5 Famous People Who Were Lawyers: How to Rise to the Top and Become Well-Paid?

One of the traditional professions that are still considered to be a sign of high ambition (and achievement) is that of a lawyer. There’s a long study period to get qualified, but it is also a lucrative job with many lawyers earning huge salaries. Some lawyers even gain celebrity status on a global scale. Here are five celebrity lawyers who are known around the world.

Abraham Lincoln

There are many routes to the top and the law has proved successful for a number of American presidents – you can’t get much higher than that. Former US presidents who were lawyers before entering politics are Andrew Jackson, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, and arguably the most famous of them all, Abraham Lincoln.

A topic of many a law essay, the 16th President of the United States (4 March 1861 – 15 April 1865) passed the bar in Springfield, Illinois in 1836. Before his election, he practiced civil and criminal law, and it is said that he and his partners handled more than 5,000 cases.

Jerry Springer

Named Gerald Springer, this former lawyer became famous for his dramatic tabloid talk show which he followed with a courtroom show, Judge Jerry. Springer earned a B.A. degree in political science from Tulane University in 1965 and his Juris Doctor degree in 1968 from Northwestern University. He worked as a political campaign advisor to Robert Kennedy and began to practice law after Kennedy’s assassination. Still harboring political ambition, Springer ran for the Senate in 1970. After a stint as Mayor of Springfield, Ohio he unsuccessfully sought the democratic nomination for governor of Ohio in 1982.

John Grisham

Today he is one of the greatest living authors, but John Grisham was a practicing lawyer before successfully penning his first legal thriller. Having graduated from Mississippi State University, Grisham earned his J.D. degree at the Mississippi School of Law in 1981.

Like many other famous lawyers, Grishma had a political career. While practicing criminal law, he also served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1983 to 1990. John Grisham has written over 40 books including 28 consecutive number-one fiction bestsellers. A number have been made in major motion pictures.

Nelson Mandela

Like other famous lawyers whose other career paths have overshadowed their law qualifications and practice, Nelson Mandela is more known as the first black President of South Africa. Most people are aware of this and that he was held prisoner on Robben Island for 27 years, but it is not common knowledge that he was a fairly poor student who has failed to complete his degree a number of times.

He finally obtained a B.A. degree and a certification that enabled him to become a lawyer. In 1952, together with Oliver Tambo (who followed him as president), Mandela founded South Africa’s first black law firm. He may have needed law assignment help, but it didn’t stop him from being recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, jointly with former President Frederik Willem de Klerk.

Mohandas Gandhi

Credited with leading the movement for Indian Independence from Britain, Mohandas Gandhi, became known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi through his policy of peaceful non-cooperation. Gandhi studied law at University College London and was called to the bar at Inner Temple.

He returned to his native India to practice law but emigrated to South Africa. Here he first became an advocate for the rights of the oppressed and challenged the government’s attempt to extend apartheid to include Indians and Asians, spearheading the campaign for Indians’ right to vote in the country. Successful, he returned to India in 1915 and joined the India National Congress. Not taking up the law again, he focused on freeing his country from the mighty British Empire India was granted independence in 1947.

As you can see from the examples of famous lawyers above, it was other achievements that eclipsed their law careers. There are lawyers who become famous as lawyers and their criminal justice achievements. Examples are Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian (legal aids in the O.J. Simpson murder trial), Supreme Justice Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, and Janet Reno, the first female Attorney General of the United States.

If you look online, you’ll also find a laundry list of famous people who successfully obtained a law degree but never began practicing as a lawyer, choosing a different career path entirely. Some are Gerard Butler, Rebel Wilson, John Cleese, Andrea Bocelli, and Henri Matisse. They went through the long process of studying for a degree, writing dozens of law essays, and maybe needing a little law assignment help only to never put their legal knowledge to use.

How to Become a Successful and Well-paid Lawyer

The basic steps for becoming a lawyer in the USA are:

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
  2. Pass a law school admission test
  3. Get accepted at a law school and earn a Juris Doctor degree
  4. Pass the Bar exam

It will help your future career if you are a high-achieving graduate and get yourself noticed through your extra-curricular activities in college and law school – be an advocate for change or an activist on campus, edit the college law newspaper, get paid work or intern at a law firm, join a debating society, volunteer and also have some non-law related activities and interests.

There’s no guarantee of employment in a top law firm but make yourself into a candidate they want.

Not only do you need legal knowledge, but there are other skills you should have and can demonstrate. These soft skills include:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Information analysis and research
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Attention to detail

Don’t just include these as buzzwords on your resume – have demonstrable examples.

You also need to show you are resilient and self-confident, have initiative, and are able to work under pressure.

You’ll become a top lawyer by winning cases and if you can attract high-profile clients, you’ll get noticed and be remunerated according to your skill and standing in the legal community.

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