Monday, October 13, 2014

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

This thread became way too bulky to survive as a workable post here in the main blog, so it now has its own blog page.

They Were Lawyers.

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.