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5 of the Most Famous Law Graduates of all Time

28th March 2014 Posted by: Student World Online

LAW degrees are amongst the most respected qualifications in the world and going through a law course at university is one of the most challenging routes that any student can face, which is probably why some of the planet's most influential figures throughout history are law graduates!

A law degree can prepare students for careers that reach far beyond the courtroom. Surprisingly, some of the most famous - or successful - law graduates have found themselves a prestigious career in journalism, politics and entertainment. To show you just how many options a law degree gives you, here are five of the most famous law graduates of all time...

1. Nelson Mandela, First black president of South Africa

We start our countdown with one of the most recognisable and influential political figures in history, Nelson Mandela. He originally studied law at the University of Witwatersrand but having devoted much of his time as a student to civil rights in South Africa, he failed his final year three times and was ultimately denied his degree. However, a two-year diploma in law allowed him to open his own practice with Oliver Tambo - which became Johannesburg's first black law partnership - and Mandela finally secured his degree while in prison in 1989. Following an international campaign, Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 and became South Africa's first black president in 1994.

2. John Cleese, Iconic comedian/actor and star of Monthy Python

One of Britain's most famous comedy faces is one of the most surprising names on this list. Before finding fame as a founding member of comedy troupe Monty Python, Cleese read law at Cambridge University and graduated with a 2:1 in 1963. While at university, Cleese became involved with Cambridge Footlights, a student-led amateur theatrical group, where he met his future writing partner, Graham Chapman. Cleese never actually practised law and instead entered into entertainment, where he's best known for his roles in Monty Python and legendary BBC comedy series, Fawlty Towers.

3. Mahatma Gandhi, Leader of Indian Independence Movement

Alongside Nelson Mandela, Gandhi is widely recognised as one of the 20th century's most inspiring political activists and freedom campaigners. In 1888, Gandhi moved to London to study law at University College London and passed his bar exam in 1891. Upon moving back to India and starting his own practice in Bombay, Gandhi came to think that a career in law may not be for him...he was too shy to talk in court! Employing peaceful methods, Gandhi found his calling and led India to independence and inspired civil rights movements worldwide.

4. Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America

The wife of Barack Obama is a Harvard Law School graduate who has practised with American firms that include the mammoth Sidley Austin LLP, which is where she met her husband and future president of the United States. Michelle Obama played a key role in President Obama's ascent to the White House and is now an icon for women worldwide. She's an advocate for healthy living and a dedicated supporter of LGBT rights.

5. Henri Matisse, Influential 20th century artist

Mattise studied law in Paris in 1887 - mainly to appease his father - and returned to his hometown of Saint-Quentin years later to work as a clerk in a law office. After suffering with appendicitis just weeks into his new role, Matisse's mother bought him oil paints to pass time time during recovery. It was at that time that Henri Matisse recalled: "I held that box of colours in my hand, I knew this would be my life."


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