein is, by all accounts, a genius from a family of geniuses. The economist was also the valedictorian of Yale's 1970 law school class.  Stein is eclectic in the extreme, and may be one of the few on this list who is actually widely known to have occupied a variety of careers.  He came to the public's attention as the dry teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Category:  Economist.  Actor.  Author.

James B. Stewart 

Stewart is a writer for the New Yorker, but he's also a Harvard Law School graduate who worked as an associate for a New York firm in the 1970s.  Stewart states that he realized that the law wasn't for him when it occurred to him that all the partners in his firm loved the law, whereas he only enjoyed his work.

Category:  Writer


Wanda Stopa

Stopa was a brilliant Chicagoan of Polish extraction who achieved the status of Assistant U.S. District Attorney in that town in the early 1920s, a phenomenal achievement for a woman of that time. 

Perhaps a little too much of a woman of her (young) age, however, she married a Russian ex patriot count but engaged in an affair with a rich advertising executive.  Wishing to divorce her husband and marry the executive, she was unsuccessful in advancing her plea to him to leave his wife, so she went to shoot him.  She's remembered today for missing a shot at the executive's ailing wife, hitting instead a gardener, who was killed by the shot.

Category:  Murderer.  Socialite.

Date added:  November 2, 2013.


Jerry Springer

I feel even less enthusiastic about Springer than I do about Rivera, but there you go. The television personality has been a politician and is a 1968 graduate of Northwestern.  I'm sorry to say that I don't find his law degree to be a surprise, as his presentation resembles that of certain attorneys really.

Category:  Politician.  Broadcast Personality.

George Templeton Strong

Strong was a well known New York lawyer and professor of law who also started writing a diary at age 15.  He wrote in it nearly every day, and the work, discovered in the 1930s, is a significant first hand account to events of his era.  A significant and wealthy lawyer in his day, today its his journal, started at age 15, for which he is remembered.

Category:  Private Journalist

Date Added:  August 15, 2013 


Kevin Stroud

Stroud, like Jamie Jeffers, is a lawyer who has made a public name for himself as a blogger on a topic involving English history, albeit in his case, on the history of the English language.  Unlike Jeffers, he remains in practice, but he is included here as his public name, at least to the extent I'm aware of it, has been in blogging on this topic with a very in depth treatment of the same.

Category:  Historian

Date added:  May 29, 2013.

Theodor Strünck 

Theodore Strunck was a German lawyer who became the director of an insurance company for which he was in house counsel.  That isn't particularly remarkable and is actually a fairly typical career path for in house lawyers. What is remarkable, however, is that he was one of several lawyers who took part in the July 20, 1944, effort to overthrow Hitler, for which he paid with his life.

Category:  Business executive.  Revolutionary.

Theophilus Scholasticus

I know almost nothing about Theophilus other than that he was an early Christian Martyr.  He must have been a scholarly man, due to his title Scholasticus and he was known as "the lawyer."  Based on that, we can assume that this early Christian martyr was a lawyer.

Category:  Saint.

Date Added:  August 1, 2013.


Alfred Terry

General Alfred Terry is most famously recalled for being George A. Custer's commander in 1876, and having given Custer somewhat ambiguous field instructions when Custer's command detached from the main body of Terry's expedition.  But prior to that he had graduated from Yale's College of Law and had Clerk of the Superior Court of New Haven County, Connecticut.  He entered military service during the Civil War and remained in the Army after the war.

Because he was a lawyer, some have accused his somewhat vague instructions to Custer as being intentional, so that he could disavow any disaster and take credit for any success, but that's almost certainly untrue, and his instructions simply reflected field conditions.

Category:  Soldier

Date Added:  April 6, 2014


James Francis Thomas

Thomas was an odd character with an odd story, who is mostly remembered today as being the military advocate assigned to defend Harry Morant and his fellows in their famous Boer War court martial.  He's universally regarded as having given them a brilliant and effective defense, but he of course lost the case none the less (and perhaps should have).  Be that as it may, that's what Thomas is remembered for today.

