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US Presidents Who Started Out As Lawyers

Presidents Day is this Monday, February 20. Political views, beliefs, or preferences aside, we can all agree that every person that has been a U.S president had an interesting story or history before they took the oval office.

Some of them were even legal professionals before leading our country. 25 of them, to be exact. Why? Well according to Legal Language, “a legal career can set the stage for a political career by permitting a person to build a powerful reputation and make the right contacts – people who can help fund political campaigns down the line.” It also helps that lawyers have some of the skills that are needed to be in a leadership position. These include being a logical thinker, great at arguing, intelligent, and having excellent communication skills.

US Presidents Who Were Lawyers

John Adams

Adams struggled at the beginning of his law career. It took him almost three years after opening his practice to win a case in front of a jury.

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was considered one of the nation’s best-read lawyers when he entered the Virginia Bar.

James Monroe

Monroe studied law under Thomas Jefferson, who later ended up being Monroe’s mentor and friend.

John Quincy Adams

Having a famous name doesn’t always help. Adams practiced law in Boston but had a hard time building his practice, even though his father was the Vice President at the time.

Andrew Jackson

Not all lawyers make a lot of money right away. When Jackson began practicing law, he had to supplement his income by working in various general stores in the towns he lived in.

Martin Van Buren

Because Van Buren’s parents couldn’t afford to send him to law school, he decided to get a job as a clerk in a law office and study law independently.

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore taught himself to read by studying – and even stealing – as many books as he could get his hands on. Even though he had little education, Fillmore was admitted to the New York Bar at 23 years of age.

Franklin Pierce

Pierce overcame alcoholism to become a successful trial lawyer.

James Buchanan

Buchanan, who was the only president to remain a life-long bachelor, studied law in Pennsylvania. His niece was his acting First Lady.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, who is often times ranked as one of the greatest presidents, attended school for less than a year before becoming a lawyer in 1833.

Rutherford Hayes

Hayes was a prominent defense attorney in Cincinnati and even took on controversial cases defending murderers and fugitive slaves.

Chester Arthur

Arthur, who was known in school as being a prankster, reportedly practiced law for over three decades.

Grover Cleveland

His experience as a clerk and a part-time law student is what helped him pass the bar. He never had any structured formal study.

Benjamin Harrison

After inheriting a sum of $800 from a dying relative, Harrison was able to move to Indiana with his wife and begin his law career.

William McKinley

While practicinglaw, McKinley’s firm was so successful that he was able to purchase a block of buildings in Canton, Ohio. This provided rental income for many years to come.

William Taft

Even though Taft was a lawyer, he was most famous as being the only president to serve on the Supreme Court after being in office.

Woodrow Wilson

Even though Wilson suffered from weak eyesight and dyslexia, he thrived and went on to be a lawyer in Georgia. He got bored, after practicing law for less than a year, and went on to study history and political science.

Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge, who studied law in Massachusetts, is the only president that was born on Independence Day. He was also the first president to appear in a movie with sound.

Franklin Roosevelt

Even though Roosevelt passed the bar, it was rumored that he greatly disliked being a lawyer and this is what fueled him to get into politics.

Richard Nixon

After graduating Duke University School of Law, Nixon hoped to join the FBI but never received a response to his letter. That led to him moving back to L.A, passing the bar, and later getting into politics. He is the only former president that was born and raised in California.

Gerald Ford

Ford was a superb football player and he passed up playing for the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions to go to Yale Law School.

Bill Clinton

It was at Yale Law School where Clinton met his future wife, fellow student Hillary Rodham. They married four years later.

Barack Obama

While at Harvard studying law, Obama was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Can A Lawyer Achieve Work-Life Balance?

Regardless of the path each president on this list took to achieve their goal of being a successful lawyer, and then president, they all did it by working hard and being an overachiever. It’s impossible to become a great lawyer without going the extra mile. It’s also impossible for a person to become a lawyer without a lot of sacrifices.

Lawyers are always busy working, studying, and sacrificing their personal and family time in order to be successful. This can affect a person’s personal time and work-life balance. It’s important to always find ways to balance everything so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. One thing that can always help lawyers is hiring additional help. For example, lawyers who hire legal answering services not only get help for their firm at a cheaper rate than hiring a receptionship, but it also frees them up so they can spend their time with family, friends, or whomever they choose.

It is best to consider all options and determine what is best for you. In the end, the main goal is to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. And hey, you never know, maybe one day the goal for you will be to transition into being a president too.

Written by

Marlene Cosain

Marlene Cosain

Marlene started with Abby Connect 7 years ago as a receptionist and was won over by the culture and care the company has for its employees. The minute she took her first phone call, she fell in love with helping people. Since then, Marlene has been a pivotal piece of growing Abby Connect – having been a long-time leader in hiring, training, developing, and managing the receptionist floor. Outside of work, Marlene and her husband also run an online retail business. Marlene’s personal mission as a certified Life Coach and as an Abby Way Co-Director is to inspire, empower and educate others in the Abby Way.

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