Famous Law School Dropouts

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt: This Rough Rider was a hypermasculine force of nature: Nothing could stand in the way of this future president. Big business, Tammany Hall, and Spaniards endured the sting of his big stick. But there was one obstacle that got the best of this bull moose: law school. After a year, Roosevelt dropped out of Columbia Law to pursue the action of the New York State Assembly. In reality, he was just bored. That happens to a lot of law students.

Ted Bundy: You can bet the University of Utah Law School doesn’t tout serial killer Ted Bundy in their promotional materials. Then again, his letters of recommendation included a sitting governor and state party chair. Pretty embarrassing all around…

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld: Another law school dropout from the Nixon administration. Hmm… Regardless, Rumsfeld matriculated at the Georgetown Law Center, before leaving to work for an Ohio congressman (apparently tuition was more modest back then). While Rumsfeld’s transcript is unavailable, you can safely assume that he never took courses in national security law or international courts.

Benjamin Cardozo: This guy ends up on the list due to a technicality (and the fact that he became a Supreme Court justice). After completing two years at Columbia Law, the faculty extended the program to three years. Rather than waste another year, Cardozo passed the bar and began practicing. Yeah, he was that good.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A generation after Cardozo, Roosevelt spent three years at Columbia Law – but never earned his law degree. Three years! Instead, he passed the New York bar (on his second attempt) and moved on to Wall Street. Roosevelt received a posthumous J.D. from Columbia Law in 2008. And he didn’t have to pack the school’s board to do it.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina: Imagine yourself in Fiorina’s shoes: She had to tell her dad – a law school professor – that she was dropping out of UCLA Law. His response? He didn’t think she’d amount to much. And he was right – for a short time. Then she earned master’s degrees at MIT and the University of Maryland, moved up the executive ranks at AT&T and Lucent, and eventually headed up Hewlett-Packard for six years.While Fiorina never earned a law degree, she knew how to pick someone with legal expertise: She received over $20 million in severance from Hewlett-Packard.

Michael Medved: You know the well is running dry when you start writing about political talk show hosts. Medved spent a year at Yale Law, where he was a classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton, before moving on to become a speechwriter, screenwriter, film critic, author, and occasional fill-in for college dropout Rush Limbaugh.

Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin: Law school is a joke, right? For Martin, law school is a big part of his standup routine. Heck, the guy even wore a gorilla suit to class. After earning a full-ride scholarship to NYU Law – and serving as a White House intern – Martin ditched the corporate law track after two years to pursue comedy (even though he’d never done it before). Why? As he noted in an interview with Maxim, he realized, “Crap, I am bored. This is not for me.” Probably sounds pretty familiar to any law student when they hit the two-month mark.

Gene Kelly: Another dropout who beat the odds, Kelly left the University of Pittsburgh in his first semester to become a dance teacher and choreographer. After movie successes like Anchors Aweigh and Singin’ in the Rain, Kelly emerged as one of the most bankable stars in the golden age of Hollywood.

Marv Levy: Think Vince Lombardi…only this coach lost four Super Bowls. Levy quit Harvard Law after three weeks to coach a junior varsity high school football team. Boy, he must have hated law school! Alas, Levy went on to earn a master’s degree in history (from Harvard, no less). Over his career, he coached at seemingly every level of football, going from 8-29-3 at the University of California to 112-70 with the Buffalo Bills. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

  • Jeremy Day

    As a career student that dropped out of law school near the end of my first semester, I’d actually say that it was one of the easiest curriculums that I had ever experienced.

    If you do the work, show up, and don’t quit . . . they won’t throw you out. You’re guaranteed to pass. I found my time in a radiology technician school to be much more difficult, time consuming, and stressful due to sheer volume.

    Law has very little to do with rote memorization. It is more about writing a specific way, learning how to research, and applying general principles.

    It was interesting, but law school is like many other schools. The professors didn’t like the divergence of the profession in comparison to the theory. So they returned to law school as professors.

    On a side note, it is quite an obnoxious crowd of people that apply to law school. I imagine it would be quite similar to politics. The two professions do seem to overlap one another greatly.

    Of course, I feel like any college is a mistake except for certain professions and certain personality types. Law school requires a slow, plodding, and consistent effort. That’s all. They aren’t necessarily the most intelligent and gifted people in the world. It’s just a number of them believe this to be true.

    • Not Impressed

      So says they guy who dropped out after the first semester….

      • Jeremy

        I’m not impressed either. At least we can agree on that. Hopefully, you are (or were) a law student, and you now are enjoying the fruits of your labor. By the way, unless you graduated from Harvard, Yale, etc. — you just bought yourself a very expensive piece of paper.

    • SkL

      This is ridiculous. Your school’s curve, the quality of teaching, the undergraduate major you had, and a WIDE variety of other factors determine whether or not you think something is “easy” and even after controlling for those variables, its irrelevant what you FEEL about the work. Its a qualitative and useless way to think about any system at all.

      • Jeremy

        Don’t believe for a moment that schools have curves independent of each other. Because of the competitive nature of various law schools, to create a curve independent or greatly more difficult of other institutions would be business suicide in terms of income for schools. They do not want to lose students. I repeat, they do not want to lose students. It is simple economics.
        Also, you should realize that schools, whether they are public institutions or privates institutions, are guided by their desire for profit. That is the reason schools have pools, gyms, extracurricular activities, etc…. They are competing with other institutions for your money.
        This is one skill that you need for law school. Critical thinking. And generally, this is the base skill taught (or at least they try to teach it) in all universities.
        They are tasked with creating the perception of an overwhelming and difficult educational process without actually losing many students (as long as they do the work in a timely manner).