Thursday, January 10, 2013

Child Actors Who Became Successful Lawyers

Alas Poor Chunk, I Knew Him Well...
I am often asked by college students what type of classes they should take if they plan to go to law school.  I usually answer any classes that focus on analytic reasoning can be helpful.  I found classes in English literature rather effective as well.  Interpreting Dante's Inferno can be as daunting as interpreting any statute.  Of course if you really want to excel as a litigator, you might want to consider a few acting classes. Is it a surprise that many attorneys have acting backgrounds? Not to brag, but I did star as Sky Masterson in my eighth grade production of Guys & Dolls. But I digress.  Here is a list the NL originally compiled back in 2009.  Every so often we update it as more former actors enter the domain of law.  You might recognize some of these barristers from their time on the boob tube or even the silver screen.

The Truffle Shuffle
If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you remember the movie Goonies and the character Chunk. Played by Jeff Cohen, Chunk was a chubby, clumsy Goonie who often made up sensational stories and tried to pass them off as true. It seems only appropriate that Chunk would grow up into an attorney. Today the UCLA grad is a partner at the prestigious entertainment law firm Cohen &Gardner, LLP based in Beverly Hills, California. 

You also might remember the Wonder Years. The show featured Kevin Arnold, his best friend Paul Pfeiffer and everyone's girl next door Winnie Cooper. So what happened to Kevin's Millhouse look alike best friend. After graduating Yale, Actor Josh Saviano went on to receive his law degree from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. Today Attorney Saviano is senior counsel at the prestigious Morris Cohen law firm in Manhattan. His practice focuses on private company mergers and acquisitions, private equity and general corporate matters, and all intellectual property matters.

You may remember Charlie Korsmo as "the kid" in What About Bob? Dick Tracy, Hook, and several other films. After earning a physics degree from MIT, Charlie went on to Yale Law School and clerked for the Honorable Ralph Winter, US Court of Appeals.  Formerly an associate in New York's Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Korsmo was also a visiting professor at Brooklyn Law School.  Today, he is currently a professor at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
In May 2011, Professor Korsmo was nominated by President Obama to the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

You may remember Lara Jill Miller from her stint as Sam Kinsky on "Gimme a Break!" Ms Miller graduated from Fordham Law and was licensed to practice in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania   After a brief stint practicing law in the big apple, she returned to voice over work for Disney and Nickelodeon including Wow Wow Wubbzy.

Fans of Saved by The Bell: The New Class.  The part of Weasel was played by actor Issac Lidsky.  Although he was eventually diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, it didn't stop Lidsky from excelling.  He was accepted to Harvard Law where he was the first student to be named a fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law. He graduated magna cum laude in 2004. After law school, Isaac clerked for Judge Thomas Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He then joined the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division of the Justice Department
As a law clerk for Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2008-09, he became the first blind US Supreme Court clerk.  He is currently the CEO of a Florida construction firm.

Another favorite of mine was the Brady Brunch. The daily exploits of the Brady Kids had Americans glued to their tv sets. Little Bobby Brady was the dreamer. Played by actor Mike Lookinland, not even little Bobby Brady could have guessed the success that awaited him. In an effort to get away from the media spotlight, Mike legally changed his name to Sammy and went on to Princeton and Yale Law School. He would serve as District Attorney for NJ and then a judge for the US Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit. Who could have guessed that he would eventually become a Supreme Court Justice. Justice Sam Alito never forgot his roots as .....ok so I made the last one up.

Other Actors who studied law include:

William Sanderson played Larry, of "Larry, Darryl and Darryl" fame on Bob Newhart's show and True Blood's town Sheriff Bud Dearborne.. He graduated from Memphis State Law School (now the University of Memphis Law School).

Sheila James, played Zelda on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963), She graduated first in her class at Harvard Law School, became a law professor in Los Angeles, and then was elected to the California Legislature, (under her real name, Sheila Kuehl

Ozzie Nelson, of the "Ozzie and Harriet Show" had a law degree from Rutgers University.

John Cleese of Monty Python Fame studied law at Cambridge.

Raul Julia studied law at the University of Puerto Rico.

Ross Martin (1920-1981) graduated from the National University School of Law (now George Washington University School of Law) You may remember him from the Wild Wild West series where he played agent Artemus Gordon.

Law & Order regular, former presidential candidate Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee had a fairly successful motion picture career before turning to politics. He received his JD from Vanderbilt University.

Portia de Rossi ("Nelle Porter" on Ally McBeal ) did actually have a legal background.  She studied at the University of Melbourne Law School before going into acting.


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