Legally Speaking: Not your everyday lawyers

John G. Browning Dec. 4, 2007, 4:29am

Law school tends to attract all types of people, even if they don't always make it all the way through to graduation.

While a number of U.S. presidents have been lawyers (and the likely nominees for 2008 from both parties appear to be continuing that pattern), several were actually law school dropouts. These ranks include Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who later finished Columbia Law School and went on to practice briefly), William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, and even Texas' own Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Other high-ranking law school dropouts in government include Donald Rumsfeld (although judging from how confusingly worded his press conferences were, he probably would've made a good lawyer), and a pre-Internet, pre-Nobel Peace Prize Al Gore (who dropped out of Vanderbilt Law School in the early 1970s).

Plenty of other world leaders gave law school a whirl.

Centuries ago, before taking on the Catholic Church, Martin Luther flirted with the idea of tackling legal causes. Karl Marx decided law school wasn't for him, although years later Fidel Castro found time to play baseball for and get a law degree from the University of Havana. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, left law school before helping found a nation. Canadian Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark both failed out of law school (although Mulroney eventually returned and graduated). For Saddam Hussein, good grades in law school proved more elusive than weapons of mass destruction, resulting in his departure.

Law school can be a bit stifling for more artistic, creative types. Literary giant Henry James left Harvard Law School, and long before she breathed life into literary legal icon Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee gave law school a try.

Many well-known musicians have started a legal education, but left before finishing. These include Ray Manzarek of the Doors; Paul Simon (Brooklyn Law School's loss was the music world's gain); Cole Porter; Cab Calloway; and Max Weinberg (in between drumming for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and bandleading for Conan O'Brien, he gave Cardozo Law School a shot). Then again, Frederick Dennis Green (lead singer of Sha-Na-Na) got so caught up in the rhythm of the law, he not only finished law school but even became a law professor.

While artists like Cezanne found law school an uninspired canvas, Matisse found work as a law clerk and Kandinsky not only received his law degree but returned to teach as well (let's hope his exams weren't as abstract as his art).

Actor Gerard Butler earned his law degree from Glasgow University (where he was president of the school's law society) long before donning the mask for "Phantom of the Opera" or taking up the Spartan shield of King Leonidas in "The 300."

Still, some of the people practicing law today would surprise you.
How many of us watching the cheerleaders on the sidelines of a pro football game find ourselves thinking "Wow, I bet she'd make a great lawyer?" Yet at least two NFL cheerleaders also happen to be licensed attorneys.

On Sundays, Liana Rothstein gives her all as a member of the ROAR, the Jacksonville Jaguars' cheerleading squad. But during the week, the 29-year-old brunette (a graduate of Emory University and Stetson University Law School) is a member of the Florida bar practicing with the law firm of Adams, Rothstein and Siegel.

"I think it's a little bit of a novelty that I'm a lawyer," says Ms. Rothstein. "But the women that I cheer with are all accomplished, very driven and dedicated, not to mention perfectionists to a certain degree. It's a big commitment."

On a different sideline, look for Carolina Panthers cheerleader Heather Johnson. Now in her second year as a member of the TopCats cheer squad, the lifelong dancer and aspiring yoga instructor also happens to be a 1999 graduate of Ohio University, a 2002 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Law School, and passed both the North Carolina and South Carolina bar exams. She practices real estate law and commercial transactions for Nexsen Pruet, a large law firm in the Carolinas. Johnson says both colleagues and clients are "hugely supportive" of her cheerleading.

Johnson tried out for the TopCats on a lark with a friend of hers, paralegal Lisa Kelly; they both made the squad (I've never worked for a law firm with two NFL cheerleaders, and my wife will probably never let me).

If finding out that your lawyer is an NFL cheerleader isn't surprising enough, how about discovering that your lawyer is barely old enough to vote? Meet 18 year-old law school graduate Kathleen Holtz, who just passed the California bar. The distaff Doogie Howser started college at age 10, and entered UCLA School of Law at 15, where she was a law review editor and moot court participant.

While the academic side of law school came easily to Ms. Holtz, her age posed certain unique challenges: she wasn't old enough to drive, sign the lease for her off-campus apartment, or even share in the celebratory champagne after passing the grueling bar exam. Holtz says that while maybe 90 percent of the other students were hostile toward her, a few supportive classmates and her professors stood behind her.

Holtz is now working for the Century City, Calif., law firm of Troy Gould. According to firm lawyer Chris Lilly, there was only one issue when she was hired. "We wondered about child labor laws. She was only 17 when we recruited her." Holtz is believed to be not only the youngest licensed attorney in California, but in the nation as well.

Family togetherness is a concept taken to an unusual extreme by the Snyder family of New York state. Not only are all nine members of the family practicing attorneys, but in 2006 they took the unusual step of all being admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's right � all nine: parents Donald and Mary Theresa Snyder; daughter Elizabeth; daughter Graceanne and her husband Patrick Quinn; daughter Mary and her husband Patrick Radel; son John; and Donald's brother Gerard. According to family patriarch Donald, it was "always a dream that we would all be admitted together."

After the names of each of the nine members of the Snyder clan were read aloud in the admission ceremony during the Supreme Court's usual Monday morning session, Chief Justice John Roberts had just one question.

He quipped "What, nobody wanted to be a doctor?"

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