How Many Presidents Were Lawyers?

How Many Presidents Were Lawyers?

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Lawyers have long been a part of American politics. From the Founding Fathers to the present day, many of the presidents of the United States have had a legal background. This article will explore the role of lawyers in the Oval Office and answer the questions: What percentage of US presidents were lawyers? Has every president had a law degree? Who was the last Republican president who was a lawyer? And which presidents passed the bar exam?

Percentage of US Presidents Who Were Lawyers

Out of the 45 presidents of the United States, approximately 18 had formal legal training. That means almost 40% of all presidents have been lawyers. Not only that, but many of the Founding Fathers – including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison – were lawyers.

Law Degrees of US Presidents

Not every president had a formal law degree. Some, such as John Quincy Adams, had studied the law but did not obtain a degree. Others, such as Abraham Lincoln, had no formal legal training, but they did read and study the law on their own. In addition, some presidents obtained an honorary law degree, such as Franklin Roosevelt, who received an honorary degree from Harvard Law School.

Last Republican President Who Was a Lawyer

The last Republican president who was a lawyer was George H. W. Bush. Bush received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1948 and went on to serve as a US Congressman, Vice President, and finally President of the United States. He is the only Republican president since Richard Nixon (who was not a lawyer) to hold a law degree.

Presidents Who Passed the Bar Exam

Most presidents who had a formal legal education did not take the bar exam. For example, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, and William Howard Taft all attended law school but never took the bar exam. However, there have been a few presidents who did take and pass the bar. These include James Monroe, Franklin Pierce, Gerald Ford, and Barack Obama.


As we can see, many US presidents have had a legal background. Approximately 40% of all presidents have had formal legal training, and several have taken and passed the bar exam. The last Republican president who was a lawyer was George H. W. Bush. Lawyers have long been an important part of American politics, and that trend looks likely to continue in the years to come.

2 thoughts on “How Many Presidents Were Lawyers?”

  1. Presidents have a legal responsibility to the nation that’s why so many lawyers find themselves in the Oval Office. It might be interesting to explore why being a lawyer does not guarantee success as a president.

  2. Interesting article! I can see how having an understanding of law would benefit a president’s decision-making. Perhaps looking into the educational backgrounds of presidents is useful as well.

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