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Did You Know They Were Lawyers?

November 1, 2017

In the November issue of Washington Lawyer, we featured prominent individuals from art to politics who, perhaps unbeknownst to many, trained in the law before moving on to other pursuits. Here are more who first set their sights on law. 

Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) The Russian abstract painter and art theorist had once been a lecturer in law and economics at the University of Moscow and didn’t start studying art until he was 30. In 1896 he gave up his academic law career to enroll in the Munich Academy. According to Kandinsky, he was set on a new life course after seeing an exhibit of Monet’s Impressionist paintings of haystacks. “I noticed with surprise and confusion that the picture not only gripped me, but impressed itself ineradicably on my memory. Painting took on a fairy-tale power and splendor,” he later wrote. Kandinsky was not immediately accepted to art school, and was self-taught for a while. He never returned to law, but lived in Germany and taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis shut the school in 1933. Then Kandinsky moved to France until his death, becoming a French citizen in 1939.

Otto PremingerOtto Preminger (1905–1986) The famous film director studied law at the University of Vienna while apprenticing at a theater simultaneously. Preminger’s father had been a prominent attorney in Vienna. The budding actor promised his parents he would finish his studies, but never followed a career in law. Instead he produced plays and films in post-war Austria before moving to Hollywood in the 1930s where he went on to direct 35 feature films.





Sir Walter ScottSir Walter Scott (1771¬–1832) Scott was an advocate, judge, and legal administrator by profession, but wrote fanciful stories of Scottish myths and legends in his free time. The author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, Scott had a day job as Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire. His government salary gave him a comfortable perch from which he could write the romantic prose for which he’s best known.





Vladimir PutinVladimir Putin (b. 1952) Putin studied law at the Saint Petersburg State University, graduating in 1975, before embarking on a career as a KGB officer. His thesis was on “The Most Favoured Nation Trading Principle in International Law.”