Lawyers Every Law Student Should Know About
If you ask a law student “who is your career inspiration?”, you may very well be met with a fictional character. The names Elle Woods, Harvey Spectre, Mike Ross, and Annalise Keating come to mind. However, we all know that these fictional interpretations of a legal career are not always realistic. So before you whip out the pink fluffy pens and adopt a cute little chihuahua called Bruiser, let me introduce you to some lawyers that I believe serve as excellent real life inspirations.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Who? Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a name that you may already know. She is the second woman to be appointed to the position of U.S. Supreme Court Justice and studied at both Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School, graduating top of her class.
What? Ruth Bader Ginsburg is most well known for her work against gender discrimination. Being one of 9 women in a class of 500 Harvard Law Students, Ginsburg knew very well that women did not have the same opportunities as men, and criticised the law for condoning gender discrimination. One of her most notable cases is United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996), in which the Supreme Court of the US ruled against the discriminatory male-only admission policy of the Virginia Military Institute. This pivotal case is so significant because it formed a precedent to criticise any law, as Justice Ginsburg state, “denies to women, simply because they are women”.
Find Out More: to find out more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, read her 2016 autobiography entitled “My Own Words”. Also, I really recommend the (albeit fictional) film “On The Basis Of Sex”, starring Felicity Jones as Ginsburg.
Who? Amal Clooney is a Lebanese-British human rights barrister, working for well-known clients such as Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine. Amal Clooney is often misrepresented in the media – rather than focusing on her impressive feats in human rights law, she is often referred to as “George Clooney’s wife”, due to her husband’s fame.
What? In 2016, Clooney chose to represent Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who escaped ISIS captivity after her family was slaughtered. She spoke before the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to criticise the lack of action against the genocide, rape, and trafficking that is an ongoing tragedy in the Middle East today, and the role of social media, notably Facebook, in these injustices.
Find Out More: Amal Clooney currently works at Doughty Street Chambers, her barrister information page, found here, highlights her notable achievements in her field.
Who? Thurgood Marshall may be the first name on this list that you haven’t heard of and I would like to change that. Marshall was the first U.S. African-American Supreme Court Justice to ever be appointed.
What? In addition to his status as Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall successfully argued several landmark cases, notably including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the Supreme Court case that ruled racial segregation in American public schools is unconstitutional. Marshall has been honoured all over America, through the Thurgood Marshall Law Library in the University of Maryland School of Law, and a dedicated statue of Marshall as a young lawyer outside the courts where he argued in Brown.
Find Out More: To find out more about Thurgood Marshall, US Courts has a page detailing his life and successes, found here, and Juan Williams wrote a book entitled “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary”.
Who? Sarah Weddington is is an American attorney, a law professor and a former member of the Texas House of Representatives. Weddington graduated from University of Texas School of Law in the late 1960’s, a time when men almost entirely dominated the legal profession.
What? Weddington is most well-known for her successful argumentation of Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the case which ruled that abortion is a constitutional right for women in the U.S. The case was based on the human right to privacy – Weddington argued that a woman’s right to privacy extended to the fetus whom she was carrying; the court agreed. One of the most impressive details of Weddington’s involvement in the case is that she became the youngest person ever to argue a Supreme Court case and win, at the mere age of 26.
Find Out More: To find out more, read Sarah Weddington’s book “A Question of Choice”!
Who? Lewis Pugh is actually a British-South African endurance swimmer. He studied Politics and Law at the University of Cape Town, then International Law at Jesus College, Cambridge and became a maritime lawyer in London.
What? By completing endurance swims in some of the coldest waters on Earth, he was able to start conversations with several world leaders on the imminent issue of ocean protection. In 2013, the United Nations gave him the position of the first “UN Patron of the Oceans.” By 2016, he had negotiated the establishment of the world’s largest protected area, in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. Although he does not use conventional legal methods, Lewis Pugh is using his legal expertise and his status as a swimmer to literally change the laws around ocean protection – he is saving the world one ocean at a time.
Find Out More: Lewis Pugh performed a TedTalk entitled “Lewis Pugh: My mind-shifting Everest swim”, which can be found here, in which he talks about his dangerous swimming and the reasons behind them.
While these 5 lawyers do not seem to have much in common, the fact that links them all together is that they all pursued a legal career and used it to change the world. Although we are still struggling against issues such as gender and race discrimination, anti-abortion laws, and the devastating state of our environment, these people have made significant impacts on these imperative issues.