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The lawyers who became celebrities – and the celebrities who became lawyers

07 November 2012 

Celebrity red carpet 

From law to celebrity...

John Whaite

Earlier this month, Manchester University law graduate John Whaite pledged his future to bakery-related stardom after he won hit BBC2 TV programme the Great British Bake Off. Prior to appearing on the show, Whaite completed a vacation scheme with Eversheds and seemed set for a legal career, having scored a first in his degree. But the chance to pursue baking as a full-time career proved too good to turn down for the 24 year-old, who says he has been obsessed with flour and eggs since he was ‘a tiny tot’. PR guru Max Clifford has suggested that Whaite ‘could make half a million in the next year’ on the celebrity merry-go-round.

John Cleese

Another bright spark who completed a law degree before deciding to pursue an alternative path is veteran actor and comedian John Cleese. The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star studied law at Cambridge University’s Downing College, graduating with a 2:1. But it was the influence of the Cambridge Footlights rather than his law lecturers that had most effect on Cleese, who never looked back after a successful performance at the Edinburgh Fringe festival led to mainstream success.

Gerard Butler

Like Clees, Hollywood star Gerard Butler also got his big break at the Edinburgh festival, with the star of the Bounty Hunter excelling in an amateur role in a stage version of Trainspotting. Back then, Butler was a trainee solicitor at Edinburgh corporate law firm Morton Fraser.  Commenting on that period, he told The Times recently: ‘I was 27, I’d passed my degree and was working as a trainee solicitor, but I was heading down the wrong path and drinking far too much. The week before I was due to qualify, I got really wrecked at the Edinburgh Festival and was sacked. I now know that this was covering up the truth and that I was very unhappy with where I was headed.’

Bob Mortimer

Bob Mortimer, the comedian best known for his ‘Vic and Bob’ double act with Vic Reeves, is another former solicitor. Having completed a law degree at Sussex University, which he followed up with an LL.M in welfare law from Leicester University, Mortimer joined the legal team of Southwark Council. During this time, Mortimer began attending ‘Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out’ as a regular audience member, got introduced to Reeves, and somehow began working with him as a writing partner. The rest is history.

Julio Iglesias, and a few others...

Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias was studying law in Madrid in the early 1960s, when he was injured in a road accident. During his convalescence, Iglesias was given a guitar, from which point he went on to become one of the best selling artists of all time. Bloomberg Law highlights a number of other lawyers who went on to celebrity success.

From celebrity to law...

Dave Rowntree

The direction of traffic between the legal and celebrity worlds is by no means one way. Probably the most high profile of the celebs-turned lawyers is Dave Rowntree, the drummer in the band Blur, who last month qualified as a solicitor.

Rowntree's interest in the law began after he got involved in Blur’s contract negotiations in the early days of the band. He was to follow this up, years later, with some work experience at Bray & Krais, a niche entertainment law firm, before completing a stint as a paralegal at criminal legal aid firm Edward Fail Bradshaw & Waterson. Wowed by a murder trial he sat through while there, Rowntree went on to study law at the Open University – before securing a training contract at top London law firm Kingsley Napley.

Judge Jules

Following hot on Rowntree’s heels is Radio 1 DJ Judge Jules, who will commence his training contract at media law firm Sheridans next year. Having recently stepped down from the Radio 1 show he hosted for 14 years, Jules – real name Julius O'Riordan – is already working at Sheridans as a paralegal while he completes his Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Unlike Rowntree, Jules had a legal background to call upon to help him with his career change - the DJ studying law twenty years ago as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics. During this time, Jules got into music by DJ-ing at parties – earning his "Judge Jules" nickname, which was a reference to his area of study.

Stuart Ripley

Earlier this month, Stuart Ripley, the former Blackburn Rovers and England footballer, found himself back in the headlines after he featured on the Football Association panel charged with disciplining controversial Chelsea star John Terry.

Ripley was appearing in his capacity not only as ex-player, but as a solicitor specialising in sports law. After hanging up his football boots in 2002, Ripley enrolled on a degree in law and French at the University of Central Lancashire. Having graduated from the course with first class honours in 2007, and completing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), Ripley went on to secure a training contract with North West outfit Brabners Chaffe Street, which he commenced in 2010.

Brian Moore

Former England rugby player Brian Moore is another sports star who swapped glory on the pitch for the rather more sedate charms of legal practice. In Moore’s case, he did so with considerable success, becoming a partner at the now defunct City law firm Edward Lewis, and after that at Memery Crystal.

For a while, Moore combined his rugby union – which during his 1990s heyday was an amateur sport – with working as a solicitor, moving to London to play for Harlequins to allow himself to juggle both commitments. After retiring, Moore devoted himself to the law full-time before quitting in 2003 to pursue a TV career with BBC Sport.

Christopher Parker

The most recent escapee from the celebrity world set on becoming a lawyer is former Eastenders actor and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Christopher Parker, who is currently studying for an LL.B at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Parker shot to fame after playing Spencer Moon in EastEnders, before going on to reach the final in the first series of Strictly Come Dancing. Having just entered his final year at Birkbeck, it’s not yet known if Parker will draw upon an earlier cameo appearance in Judge John Deed to pursue a career at the Bar…


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