Thomas was a New South Wales Town and Country Solictor, however, while not soldiering.  He was occupying that position when he volunteered to serve with those forces being raised in Australia during the Boer War.  He was an effective combat officer, and saw some harrowing service in the Boer War.  He was embittered, however, with his experiences in regards to the Morant court martial, and participated in the the writing of Scapegoat of the Empire by one of the surviving defendants.  He also owned an interest in a newspaper at this time. 

The publication of the book seems to have lead directly to a long decline after the Boer War, or perhaps more accurately it was part of the process that began with the Morant trial. At the time of the book's publication Thomas still held a commission in the Australian army, which he resigned due to some controversy with the army regarding the book.  He began to limit his activities more and more, and practice law less and less.  He seems to have had trouble financially which resulted, in part, from over-sympathizing with his client's plights, making his choice of law as a career a bad one.  He even ended up a defendant in a suit by one of his former clients regarding his handling of her financial affiards, and he essentially refused to defend himself.  This lead to his disbarment in the late 1920s.  He speant the remainder of his life eeking out a living offering quasi legal services, dieing in 1946 at age 81, on a property outside of the town of his residence, where he had asked to be taken.

His inclusion in this list is probably questionable.  Unlike the other personalities listed here, Thomas never really fully quit practicing law.  But much of his early life was spent being a soldier, with perhaps the rest of his life spent dealing with its consequences.  Technically the last 17 years of his life were spent outside the profession, as he had been disbarred.  He is a heroic, tragic, figure.

Category:  Soldier. 

Scott Turow

Author Scott Turow is a lawyer who worked in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago from 1978 until 1986.

Category:  Author.

Date Added:  April 12, 2014.


Hiram Tuttle

Hiram Tuttle was a Boston lawyer from a family of lawyers.  But what he's remembered for is being a legendary Army equestrian who twice medaled in the Olympics.   Largely self taught as a horseman, Tuttle entered the Regular Army as a career officer after World War One.

Tuttle Riding:

Tuttle and his horse:

Tuttle going down an embankment:

Tuttle jumping, October 1920:

Tuttle's Horse

Category:  Soldier.  Olympian.

Date added:  July 28, 2013.

Woodrow Wilson

There have, of course, been a variety of lawyers who have been President and I've generally omitted politicians unless there was some other reason to include them. That exception is why I've included Woodrow Wilson here.

Wilson is generally remembered for his academic career prior to being a politician, but he was also a lawyer.  He only attended law school for one year, but that did not hinder a person from taking the bar at the time.  He passed the Georgia bar, but only practiced for a little over one year.  Wilson was, of course a reform politician, and once quipped; "I used to be a lawyer, but now I am a reformed character."

Category:  Education.  Politician.

Date added:  May 29, 2013.


Owen Wister.

Wister is famously remembered for being the author of the novel The Virginian.  But, before that he was a Harvard educated lawyer.

He didn't like it much, however, and never really wanted to be one.  It was due to his father's urgings that he pursued that career, but only briefly.  Once he bagan to write, he left he law behind.  Wister, it should be noted, didn't stop writing with The Viginian, which is his only really remembered work today, but also wrote other texts, including ones that could be regarded as philosophical.

Category:  Author.

Nathan Witt

Witt was another Harvard Law graduate who was exposed by Whitaker Chambers of being a member of the Ware Group, a Washington D. C. Communist cell.  By that time Witt had risen to the position of Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board and resigned from it, as his hard left views were well known and generated a great deal of opposition.  He invoked his Fifth Amendment Rights when investigated by the House Unamerican Affairs Committee and while his membership in the Ware Group seems established, if that meant anything more than that he was a Communist party member at the time he was acting as a Democratic bureaucratic is unknown.  He may have become the leader of the Ware Group following Ware's death.

Category:  Civil Servant with radical views.

Date Added:  November 20, 2013.


Greta Van Susteren

Known to most as a Fox News commentator, Van Susteren is a 1979 Graduate of Georgetown Law School and served on its faculty.  She switched to broadcast journalism as a journalist during the O. J. Simpson trial.

Category:  Broadcast Journalist.

Berthold Alfred Maria Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg

The Von Stauffenberg name is famous to history as Claus Von Stauffenberg was the individual who was instrumental in putting together the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazis and was also the person chosen to plant the bomb that was to actually kill Hitler.  Less well known is that almost every member, male and female, of the Von Stauffenberg family was in the plot in some fashion.

