Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

The 10 Most Prominent Law School Dropouts in History

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Who needs to go to law school anyway? After all, bearers of newly minted law degrees aren't necessarily guaranteed a job in this economy -- though they are increasingly likely to be burdened by debt.

In a recent survey touting the success of some famous law school dropouts, Above the Law's Staci Zaretsky assures us that "if you were to drop out, you'd be in some pretty good company."

Here are 10 law-school losers who later got the last laugh by rising to the top of other professions:

  1. Teddy Roosevelt: Before our nation's 26th president turned to politics, he spent a year at Columbia Law School. But Roosevelt found law school "dull," according to a biographer, and dropped out to run for office. Five other U.S. presidents also dropped out of law school, according to Above the Law.

  2. Vince Lombardi: The legendary football coach attended night classes at Fordham University's law school while working for a finance company during the day, according to a biography on a website maintained by his family. But he soon dropped out to tackle his first coaching position.

  3. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Nobel Prize-winning author began legal studies in his native Columbia, but soon dropped out to become a journalist, and later a novelist.

  4. Al Gore: After stints as a journalist and in divinity school, the future U.S. senator and vice president attended Vanderbilt University Law School. He dropped out to run for Congress.

  5. Diane Sawyer: The "ABC World News" anchor finished one semester of law school before switching to TV news, according to her ABC News biography. She switched again to politics, working for the Nixon-Ford transition team, before returning to journalism.

  6. Paul Simon: Before the duo Simon & Garfunkel made their mark on American music with songs like "The Sound of Silence" and "Mrs. Robinson," Paul Simon was a student at Brooklyn Law School -- but only for a brief time.

  7. Harper Lee: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" began to work on her law degree while she was still an undergraduate in Alabama. But a year into the program, she discovered her true passion was to be a writer.

  8. Ray Manzarek: The famed keyboardist with The Doors dropped out of law school at UCLA, but later returned to attend the school's film program.

  9. Donald Rumsfeld: The two-time defense secretary was a law student at Georgetown, but told a talk show host he "dropped out of law school after a year and a half." He served in Congress before serving in several Republican administrations.

  10. Federico Fellini: The pioneering Italian filmmaker reportedly started out in law school, though a biographer claims there's no evidence he ever attended a class. Fellini later became a newspaper reporter and a writer before turning to film.

Related Resources:

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard