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8 inspirational lawyers and how they got there

10th November 2014

Here we list eight worldwide inspirational lawyers

When asking a lawyer why they got into their profession, a common answer is to aid in the seeking of justice. In such a powerful and often life-changing profession it is common to come across many inspirational characters, and many of these are the lawyers themselves.

In all areas of the legal sector, from criminal law in which we see some of the most high-profile cases come to light to those lawyers who hold top in-house legal jobs, there are lawyers in nearly every field who provide inspiration and encouragement to law students and NQs embarking on their own career path.

Here we have collated our list of some of the world’s most inspirational lawyers and what got them there.

1. Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Although primarily known as an anti-apartheid icon, Mandela was also a lawyer. Before his time as President of South Africa, he, alongside his legal partner Oliver Tambo, established South Africa’s first black law firm in 1952. He first studied law at the Fort Hare University and then at the University of Witwatersrand, where he was the only black person and native African in his law class. It was only after he was banned at the end of 1952 that his legal career took a back seat.

2. Amal Clooney

Having been a prominent figure in the press of late for her marriage to actor George Clooney, it has been forgotten by some that Amal Clooney’s first mentions in the media were for her legal career. As a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and specialising in international law, criminal law, human rights, and extradition, Clooney has taken charge of such high profile cases as that of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in his fight against extradition and has also represented the former prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.

On top of this she has met with the British Foreign Secretary William Hague to discuss ways to drive forward the international action to protect children in conflict zones from rape and sexual violence before the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2014.

3. Brenda Hale

Baroness Hale of Richmond is the first woman and the youngest judge to become a law lord. Her work in the legal sector has led to her status as the only female justice of the UK Supreme Court after having joined the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2004. In her career she has campaigned to increase the diversity of the judiciary as well as overhaul family law and work to protect victims of domestic violence. She still stands today as an outstanding example of legal capability and an inspiration to female law graduates, calling herself a “softline” feminist, as reported in this Guardian article.

4. Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

As former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also stands as a supreme example of female law inspiration. In addition to serving as America’s 67th Secretary of State and having run for President Clinton, she is a graduate of the Yale Law School and a former partner at Arkansas’s Rose Law Firm. She is the only First Lady ever to have run for public office and is famed for running in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, only narrowly losing to Barack Obama in the national election. Clinton has published a number of scholarly articles that depict her passion for children’s law and family policy, including the 1977 article ‘Children's Policies: Abandonment and Neglect’ and ‘Children's Rights: A Legal Perspective’ in 1979.

5. Gerry Spence

Gerry Spence is famed for his success as an American trial lawyer and his presence in the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2009. As of 2014, Spence has never lost a criminal law case, either as a prosecutor or a defence attorney. He has also not lost a civil case since 1969 and now works as a semi-retired trial lawyer.

6. Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran

Another American Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame inductee, Johnnie Cochran Jr. is most famed for his representation and leadership role in the defence of American football player O. J. Simpson. Cochran represented and successfully had Simpson acquitted in the criminal law trial in which Simpson was accused of the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Other high-profile cases in Cochran’s career include the representation of Sean Combs, Michael Jackson, rapper Tupac Shakur, actor Todd Bridges, rapper Snoop Dogg and former heavyweight Champion Riddick Bowe.

7. Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred is also famed and well regarded among those in the profession for her status as a celebrity attorney and for being involved in high-profile cases. Allred was also involved in the O.J. Simpson trial, representing the family of the deceased Nicole Simpson. Other notable cases in which Allred was involved include former Spice Girl Melanie Brown’s suing of actor Eddie Murphy in a paternity contestation and the representation of Rachel Uchitel in the Tiger Woods adultery scandal.

8. David Cooper

Returning to Britain, the final inspirational lawyer in the list is that of David Cooper, who achieved the status of Britain’s most expensive solicitor after negotiating a record-breaking deal with a British property association in 2006, receiving a sum of £100m for advising a client in the development of a new town to be built between Birmingham and Milton Keynes. Whilst earning such a sum in this particular case, Cooper, to his credit, does not charge charities he works for, and is otherwise known for his involvement in Arsenal Football Club’s move from Highbury to a new stadium at Ashburton Grove.

These are just a handful of the inspirational lawyers who have succeeded in the legal sector throughout history. To discuss permanent and temporary legal jobs available see the LAW Absolute recruitment pages.

Image Credits: Shark Attacks, Michael Coghlan, University of Salford Press Office, Ted Eytan, Marc Nozell ( Mark Winograd (