During the 2016 presidential campaign Mike Pence gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.

When asked about his experience at law school Pence replied:

No one I know likes law school.  It was a bad experience.  I wouldn’t wish it on a dog I didn’t like.

I think most lawyers would agree with those sentiments.

In fact, some of the men who ended up in the Oval Office gave up on law school altogether.

(However, some still went on to practice law because, for most of US history, perspective lawyers were not required to attend law school before taking the bar.)

The list presidential dropouts is as follows:

William McKinley

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McKinley attended Albany Law School but dropped out before graduating.

He was eager to start his own practice and thought that he had enough knowledge of the law to pass the bar exam without completing his studies in Albany.

He passed the bar in Ohio and became a lawyer in March 1867.

McKinley quote:

The liberty to make our laws does not give us the freedom nor license to break our laws.

Theodore Roosevelt

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Roosevelt enrolled at Columbia Law School after graduating from Harvard in 1880.  He dropped out, however, after winning a seat in the New York State Assembly in 1882.

Roosevelt quote:

Obedience of the law is demanded; not asked as a favor.

Woodrow Wilson

blog - president - woodrow wilson

Wilson dropped out of the University of Virginia’s law school and continued to study law independently.

He passed the Georgia bar exam in 1882 but quickly realized that he did not enjoy the practice of law.

Instead he enrolled in a doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University and earned a Ph.D in political science.

Wilson quote:

The profession I chose was politics; the profession I entered was law.  I entered the one because I thought it would lead to the other.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Roosevelt took and passed the bar exam while still a student at Columbia University’s law school

Upon passing the exam, Roosevelt dropped out of law school and began working as an associate at a large firm in New York.

Roosevelt quote:

We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution–not over it.  In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.

Harry S. Truman

blog - president - harry truman

Truman enrolled in night classes at Kansas City Law School (now University of Missouri-Kansas City).

He attended the school from 1923 to 1925 but was forced to drop out for financial reasons after losing his job with the government.

Truman quote:

The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount.  The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul.  I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.

Lyndon B. Johnson

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Johnson attended Georgetown Law School for just one semester before dropping out to pursue a career in politics.

Johnson quote:

We must not approach the observance and enforcement of this law in a vengeful spirit. Its purpose is not to punish. Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions — divisions which have all lasted too long. Its purpose is national, not regional.

Happy Presidents Days!