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The people that change their respective field deserve recognition, and even more so when the field is as important as law. Some people managed to challenge set legal norms that nowadays we view as incomprehensible, others analyzed and understood the legal systems so well that they were able to achieve incredible heights and become inspirations for many young lawyers to come. For these and many other reasons, some people are worthy of making the list of the most influential and famous lawyers in history.

Abraham Lincoln

Speaking of fame, there is no beating Lincoln as he was not only an astounding lawyer but also the 16th President of the United States of America. As the President, his accomplishments stretch from modernizing the U.S. economy to abolishing slavery, all while he was leading the nation through the American Civil War that left a significant impact on the nation. Although on a smaller scale, as a lawyer he was also an impressively accomplished person. The case that helped him become one of the most famous lawyers who ever existed is the case People v. Armstrong. Duff Armstrong was accused of killing a man in a drunken fight. Despite Lincoln’s criminal defense win track record not being the shiniest, he decided to try and beat the odds and took the Armstrong’s case despite the gloomy outcome that was anticipated. He did beat all the odds when he used an almanac to claim that there was hardly any moonlight that night. By doing so, he threw the testimony of the main witness out the window and, after a few more hits to the prosecution, won the case.

Nelson Mandela

On top of being an inspirational leader and a head of state (he served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999), Nelson Mandela was a spectacular lawyer. He founded the first attorney law firm owned by black people which served to promote equality in the society, gave voice to the minorities and was an inspiring example for the black community of the country. The law worked against Mandela though; he was imprisoned for over 20 years for his activism in opposing apartheid and racist social structure that prevented the blacks from fully participating in the social, political and cultural life of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Mary Jo White

Known for being persistent, fearless and relentless, Mary Jo White is the first and only women to be the United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York. Throughout her impressive career, she is known for putting John Gotti, a notorious Italian-American gangster, behind bars as well as successfully prosecuting the terrorists responsible for the 1983 World Trade Center bombing. She has also won significant financial cases, most notably Daiwa Bank of Japan’s $1.1 billion cover-up.

Mary Jo White
Mary Jo White

Joe Jamail

There is no list of influential lawyers without Joe Jamail, also known as the King of Torts. His uncivil, straightforward, abrasive style helped him win many cases, some of which received verdicts for billions of dollars. He had exceptional attention to detail; he could remember his clients’ names and the details of their cases years after the trial. Over the years, he managed to make a fortune which turned him into the richest attorney in the USA at that time.

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