See the law schools that trained influential attorneys. A law degree often leads to a career in politics or government. Many people apply to law school with the hope that their legal credentials will allow…
See the law schools that trained influential attorneys.
A law degree often leads to a career in politics or government. Many people apply to law school with the hope that their legal credentials will allow them to become powerful judges or politicians. And other law school hopefuls dream of becoming great trial attorneys or appellate litigators who can fight and win contentious legal battles.
Aspiring lawyers who dream of shaping public policy or influencing society may want to emulate one of the following famous attorneys. Keep reading to find out where 14 prominent lawyers attended law school.
Before becoming a U.S. Supreme Court chief justice and arguably the most influential jurist in U.S. history, John Marshall read law at the College of William and Mary. (During Marshall’s lifetime — the mid-18th to early 19th century — it was common for aspiring lawyers to study law without obtaining an academic degree in law.) Marshall is the author of the Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court decision, which created a legal precedent for the idea that the judicial branch of U.S. government can serve as a check on both executive and legislative authority through judicial review. His legacy lives on whenever a U.S. court strikes down laws that it deems to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Before becoming an iconic judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a legal champion of various liberal causes. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and served as the organization’s general counsel for many years. During her tenure at the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginsburg filed numerous gender discrimination cases, including six cases which she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, five of which she won.
An eloquent trial lawyer and American Civil Liberties Union member, Clarence Darrow delivered poetic courtroom speeches which made him famous in the mid-19th and early 20th century, and his life inspired the hit Hollywood film “Inherit the Wind.” Darrow was one of the nation’s first labor lawyers, and he represented prominent union leaders in legal disputes. He also was an accomplished criminal defense attorney, who successfully argued against the implementation of the death penalty in the notorious Leopold-Loeb murder case. Later on, Darrow garnered national attention when he defended a schoolteacher who taught evolution despite a state prohibition in a famous legal case about the separation of church and state which is now known as the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice. As a moderate conservative, O’Connor often provided the decisive swing vote in Supreme Court cases about hot-button political issues, ranging from abortion to affirmative action to the Bush v. Gore presidential election recount dispute.
Long before the #MeToo movement, Gloria Allred gained a national reputation for representing women who accused powerful men of sexual harassment, and she has been nicknamed the “master of the press conference.” Allred has filed lawsuits against multiple male celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, including Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.
Jeff Sessions — a firebrand conservative politician — spent two decades as a U.S. Senator representing Alabama before becoming the leader of the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. Sessions is known for his support of mandatory minimum prison sentences, his advocacy for strict enforcement of immigration and drug laws and his opposition to affirmative action.
During the Obama administration, Keith Harper became the first Native American appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador. He represented the U.S. at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland. Harper is now a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend and has a long track record of filing and winning lawsuits on behalf of Native American individuals and tribes. He represented Native American plaintiffs in a class action trust fund lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar, which ultimately settled for $3.4 billion, the largest settlement of a lawsuit against the federal government in U.S. history.
As the former attorney general of the state of Mississippi, Moore was the first U.S. state attorney general to sue tobacco companies for causing harm to public health. He helped lead negotiations between tobacco companies and multiple U.S. states for one of the largest settlements in U.S. history: the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a multi-billion dollar settlement that tobacco companies are obligated to pay in perpetuity. He is currently organizing national litigation against opioid pharmaceutical companies.
Before she was elected to the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren gained national prominence as a consumer advocate. Warren is the person who originally proposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency that monitors whether businesses are compliant with federal consumer protection laws. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, Warren advocated for tough penalties for Wall Street firms that had contributed to the financial crisis, and during that period, Time magazine identified her as the “New Sheriff of Wall Street.”
As the son of a great American poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was known for his many lyrical legal opinions, many of which focused on free speech rights, and he was nicknamed “The Great Dissenter.” He developed the “clear and present danger” test for determining whether the government can restrict speech without violating the First Amendment, arguing that the government may only restrict speech which poses an imminent threat to public welfare.
Thurgood Marshall was an accomplished appellate attorney who is best known for legally challenging racially discriminatory public policies. As counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Marshall won the groundbreaking Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which eventually led to the desegregation of U.S. public schools. He was subsequently appointed to be a U.S. solicitor general, representing the federal government before the Supreme Court; later, he became a Supreme Court justice.
Floyd Abrams — an appellate attorney who specializes in media law and the First Amendment — has argued before the Supreme Court many times and his legal arguments have been integrated into multiple Supreme Court opinions that relate to free speech issues. Abrams is known for his legal arguments in favor of expansive free speech rights and his view that the government ought to have extremely limited authority when it comes to regulating speech.
Kevin “Seamus” Hasson founded the Becket Fund, a law firm that focuses on religious freedom issues, which regularly argues before the Supreme Court and has won numerous Supreme Court cases. His firm has represented plaintiffs of diverse faiths, ranging from evangelical Christianity to Roman Catholicism to Islam to Santería.
Barry Scheck is the co-founder and director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit which helps wrongfully convicted prisoners prove their innocence and gain their freedom. He famously was part of the “dream team” that defended O.J. Simpson in his murder trial, a legal team which included other legendary defense lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Johnnie Cochran.
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