Ten celebrities who went to law school

  • February 3, 2021
  • Blog

What do Nelson Mandela and Kim Kardashian have in common? Though a connection seems unlikely, both studied to become attorneys. Read on for a list of celebrities who went to law school. You’ll find a few surprises!

Kim Kardashian in a courtroom

Kim Kardashian – Photo credit: The Sun

John Grisham

The best-selling American author attended the University of Mississippi School of Law, graduating in 1981. He practiced law for nearly ten years in the small town of Southaven, Mississippi, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990. Grisham, during this time, would work on his first novel, often writing before heading to the office, after coming home at night, and even during courtroom breaks. He spent three years writing A Time to Kill, and it was published in 1988.

Rebel Wilson

Rebel Wilson envisioned her future as a lawyer or politician before she landed roles in hit movies like the Pitch Perfect franchise and Isn’t It Romantic. The Australian actress graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2009 with a B.A. in theatre and performance studies and a Bachelor of Laws. Her heart was set on pursuing law, but after suffering from a bout of malaria on a trip to Africa, she hallucinated that she won an Oscar, and knew from then on that acting was her future.

Andrea Bocelli

The renowned operatic tenor graduated from the University of Pisa with a law degree. While he was in law school, he didn’t lose his passion for singing. He would perform in piano bars to pay for his lessons. He worked for a year as a court-appointed defense attorney before giving up the law to focus full-time on singing.

Nelson Mandela giving a speech

Nelson Mandela – Photo credit: The New York Times

Nelson Mandela

The South African activist spent most of his adult life in prison for opposing the apartheid regime of his country, and was the first post-apartheid President of South Africa. He started working as a clerk in a law firm while taking correspondence courses with the University of South Africa. He was awarded his Bachelor’s degree in 1941. He then enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand and received his law degree there. He was instrumental in setting up South Africa’s first all-black law firm. He continued to practice until the 1950’s when he changed his focus to the people of his country.

Kim Kardashian

The reality star hopes to get her law degree through her current apprenticeship, rather than formally attend law school. Her ultimate goal is to become an attorney, like her late father. Thus far, she has successfully advocated for prison reform, helping to release multiple prisoners from unjust sentences. Though she has failed the “baby bar” twice, she has cited the struggle to prepare for the test amid a divorce, raising four children, shooting schedule, and running multiple businesses, from shapewear to cosmetics. She plans to take the California bar exam in 2022.

Barack & Michelle Obama

Though both started law school at Harvard in 1988, the power couple hadn’t met until they worked at the same Chicago law firm. Barack became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990, and graduated magna cum laude in 1991. Michelle moved on to work in the non-profit world and became vice president for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center. The couple moved on to make history as the 44th president of the United States and First Lady, respectively.

Gemma Chan

The Crazy Rich Asians star credits her law degree from Oxford University for giving her the memorization skills she needed as an actress. “I had to learn about 2,000 cases by heart, so I am fairly good at learning scripts quickly,” Chan says. The International law firm Slaughter & May offered her a job as a lawyer, but she turned down the opportunity to attend acting school at the Drama Centre London. The rest was history.

John Cleese

This actor of Monty Python Flying Circus fame earned his degree in law at Downing College, Cambridge. He never actually practiced law but became a well-known director, writer, comedian, and actor. He is best known for his roles in the films A Fish called Wanda, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. He currently holds the position of an honorary professor at Cornell University.

Jerry Springer

This T.V. host received his law degree from Northwestern University in 1968. He then worked in politics as an aid, had a short-lived attorney position in Cincinnati, worked on the city council, then became mayor of Cincinnati in 1977. He started his broadcasting career as a news anchor, and is now ultimately known for his infamous, drama-filled daytime talk show.