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Brian J Smith July 30, 2014

It’s not that uncommon for people with law degrees to go on to work in another field. Some lawyers, even those who practiced for years, decide to take their lives in a new direction. There are actually quite a few notable people with law degrees who you might not expect. The more obvious examples of famous people who have law degrees include many U.S. Presidents, as well as other world leaders such as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. However, a number of well-known, law degree-holding figures, including writers, actors, and athletes, just might surprise you. Here are some of the most famous people you didn’t know were lawyers.


Washington Irving, who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” once admitted that he just barely passed the bar, and when John Grisham was a trial lawyer, his first-hand experience with a heart-wrenching rape case inspired him to write “A Time to Kill.”


Henri Matisse studied law in Paris to please his lawyer father, but shortly after starting a job as a law clerk, he came down with appendicitis. During his recovery, his mother bought him oil paints, and he never returned to law. Wassily Kandinsky, an abstract artist, studied law and economics at the University of Moscow and taught both subjects during his younger years.


Before Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he was a lawyer, and he continued to practice long after writing the national anthem and even served as the U.S. District Attorney. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli originally started singing at Italian piano bars to earn money as a law student.

Actors and celebrities

Jerry Springer

Ozzie Nelson, star of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” graduated with a law degree from Rutgers in 1930, and John Cleese, legendary comedian and co-founder of Monty Python, has a law degree from Cambridge, though he never practiced. Known for his smarts, Ben Stein got his start as a lawyer and was even the valedictorian of his Yale Law School class in 1970. Jerry Springer has a law degree as well. He was even a campaign aide to Robert Kennedy before later landing a radio show in the 1980s and beginning to gain celebrity.


Husband-and-wife team Nina and Tim Zagat, creators of the Zagat Survey, met while attending Yale Law School, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston was a lawyer before her and her husband created the character “Wonder Woman.”


San Francisco 49er Steve Young won a Super Bowl and completed a law degree in the same year (1994), and after winning figure skating gold medals at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics, Dick Button went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Whether you’re a celebrity (with or without a law degree) or an “average Joe” like the rest of us, if you get into trouble with the law, the Las Vegas defense attorneys of the Brian J Smith law firm can help.