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September 13, 2007

Is the Future President of the U.S. Sitting in Your Class?

Yet again, the race for President of the United States (and putative leader of the free world) is crowded with lawyers.

Consider the leading Democrats:

Hillary Clinton (Yale Law School)

Barack Obama (Harvard Law School)

John Edwards (UNC Law)

Joe Biden (Syracuse Law)

Chris Dodd (Louisville Law)

(Bill Richardson graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a particularly appropriate training ground for future statesmen and stateswomen, but that institution does not offer a J.D.)

and the Republicans:

Rudy Giuliani (NYU Law)

Fred Thompson (Vanderbilt Law)

Mitt Romney (Harvard Law (joint JD/MBA program))

Sam Brownback (Kansas Law)

Duncan Hunter (Thomas Jefferson Law)

The fact that the three leading candidates for President in both parties are all lawyers is quite astonishing.

Among recent Presidents, the following were lawyers: Richard Nixon (Duke Law), Gerald Ford (Yale Law), and Bill Clinton (Yale Law). I see that USA Today has noted this year's lawyer crop of candidates, and helpfully reported that

Twenty-five of 43 presidents have had law degrees, but the American Bar Association says the proportion has fallen from 76% through the 19th century to 39% in the 20th century. Some recent presidents have perpetuated negative views of lawyers: Richard Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton was impeached. But lawyer-presidents also have included Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

As a Law Professor, I have long known that my students will hold positions of leadership in the community, the nation, and the world. This suggests that initiatives such as those at Ohio State (naming 3 students as Leadership Scholars) and Santa Clara teaching leadership to law students are especially important.

Any theories for why so many of these candidates have a J.D.? Should law proessors be concerned when our former students promise to "double Guantanamo" (as Romney, the Harvard-trained lawyer, promised to do)?

Anupam Chander

September 13, 2007 in Service -- legal profession | Permalink


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Before thinking about this year's field, I cannot get over that the last two elected lawyer-presidents were the only two modern presidents having to seriously face impeachment. I guess effective values training in law school was a problem even when Nixon and Clinton were law students.

Posted by: Doug B. | Sep 14, 2007 4:46:10 PM

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