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.
Law school he attended without earning a formal degree: William & Mary Law School in Virginia
U.S. News law school rank: 37 (tie)
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.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Law school where she earned her law degree: Columbia Law School in New York
U.S. News law school rank: 5
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.
Law school that he attended without receiving a formal degree: University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Law School
U.S. News law school rank: 8
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
Law school where she earned her law degree: Stanford Law School in California
U.S. News law school rank: 2
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.
Law school where she earned her law degree: Loyola Law School Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University
U.S. News law school rank: 65 (tie)
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: University of Alabama School of Law
U.S. News law school rank: 27 (tie)
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: New York University School of Law
U.S. News law school rank: 6
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: University of Mississippi School of Law
U.S. News law school rank: 101 (tie)
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.
Law school where she earned her law degree: Rutgers Law School in New Jersey
U.S. News law school rank: 74 (tie)
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.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Law school where he earned his law degree: Harvard Law School in Massachusetts
U.S. News law school rank: 3
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: Howard University School of Law in the District of Columbia
U.S. News law school rank: 128 (tie)
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: Yale Law School in Connecticut
U.S. News law school rank: 1
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
Law school where he earned his law degree: University of Notre Dame Law School in Indiana
U.S. News law school rank: 24 (tie)
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.
Law school where he earned his law degree: University of California–Berkeley School of Law
U.S. News law school rank: 9 (tie)
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.
Find law schools that lead to solid job prospects.
If you know what type of lawyer you want to become and are trying to identify the right law school to help you pursue that calling, it’s important to find a school that offers relevant coursework and a track record of placing graduates in the type of field you desire.
Regardless of what type of law interests you — whether it is corporate law or environmental law — U.S. News articles offer guidance on finding the right J.D. program to seek a career in that field. Look up employment figures in the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings to get a sense of how well law schools prepare students for the working world. Follow U.S. News Education on Twitter and Facebook for more information about law schools.
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