Legal Eagles: Profiles of the Most Influential Lawyers in History
Lawyers have played a significant role in shaping history, contributing to major social and political changes. From defending human rights to fighting for justice, lawyers have often served as agents of change in society. This article takes a closer look at some of the most influential lawyers in history, their contributions to the legal profession and their impact on society.
Before becoming the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln was a renowned lawyer who focused on civil and criminal cases. He is best known for his work as a civil rights lawyer, where he fought to end slavery and promote equality for all. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared the freedom of slaves in Confederate states, was a major turning point in the fight against slavery in the United States. In addition, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered one of the most influential speeches in American history, emphasizing the importance of democracy and freedom.
Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer, civil rights activist, and the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court. He played a key role in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Marshall argued numerous other civil rights cases before the Supreme Court and was a vocal advocate for social justice and equality.
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian independence movement, was a lawyer who practiced in South Africa before returning to India to fight for independence. Gandhi famously used nonviolent civil disobedience to challenge British colonial rule, advocating for the rights of all Indians, regardless of caste or religion. His legacy of peaceful protest and nonviolence continues to inspire social movements around the world.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lawyer, feminist, and the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. She is known for her work as a pioneering advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court that advanced the cause of gender equality, including the landmark case of United States v. Virginia, which ended the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admission policy.
Nelson Mandela was a lawyer, anti-apartheid revolutionary, and the first black president of South Africa. He was an outspoken advocate for racial equality and played a key role in the fight against apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his activism before being released in 1990 and ultimately leading his country to a peaceful transition to democracy.
Clara Shortridge Foltz
Clara Shortridge Foltz was the first woman to practice law in California, as well as the first woman to run for public office in the state. She is best known for her work on behalf of women’s rights, including co-founding the Women Lawyers’ Club of Los Angeles and advocating for the establishment of a public defender system in California.
Charles Hamilton Houston
Charles Hamilton Houston was a lawyer, civil rights activist, and educator who played a key role in the civil rights movement in the United States. He was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review and worked to desegregate law schools, arguing several cases before the Supreme Court that helped lay the groundwork for Brown v. Board of Education.
Sir William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone was a British jurist and legal scholar whose Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 18th century, became one of the most influential legal texts in the English-speaking world.