Everybody knows someone who thought about going to law school but decided to do something else instead. And then there are those lawyers who left practicing to follow a different path. But whatever became of the law school drop out? You know, the guy who just stopped showing up to Criminal Law one day, or the woman who got up to go to the bathroom during Contracts and never came back—where did they go?
While we’re pretty sure most law school dropouts ended up in the gutter, crushed under the weight of a year and a half of loans and their own odium, a handful gained notoriety for something other than being a lawyer (though in the case of at least two members on this list, that isn’t a good thing). Here are our favorite (in)famous law school dropouts. How do you like them now?
1. Demetri Martin
After two years of a full ride at NYU Law, Demetri Martin called it quits and began working as a comedian, even though he wasn’t certain that comedy was a viable career option. In May, Martin told Believer Magazine that once he figured out what he wanted to do with his life, law school was a “waste of time.” [Believer Magazine]
2. Gabriel García Márquez
Like many great writers, Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez “had absolutely no interest in his studies” and dropped out of law school in Colombia in 1950. Ironically, the book that convinced him to abandon law was written by a law school graduate. “I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that,” Márquez said. “If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago.” The book? Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. [The Modern World]
3. Marco Antonio Barrera
Law students who found the Socratic Method intimidating probably shouldn’t follow in the shadowboxing footsteps of Marco Antonio Barrera who gave up an associate’s salary for national pride. He dropped out of law school in Mexico to become a professional boxer. Now that Barrera is represented by Don King, we can only hope he stayed in school long enough to learn how to read his contracts. [The New York Times]
4. Bernie Madoff
It turns out that pleading guilty in a New York courtroom wasn’t Bernie Madoff’s first experience being defeated by the law. Prior to operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, Madoff spent a year at Brooklyn Law. This is where you have to think that maybe a securities law elective would have helped. [CNN Money]
5. Teddy Roosevelt
Even though he postponed his honeymoon to take up law as “something to do,” after a year at Columbia Law School, Teddy Roosevelt dropped out to run for the New York State Assembly. According to Henry Pringle’s Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography, the future president simply found the study of law to be “dull.” [Google Books]
6. Seymour Hersh
So why did Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who broke stories on the My Lai Massacre and Abu Ghraib, quit law school to first become a police reporter? Simple, he “flunked out” of the University of Chicago Law School, an experience he “hated.” [PBS]
7. Marv Levy
Big sky, big crowd. Marv Levy, the former head coach for the Buffalo Bills, has been to more Super Bowls (four) than he spent weeks in law school (three). According to his website, Levy, who earned a Masters in English Literature from Harvard, quit law school because he didn’t want to be “just another lawyer.” [MarvLevy.net]
8. Ted Bundy
Yes, that Ted Bundy. Before beginning his murderous college campus rampage, the diabolical Bundy was a student at the University of Puget Sound School of Law. But to be clear, there’s absolutely no evidence that Bundy began killing because knew the chances of going from TTT Puget Sound to BigLaw were slim. [Rome News-Tribune | The Prescott Courier]
9. Vince Lombardi
What is it with football coaches and the law? We’re not sure what the connection is, but at this point we’re not surprised that the father of NFL coaching, Vince Lombardi, went to law school. What is surprising is the fact that he dropped out of Fordham law school’s night program after a year. According to his son’s book, What It Takes to Be #1 : Vince Lombardi on Leadership, even though Lombardi ditched Fordham, he still insisted Lombardi, Jr. peruse a law degree. Lombardi, Jr. dropped out of the University of Minnesota’s law program after only a few weeks. He did, however, later go on to earn his JD after completing four grueling years of night school at William Mitchell College of Law, to which a proud Lombardi gushed at graduation, “My son, the lawyer.” [Google Books]
10. Dabney Coleman
Here’s the IMDB biography for Dabney Coleman: “For twenty years Dabney Coleman has appeared mostly in one type of role: a smarmy, selfish, nervous person mostly with money, who is out for himself” (save for the totally awesome “Jack Flack” in Cloak & Dagger). Had Coleman actually finished his law degree at the University of Texas, he might have been able to pull off that singular smarmy role in real life. [NNDB]
11. Ray Manzarek
“I stayed in law school for about two weeks, and dropped out of law school realizing that [it] was totally insane for me to be in law school,” Ray Manzarek said of his experience at UCLA Law School. Manzarek knows a thing or two about insanity. After dropping out of UCLA, the Light My Fire author went on to co-found The Doors with Jim Morrison as the keyboardist.