“Fathers should know that sons follow their example, not advice.”
One study looked at more than a dozen factors that might influence a child’s enrollment in law school. It’s no surprise that the researchers found having an attorney parent was statistically significant. While more sons follow their dads into the carpentry business—14.3%, according to a 2009 Review of Economic Studies project—more than one in ten (10.16%) sons become lawyers like their fathers.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, we look at a few famous fathers and/or sons who made a name for themselves in the legal profession.
Tom Clark and Ramsey Clark
United States Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark resigned his seat on the bench at only age 67 after 18 years. His decision was unique in Court history and an act of unselfishness to benefit his son’s legal career: he left the Supreme Court so his son Ramsey, who had just been nominated as Attorney General, could take the position his father had once held without any conflict of interest.
William Ramsey Clark, who just recently passed away, received a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1951. After a career in the federal government, in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him to be United States Attorney General.
There was speculation that one of the reasons that contributed to Johnson's making Ramsey’s Attorney General was the expectation that his father would resign from the Supreme Court to avoid a conflict of interest, and to create a vacancy so Johnson could appoint Thurgood Marshall, the first African American justice.
Law professor Alexander Wohl remarked that Tom and Ramsey Clark had a profound impact on American law and society for nearly 75 years. The father and son influenced presidents, policies, and legal rulings.
Thurgood Marshall and Thurgood Marshall Jr.
From the Clarks, we move to one of the most successful civil rights lawyers in U.S. legal history. After nearly 30 Supreme Court victories, including Brown v. Board of Education, the senior Marshall was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson. As the first African-American to serve on the high court, Marshall left an imprint on the justice system as a proponent of judicial activism. Justice Marshal believed that the country had a moral imperative to move progressively forward. He retired from the Court in 1991 and died on January 24, 1993.
Thurgood Marshall Jr. is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. He began his law career as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker in the US District Court for DC. The younger Marshal was an attorney in the Clinton White House and is worked as a partner at the international law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP. He has served on many boards and is currently the government affairs consultant for the Campaign Legal Center, a democracy advocacy group.
Justice Hugo Black and Hugo Black, Jr. and Sterling Foster Black
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was a U.S. Senator from Alabama and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He received an LL.B. from Yale University, where he was a member of the Board of Editors of the Yale Law Journal and president of Yale Law School Student Association. Black graduated second in his class and was admitted to practice law in the states of Alabama and Florida, as well as several Federal District Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. After law school, Black returned to Alabama where he was a labor law lawyer.
On August 12, 1937, Franklin Roosevelt nominated Black to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Willis Van Devanter.
In 1952, Hugo Black, Jr. considered following in his father's footsteps by entering politics. "I definitely had politics in mind," he wrote in a book about his father. That same year, his father encouraged him to come to DC, but cautioned him that if he was elected to Congress, he’d be under political pressure from his Alabama constituents because the U.S. Supreme Court was to hear several important cases concerning school segregation. That prospect convinced the younger Black to stay out of politics, and stay in Alabama. In fact, after the 1954 unanimous landmark decision of Brown vs. Board of Education that desegregated public schools, the son of the Supreme Court Justice Black, the younger Black received threats. People said they would burn crosses in his yard, and his young son (Justice Black’s grandson) was taunted at school. After a few years, Hugo Black, Jr moved his family to Florida.
Another of the Justice’s sons, Sterling Foster Black, graduated from Columbia Law School. He was an attorney and worked for the United States Atomic Energy Commission in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Sterling served in the New Mexico State Senate from 1960 to 1968.
William and James C. Rehnquist
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, William Rehnquist served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, as an associate justice from 1972 to 1986 and then as Chief Justice until his death in 2005. The elder Rehnquist graduated from Stanford Law School and clerked for Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson during the Supreme Court's 1952–53 term. He then set up his private practice in Phoenix, Arizona.
Jim Rehnquist is a partner at Goodwin practicing white collar defense. Jim is a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor who also specializes in complex civil litigation. He has represented corporations and individuals in internal investigations and in investigations by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other governmental agencies. Rehnquist has been annually recognized as one of Massachusetts’ leading white collar crime attorneys by Chambers USA.
Abraham and Robert Lincoln
No father in the law is more famous than “Father Abraham.” Prior to becoming the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln was a successful lawyer in Illinois for nearly 25 years. As was the custom of the time, Abe didn’t attend law school. Many law students of the day instead studied under a veteran lawyer. Abe learned the most about the law by reading books. In 1834, a Springfield, Illinois attorney encouraged him to study law and lent him the necessary books. Roughly three years later, Lincoln was admitted to the bar and joined his mentor as a junior partner. In his law career, Lincoln argued many cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. In 1849, he was admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court and gave one oral argument in Washington, DC.
His oldest of four sons (and the only child of Abe’s to live to adulthood), Robert Todd Lincoln was a Harvard Law School graduate. When he first expressed interest in going to law school to his father, President Lincoln remarked, “If you do, you should learn more than I ever did, but you will never have so good a time.”
Robert Lincoln attended Harvard Law School for a year, but left to join the Union Army towards the end of the Civil War. Despite a lack of a formal legal education like his dad, Robert was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. from Harvard in 1893. Robert was an attorney and executive in Chicago, but also served as Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Arthur and Minister to England in the 1890s.
Clearly, fathers are one of the most influential role models for their children. A father’s choice of profession can be a powerful influence on sons and daughters when they’re ready to enter the workforce. This certainly is true in the legal field.
To all fathers, Happy Father’s Day!
If your father or mother – or a friend or mentor has inspired you to pursue a career in the law – we’d like to talk with you. To begin your legal journey with Fennemore, please visit click here.