You expect law degrees of certain individuals. Most American presidents went to law school, as did our current president: Barack Obama who graduated from Harvard Law School. Judges must attend law school in order to become an appointed judge – John G. Roberts of the Supreme Court attended Harvard Law as well. In addition, a survey of the Fortune 500 CEO’s in 2012 listed 46 who held law degrees, out of almost 500 CEO’s. One CEO with a legal background is Francis S. Blake, the CEO of Home Depot, who went to Columbia University Law School.
But what about worldwide celebrities? Aren’t we typically surprised when they reveal a law degree in their past?
Here are six famous individuals who all share a single biographical fact in common: they all earned law degrees. They all practiced law for a time, and they’ve all gone on to do dramatically different things with their professional careers.
Interestingly enough, these six surprising ex-lawyers also hail from all over the world.
1. Irish actor Gerard Butler – Scottish native Butler attended the School of Law at Glasgow University, where he was president of the Law Society there. After graduation, he worked as a trainee lawyer at a firm in Edinburgh. At the time, Butler also played in a Scottish rock band, so late night gigs meant late morning arrivals to the law firm. He ended up fired from the law firm one week before he qualified as an actual lawyer. Needing a job, he went to London to pursue his dream of becoming famous. Butler has experienced great success and recognition through his roles in The Phantom of the Opera, P.S. I Love You, The Bounty Hunter, and Olympus Has Fallen, among many other films.
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2. British-American talk show host Jerry Springer – Before The Jerry Springer Show, Mr. Springer had quite the political career. Mr. Springer earned his J.D. from Northwestern University in 1968 after studying political science at Tulane University. He practiced law in Cincinnati at Frost & Jacobs (now Frost Brown Todd) for a time in between political pursuits. In 2008, Jerry gave the commencement address at Northwestern University’s School of Law, reflecting on his career, life, and legacy of law in his family – sharing that his father’s brother, who died in Auschwitz during World War II, was also a lawyer.
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3. and 4. American entrepreneurs Nina and Tim Zagat – Husband and wife team Nina and Tim, who founded the Zagat Survey, both have long and illustrious law careers. The two attended Yale Law School back in the 60s. After law school, Tim worked as a lawyer for two decades, serving as Chief Litigation Counsel of Gulf & Western Industries, Inc. for the last seven years. Nina worked as a lawyer at the Wall Street law firm Shearman & Stirling.
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5. Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi – Few might expect the famed advocate of non-violent civil disobedience to also have been a lawyer. In 1888, Gandhi attended University College London and earned his J.D. He failed as a lawyer in Bombay because he would not speak up in court, and then he traveled to South Africa to serve as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian traders. Gandhi’s law background formed the foundation of his pursuit of justice and peace for all people.
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6. Italian Singer Andrea Bocelli – The praised singer, known for his angelic voice and regarded by many as the most popular Italian and classical singer worldwide, Bocelli is an unexpected holder of a J.D. After law school at the University of Pisa, he worked for one year as a court-appointed lawyer. He reportedly enjoyed studying and practicing law, and has gone on to remarkable renown as a singer.
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The variety of J.D. holders – and what they’ve gone on to accomplish since attending law school – is fascinating indeed. What would the world be like if these people had continued to practice law instead of pursuing what made them famous? I guess we’ll never know, but for several of these individuals, we can be glad they did attend law school for the foundation it created for later successes.