Berthold Von Stauffenberg was Claus's younger brother.  Generally, serving in the military seems to have been the career path for the Von Stauffenbergs, if they were not simply semi idle aristocrats, but that normally reflected itself in an Army career in the cavalry branch.  Both Claus and one of his other brothers, for example, took this path, and cavalrymen from the Paderborn Westphalia region of Germany were particularly prominent in the July 20 plot.  Berthold, however, was not a career military man and was actually a lawyer.  He joined the Germany Navy in 1939, where he served as an officer, albeit principally in a legal capacity.  Like the other Von Stauffenbergs he was in on the July 20 plot.  He was executed for his role in it.

I should note here that there were a fair number of other lawyers involved in the July 20 plot.  The reason that they are not listed here is that were not in other occupations at the time.  This is particularly remarkable as many of them had resisted the Nazis throughout the 1930s in their careers, something that was particularly difficult for professionals to do, and which took an enormous amount of personal courage.

Category:  Naval Officer.  Revolutionary.


Related Posts:

They were Clerics.

They were Farmers.

They had been soldiers.


Pat and Marcus said...

I'm sometimes surprised by what threads become popular, in the context of this low readership blog, and which ones do not. This one has become popular, but nobody is commenting on it. That doesn't mean that zillions of people hare reading it by any means, and it had far viewer views than the most popular entry here. Still, people are apparently researching this topic and hitting on it this post.

As part of that, I've found that people will tell me personal stories that sort of relate to this post, but not about the famous. Rather, it'll be about people they know. As there are now enough of these to note them, and as they come up in this context, but as they also do not directly relate do the thread enough to try to make an entry here regarding it, I'll just note them in a few comments. Some are pretty interesting, so it's probably worth doing.

Pat and Marcus said...


One thing that has happened since I started this post is that I've run across quite a few clergymen who started off as lawyers. And I'm finding that quite a few people know some clergymen who were. I do myself.

In thinking on it, the first person I knew to take this route was a young lawyer who was a year or two in front of me in law school. I didn't know him in law school, and he seemed well established when I first was practicing, but he really wasn't. I don't know the true story, and only received a very edited, and probably jaundiced version of it, but he left the big law firm he was with, either voluntarily, or because he was an associate and there was no place to go, that being pretty common at the time (and much less so now). Anyhow, when he left, he left for the seminary and became a Protestant minister of some type. After graduating from that he came back to this town and was a minister of a church, briefly, in a neighboring town. He now works in a different town for an entity that advocates for the disabled, so I don't really know how the full story developed.

That really surprised me at the time, just out of law school as I was, but I've seen the same story, in different ways, play out quite a bit since then. A few years after that, I was defending a case brought by a lawyer in Laramie who seemed to lack a lot of the basic information we'd expect in a case. In depositions he revealed to me that he had never expected to be lead counsel in the case, and that another lawyer had taken it on and asked him to associate with him, as he had trial experience. He agreed, and that lawyer ultimately disappeared, literally. The remaining lawyer ultimately tracked him down in a seminary out of town. He wasn't happy about it, as the lawyer in seminary had just flat out abandoned the entire matter, pulled up stakes, and entered the seminary.

To be continued . . .

Pat and Marcus said...

Clergy, continued

Not to long after that, a very well established lawyer here in town left his practice to become a Catholic priest. Again, I sort of knew him, but not well. People who knew him well were not too surprised, as he was apparently a very religious man and, in his 40s, he'd never married. Catholic seminary involves a period of discernment, and he didn't make it through it, which is also quite common. Upon reentering practice he found his soul mate, apparently, and married. I don't hear much about him now, but I believe he's still practicing.

Soon thereafter I tried a case in which a well known court reporter, very soon after the case, left for the seminary. That also surprised me. But it wasn't too long after that in which I had a case in which two lawyers were suing my client over a personal injury matter. One quit the practice of law and left for the seminary, leaving the one who didn't like to do trial work to do just that.

