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Famous Law School Dropouts

Neon Exit sign

This semester was a tough one. None of the subjects came to you easily, the motivation to open a textbook was virtually non-existent, and the most recent round of exam preparation could best be described as ‘hellish’. Needless to say, it’s been a loooooooooong semester, and you’re not looking forward to another one.

Instead, you’re thinking about ditching the law school life and trying your hand at… well, anything that isn’t law. Despite what some people might tell you, dropping out of law doesn’t mean you’ll be doomed to a lifetime of failure and regret. Here’s proof…

Politics seems to be a rather common pursuit for the reformed law student. Six former American Presidents decided that law school wasn’t for them, including Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, and Woodrow Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt apparently dropped law school because he found it ‘dull’. Nobel Peace Prize winner and almost-American President Al Gore also found political life more attractive than law school, as did billionaire Clive Palmer.

If you’re more of a creative type, take comfort. James Dean was studying a pre-law course before he decided that being a rebel without a cause was probably more his thing. Harper Lee dropped out of law, moved to New York and penned To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a similar story for Gabriel García Márquez who had a change of heart about law school in the 1950s, wrote such novels as One Hundred Years of Solitude, and ended up winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Ray Manzarek went on to play keyboard for a little band called The Doors, and Paul Simon ditched Brooklyn Law School to go and make records with his pal Art Garfunkel.

Philosopher and socialist Karl Marx and church reformer Martin Luther are also law school escapees.

So there you have it. Success is ultimately down to inspiration and hard work, rather than having a piece of paper that says ‘Bachelor of Laws’ or 'Juris Doctor' and has your name written on it in fancy calligraphy. If you want out of law school, everything will still work out okay in the end.If you’re feeling apathetic towards your law degree but find yourself secretly hoping that someone will convince you to tough it out, read our post on the Top Five Reasons to Stick with Your Law Degree.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 26 June 2012.

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