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October 23, 2012


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Alfred Brophy


Great question. Tangential point here--taking a fictional character--wasn't Rick Blaine in Casablanca a former criminal defense lawyer from New York? I dimly recall that Rennard Strickland wrote about this detail, which was left out of the movie.

Bill Reynolds

Paul Simon--"A nation turns its lonely eyes to you Joe DiMaggio"-- briefly attended Brooklyn Law School


Cole Porter did a year at Harvard law before dropping out (so that he could later help set the standard of the time for summary judgment).

John Steele

Karl Marx and Ted Bundy? (At least that's what I've often heard said.)


A few more. Henry James, Harper Lee, Seymour Hersh, Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Menand. Gabriel García Márquez dropped out in-not from-Columbia. I would especially like to have seen Márquez cross borders to give emanations and penumbras their due.

Richard Paschal

The great jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman had been accepted to Yale Law School but deferred. His father was also a fine sax player (Dewey Redman) and the story I've always heard is that his mother told him that he could take one year after graduating from Harvard undergrad to pursue music. He obviously never returned to the law track.

Bob Strassfeld

Long ago I collected the names of law dropouts (as distinguished by the subset of law school dropouts). I have since forgotten many. Some additional ones are Robert Schumann, Federico Fellini, and more recently, comedian Dmitri Martin. Bernie Kosar also took a course or two at Case Western before concluding that this football thing would work out.

Bob Strassfeld

Two more: Ray Manzarek of the Doors and Kathy Boudin, who was a first year law student at Case Western.

Howard Wasserman

I'm not sure if he graduated, but Peter Garrett, former lead singer of the Australian band Midnight Oil. Garrett entered politics when the band broke up and is now education minister.

BTW, I linked to this post on Prawfs and CoOp; we'll see if that readership comes up with anything.

Lawrence Cunningham

Benjamin Cardozo

Bob Power

Diane Sawyer, Bernie Madoff, and Bill Walton. Walton is probably more famous for his legendary surprise appearance at a Harvard law class discussing his contract. If anyone has the details, they would be worth sharing.


Carly Fiorina attended UCLA for a semester.

Larry Ross

Paul Cezanne


Savannah Guthrie, co-host of The Today Show, J.D. from Georgetown. (see

Also, see Mental Floss's "30 Famous People With Law Degrees" (


I just saw that your post-discusses those that opted out. My whole post has NOTHING to do with that- apologies!

Spencer Waller

Legendary anchorman Bill Kurtis has a JD from UCLA.

Mike Madison

Savannah Guthrie (who actually practiced law for a while) and legendary anchorman Bill Kurtis (who, apparently, did not) aren't law school dropouts.

Bill Reynolds

Justice Robert Jackson

Bob Strassfeld

I don't know if you were looking for people who dropped out before getting a degree but practiced law. That seems like a very different category of people. It was common practice for would be lawyers to do a little bit of law school in addition to an apprenticeship, or to attend just enough law school to begin a practice. Clarence Darrow, for instance, if my memory is correct, attended Michigan for a year before starting his law practice. Many of his contemporaries similarly abandoned law school but not the law.

Orin Kerr

If Gene Kelly had done to law school,would he have been Suing in the Rain?

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