Alexander Hamilton


By Maille Halloran

The “ten-dollar founding father without a father” and the subject of a Broadway musical that took home a bagful of Tony awards, American founder Alexander Hamilton was also a lawyer. Born in the British West Indies, Hamilton began working to support his family at the age of 11. He impressed his Scottish employers with an intelligence beyond his years and was eventually sent to the North American colonies for his formal education. The lure of politics triumphed over Hamilton’s scholarly pursuits, and he left before graduating from King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City to join the patriots’ cause. In the Revolutionary Army, Hamilton met General George Washington, and become one of General Washington’s trusted advisers. Peace with Great Britain and France meant the end of Hamilton’s military career and he studied law instead. Hamilton opened his own legal practice in New York City, mainly defending British Loyalists and their property rights. Hamilton represented the defendant in the landmark case Rutgers v Waddington, which set the precedent for judicial review. His legal prowess made Hamilton an invaluable adviser to the government of the day, and though he didn’t help write the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton’s advocacy made its ratification possible. When Washington became the first president of the United States, Hamilton was appointed to be the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

The Chaser (TV series)


Legally trained Chas Licciardello of The Chaser


By Maille Halloran

The satirical news writers and television stars of The Chaser are perhaps best known for erring on the wrong side of the law. A knowledge of legal rights might come in handy when planning stunts such as the notorious APEC security breach. Fortunately, Chaser members Dominic Knight, Julian Morrow, Chas Licciardello and Craig Reucassel were all graduates of the Sydney Law School. Journalism graduate and fellow member Chris Taylor even worked as a court reporter for two years before joining The Chaser team.

Consumer affairs television series The Checkout, starring Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel, showcases something not unlike legal advocacy. Viewers are reminded of their rights as consumers and product claims and guarantees are tested. The show itself has not been immune to legal controversy. The ABC faces legal action over The Checkout segments on A2 milk and Swisse vitamins.

Chaser member Dominic Knight is the least recognised of the group, writing rather than presenting on most Chaser programs. In 2009, Knight published a novel, Disco Boy, about a disenchanted law graduate.

Harper Lee


It should come as no surprise that the inimitable Atticus Finch was conjured up by an author very familiar with the legal profession. Nelle Harper Lee was introduced to small town trials and white mob violence at a young age. Witnessing the injustice of the courtroom for black defendants inspired the Tom Robinson sub-plot of of To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s father was a lawyer and a member of the state legislature in Alabama. In 1919, he defended two young, black men against a murder charge. Just as in the novel, the young men were convicted.

At first, Lee followed in her father’s footsteps, beginning a law degree at the University of Alabama. She studied law for a few years but chose to abandon the degree before completion, in favour of dedicating her time to writing. Harper’s sister Alice, on the other hand, was one of the Deep South’s first female graduates of law. Alice Lee practised in her Alabama law firm until she was over 100 years of age. Allegedly, Alice Lee was also her younger sister’s legal guide, helping her to navigate publishing deals and copyright law.

George Palmer


Photo: ABC News (Courtesy of Dan White)


By Georgia Briggs

If you’re an avid ABC viewer, the name George Palmer might ring a bell. Mr Palmer has just debuted his opera based on the Tim Winton novel Cloudstreet. However for the last 40 years, George Palmer has also had an exemplary legal career, which included 10 years as a NSW Supreme Court Judge.

Proving that a strong legal mind doesn’t negate creativity, Mr Palmer has been composing music for various projects for almost 13 years. Music has been a lifelong passion. His musical projects have included a live to air performance of his work in Sydney’s Eugene Goossens Hall, and being asked to compose the music to be used during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Australia for World Youth Day in 2008.

Mr. Palmer graduated from the University of Sydney in 1970. He specialised in commercial law, becoming a partner at his firm within two years of graduation. Mr Palmer notably specialised in oil and mineral exploration law at a time when this market was quite new and becoming big in Australia. He was called to the Bar in 1974 and by 1986 was a Queen’s Counsel.

In 2001, Mr Palmer became a Supreme Court Judge, holding that office until his long passion for composing, particularly his own opera, became his overarching project. Mr Palmer studied music from childhood, composing dozens of works since his almost accidental discovery on the ABC network in 2003. The talented musician is also gradually going deaf, having lost all hearing in his right ear.

Ted Cruz


By Maille Halloran

Ted Cruz is the lesser known frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential race. Though he does not boast a background as colourful as Donald Trump’s, Cruz’s tertiary years were characterised by success in debating and law. Already a Princeton graduate, Cruz received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. During his time at Harvard, Cruz founded the Harvard Latino Law Review and was a principal editor of the university’s famous Law Review.

Cruz’s Harvard classmates have commented that the junior US Senator was highly intelligent but frustratingly conservative. Certainly Cruz’s legal activism has denoted steadfast conservatism and traditionalism. As Solicitor General of Texas, Cruz indirectly argued for pro-gun laws and the death penalty before the US Supreme Court. He currently holds the record for the most number of cases argued before the US Supreme Court by a Texas lawyer.

