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.