Odds of Next President Being a Lawyer

By: Miles Pringle

February 2016


Presidential campaign season is upon us, although you’ve probably already been drowning in campaign news for the past several months.  As most lawyers are aware, more often than not the President of the United States of America has been an attorney.  Twenty-five of the first forty-three U.S. Presidents have been lawyers, and that is not including Harry S. Truman or Lyndon Johnson, both of whom attended law school but did not graduate.  It should be noted that Grover Cleveland is considered both the 22nd and 24th President, so while Barak Obama is the 44th President, he is the 43rd individual to hold the Office.  In the early days of our Republic, being a lawyer was almost a prerequisite to holding the office as twelve of the first sixteen presidents were lawyers.

So what are the odds of the forty-fifth occupant being a lawyer?  Going into the Iowa Caucuses, two of the three Democratic contestants (Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley) were attorneys.  Governor O’Malley dropped out after the results in Iowa.  On the Republican side, five of the contestants have their juris doctorates: Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jim “That guy ran for President?” Gilmore, and Rick Santorum.  

After the narrowest of results in Iowa, Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton appear to be neck and neck.  According to FiveThirtyEight.com, creation of electoral prediction wonder boy Nate Silver, as of February 2, 2016, Senator Sanders has a 89% chance of winning the New Hampshire Primary (with projected results of 54% to 42%); however, Secretary Clinton has strong leads in other early primary states (e.g. she is polling better than 2-to-1 among likely South Carolina Primary voters according to a January 28, 2016 Marist Poll).  Clinton is probably still the favorite, but her nomination is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Senator and lawyer Ted Cruz won Iowa, and Marco Rubio finished within a percentage point of Donald Trump for third place.  FiveThirtyEight.com shows Trump in the lead in other early primary states, but after losing in Iowa, his campaign narrative of being a “winner” has certainly taken a hit.  The chaos of the Republican Primary makes forecasting the party’s future nominee difficult, but it is fair to say that two of the top three candidates at this time are lawyers.

Thus, there is a good chance that the next President will again be legally trained.  An even more likely scenario, however, is that the next Vice-President will be an attorney.  Thirty-four of the forty-seven U.S. Vice-Presidents have been attorneys.  Again not including Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Johnson, or Al Gore whom all attended law school for a time.


©PRINGLE® 2016

This Article was originally published in Oklahoma County Bar Association’s Briefcase Vol. 48 No. 2 in February 2016.