Here some years ago a very prominent trial lawyer quit to become a rabbi. That surprised many people, but he'd been through a terrible experience in which his child had been deathly ill with cancer. That lead him to explore his faith, and he ultimately walked away from the law for it. And not only did he decide to become a rabbi, he opted to attend an Ultra Orthodox Rabbinical school in Israel, showing the depth to which he'd become committed.

To be continued. . . .

Pat and Marcus said...

Clergy, continued.

Finally, I know two Catholic Deacons who are practicing lawyers. Catholic Deacons go through years of study before they are ordained in that role, and the preparation is so extensive that it surpasses the level of study that many Protestant ministers have. It's not easy.

Are these examples surprising? To most they would be, but over time, I've come to where I no longer am surprised at all. Indeed, it seems like a pretty natural thing to me. Lawyers are generally polymaths to start with, so that their inquiries would extend beyond their profession is hardly surprising. And they're in a field in which they frequently encounter the badly wounded who are seeking help. Often the law doesn't offer that help. And, very familiar with the intellectual study of order, the study of jurisprudence can naturally leads to the study of natural law, and that to theology. That some lawyers would follow their inclinations to want to help into an intellectual endeavor that offers more promise of helping than the law affords is not surprising. Indeed, I've often thought that those law students who really mean that they want to have a "profession that helps people" should consider another one of the three classic professions, and some ultimately do.

Pat and Marcus said...


I've noted a lot of instances of lawyers who were also soldiers, which isn't hugely surprising. But this is another one where I've learned some surprising things.

To start with, I should note that I haven't dealt with JAG officers much, or at all, and they are Servicemen. The reason is that they're obviously lawyers, so that isn't surprising.

What did surprise me, however, is that the JAG Corps is a fairly recent innovation in the various services. I'd have thought that it went way back, but it really doesn't. The modern JAG Corps is really a post World War Two innovation. As late as World War Two only the Army really had dedicated full time JAG officers. The Navy, when it did trials, not only didn't have full time JAG officers, it simply assigned officer to that role irrespective of their lack of legal training. If it had officers available who were lawyers, it ran would assign them from their other duties, like the Barney Greenwald character in The Caine Mutiny, but it didn't bother with full time lawyers.

Not only was that the case, but as late as the Vietnam War simply being a lawyer didn't mean that you would be an officer if drafted. A lot of young lawyers in World War Two served in the war as enlisted men, even in an era when a lot of wartime officers had no college degrees at all. You'd have thought that an advanced degree would get you a commission for sure, but it did not. And this was the case as late as the Vietnam War.

I've personally known two lawyers who experienced this, both post World War Two. One was drafted in the 1950s and ultimately served as a JAG officer, but not before he was first assigned to Cook and Bakers School. When he was conscripted the Army had enough JAG officer and didn't need anymore, although it shortly did thereafter. Another joined ROTC while in law school with the goal of serving out his service time, in an era when everyone was getting drafted, as a JAG officer. When he graduated the Army was, however, short of reservists and actually assigned him as an enlisted man to an Army Reserve unit.

Much more surprising, however, is that I'm familiar with a Harvard Law graduate entering the Army as a private in the 1990s. I don't know what became of him, but that's a pretty radical career change of direction, if perhaps just a temporary nature.

Pat and Marcus said...


Here's one that I wouldn't have thought of either, but there's a few interesting local examples.

For starters, when I was first practicing law there was a lawyer here in town who did Social Security law. He was the only one in town who did it. He left that, however, to complete a teaching degree. That surprised everyone, but perhaps not as much as the fact that he only taught very briefly. I don't know why, but he left the position he had here at one of the high schools to go back into law, but as a public defender, which he's now done for a long time.

The first person to ever suggest to me that I should consider the law was also an educator who was a lawyer. That person was a very long serving community college history professor. I was surprised to learn that he was a lawyer when my father told me that, but he was. The only law he'd ever practiced was as a Navy JAG officer. Based on a paper I turned in, while a student in my class, he made the comment that I had an analytical mind and should consider the law, something that had not occurred to me up until that point.

A former partner of mine also took this path. He left the law, which was his third career path, for education. After many years of teaching in another state, I believe that he's retired from that, and now has hung out shingle again.