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Would you put an attorney on retainer if you learned he didn’t have a law degree? Some of the most famous and well respected attorneys throughout American history never stepped foot inside a law school. A. Harrison Barnes, a lawyer (who did attend law school, by the way) and founder of says you might be surprised to learn who went the entirety of their adult lives practicing law without the nicely framed degree resting on an office wall that memorialized time spent in legal classrooms. Take a look:

  • Abraham Lincoln, who was an American president, was also a lawyer.  He never went to law school; of course, this was the 1800s.
  • Robert Storey, who served as the president of the American Bar Association between 1952 and 1953 is also a name we equate to brilliant legal strategists – but he never attended law school either.
  • The founder also tells us that once-senator and always controversial J. Strom Thurmond practiced as an attorney at one time, but did so minus the law degree.
  • A Mississippi senator for years, James O. Eastland also earned his living for awhile in the role of a lawyer without the benefit of a degree.
  • Brace yourself for this one – former senator and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase never attended law school!  Who knew?!
  • Another Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Roger B. Taney, is one more legal mind one who never obtained a law degree.

There are more, of course, but this list highlights some of a few of the American lawyers who made their marks without their degrees; unfortunately, that’s not an option for those considering law school today.  And too, many of these made those marks in the 1800s, but it’s always interesting to learn about these fearless leaders who made such an indelible mark on American history, says A. Harrison Barnes.  It just goes to show how determination is often what makes all the difference.

Of course, no list such as this is complete without a mention of famous folks who have made their mark in other career choices, even as they did so with their hard earned law degree in tow:

  • Mississippi lawyer John Grisham is perhaps best known for his legal thrillers, including The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill, but first earned his living in Jackson, MS as an attorney.
  • Gandhi, one of the most well known and respected spiritual leaders in Indian, was also a lawyer who fought for civil rights for all.
  • Former President Bill Clinton is an attorney, as well (and you thought he just sweet talked the ladies!).
  • Television news host and journalist Geraldo Rivera (born as Gerald Michael Rivera) is also an attorney.
  • Frank Kafka, best known for his fictional works, including “The Metamorphosis”, “The Castle” and “The Trial” was a lawyer in Prague, says the founder.

And there you have it – those you thought you knew well (or at least their educational backgrounds).

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