Cruz worked in private practice both before and after his stint as Solicitor General. In private practice, Cruz represented Pfizer in a lawsuit brought by hospitals and community centres that accused the pharmaceutical giant of overcharging. He also advocated on behalf of the National Rifle Association and prepared testimony relating to the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

Cruz’s legal resume is distinctly Republican, and sets him in good stead for nomination in 2016. The Tea Party favourite might yet be the next President of the United States.

Henry Fielding


By Maille Halloran

Eighteenth century author and playwright Henry Fielding is best known for his work The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling which helped to launch the framework of the modern novel. Unbeknownst to most, the novelist was also a pioneer in the field of law. Equipped with a Classical education from Eton College, Fielding went on to study the law in Leiden, the Netherlands (formerly South Holland).
Though he returned to London with the intention to write, Fielding’s law degree was more useful than he had anticipated. New and harsh censorship restrictions, which attempted to curtail political satire on the stage, forced the young playwright from the theatre for a more lucrative role as a barrister. Success in this role and a political stance that favoured the Church of England led to Fielding being named London’s chief magistrate.
Not content with merely hearing cases in court, Fielding decided to take a more active role in judicial reform and law enforcement. Demonstrating the same grasp of social concerns so prominent in his novels, Fielding campaigned for more humane prison conditions and a less blasé approach to capital punishment. Fielding and his brother even established the Bow Street Runners, known as London’s first professional police force. The motivation behind this establishment was to regulate and legalise law enforcement, formerly a corrupt practise in the hands of a select few private citizens.

Rebel Wilson


By Maille Halloran

Researching comedian and actor Rebel Wilson’s early years as a law graduate proves difficult. In May of last year many major Australian news outlets reported that Wilson had misled the public about her birth name, age and the nature of her upbringing.

Undisputed however was Wilson’s claim that she graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2009 with a double degree in Law and Theatre Studies. Wilson says that she was highly academic in high school and a law degree was supposed to be her back up if acting did not work out.

The year following her graduation Rebel decided to pursue the law side of her studies. She was reportedly posted as a Rotary International Youth Ambassador to South Africa, to study Social Justice issues in the region. Here, Wilson alleges she contracted malaria and hallucinated visions of stardom and Academy Award accolades.

The actor was inspired to abandon the law and pursue theatre, (which she had studied extensively throughout the early 2000s) with renewed determination. A law degree has not been useless however, Rebel says she is good at negotiating her own contracts. She also played a lawyer on comedy show Super Fun Night in 2013, a detail that was written in especially for her background in the law. The comedy actor has not ruled out a return to the law either, joking that she might be a barrister one day if acting work dries up.


Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By Maille Halloran

Hillary Clinton possesses a lot of ‘former’ titles: First Lady, United States Secretary of State, Senator and lawyer. Clinton earned her JD at Yale where she also served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Review. She met and began dating Bill Clinton after they met at Yale Law School. After graduating, Clinton practised law and became the first female partner of the United State’s 3rd oldest law firm, Rose Law Firm in Arkansas. During her time as First Lady, Clinton was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in relation to her and her husband’s real estate investments. The Clintons were not prosecuted but Hillary remains the only First Lady to have been subpoenaed. In the late years of her husband’s presidency, Clinton moved to New York and was elected as the first female senator of the state. After serving as Secretary of State for the first term of the Obama administration, Clinton left the role and announced her intention to run (again) for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election. Clinton is currently on the presidential campaign trail.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

by Maille Halloran

Lawyer jokes seem a bit gratuitous when you find out that Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela were both once lawyers. Mandela’s first attempt at an Arts degree ended abruptly when he was expelled from university for joining a student protest. Fleeing to Johannesburg to escape his family and friends’ anger, Mandela worked as a security guard before finding a job as an articled clerk. Mandela completed his Arts degree and began a LLB. Mandela was the only native African student at the University of Witwatersrand and devoted more of his time to politics than his studies. Mandela failed his final year at the university three times and was denied his degree. Fortunately, a diploma in law allowed Mandela to practise and in 1953 he opened the first African-run law firm in the country. It was only in 1989, in the last few months of his imprisonment that he was awarded his LLB from the University of South Africa. Naturally, law took a back seat as Mandela vied to become the first democratically elected President of South Africa.

Quentin Bryce

Quentin Bryce

by Maille Halloran

Best known for being the first woman to hold the position of Governor General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce was a pioneer in other fields too. Bryce studied Arts and Laws at the University of Queensland. Though she never practised professionally, Bryce was one of the first women accepted to the Queensland Bar. She was also the first woman to join the faculty of the Law School where she had studied. Bryce’s university studies began with Social Work before she transferred to Law. Bryce continued to pursue social justice through her law studies. Upon graduation, Bryce concentrating on Human Rights, in particular rights for women and children. In a 1976 newspaper article, Bryce discussed a Bill of Rights for children, introducing several ideas that may still be considered progressive now. Bryce has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from four Australian universities. Since her tenure as Governor General ended, Bryce has chaired a task-force on Domestic and Family Violence in her home state.