If you want to be a famous legal professional, California is a good place to get your start.
Say what you want about California, no one can deny that the state produces stars. From Katy Perry to Will Ferrell, some of the world’s most famous entertainers come from the Golden State.
It’s not surprising, then, that many of the world’s most famous legal professionals are also from California.
In this light-hearted blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the state’s most prominent legal professionals from all walks of life, from academics to sports to entertainment to the second-highest political post in the land.
Regardless of their professional aspirations, these folks all have one thing in common: they’re all California legal professionals. I think we can all agree that’s a pretty special thing to be.
#10: Amy Trask
Former California attorney Amy Trask may not be a household name. Nonetheless, her accomplishments in the world of sports cannot be denied.
Specifically, Amy Trask was the first female Chief Executive Officer of an NFL team: the Oakland Raiders. She held that position from 1997 to 2013.
Today, Ms. Trask is the Chairman of the Board of the Big 3 (a USA Basketball organization), a sports commentator, and the author of You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League.
#9: Jenny S. Martinez
Jenny S. Martinez is kind-of a big deal in legal academia.
She currently serves as the Dean of Stanford University Law School, which was ranked as the second best law school in the nation for 2023 by US News & World Report.
Prior to becoming Dean, Ms. Martinez was an international law and constitutional law litigator. She has been licensed as a California attorney since 2016.
#8: Shannon Minter
Shannon Minter is the Legal Director for the National Center of Lesbian Rights.
Perhaps more importantly, he also served as lead counsel in the seminal case holding that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marriage.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, Minter’s legal accomplishments can’t be denied. He has won numerous awards for legal excellence, including California Lawyer of the Year in 2009 and the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership in a Changing World” award.
#7: Tie between Ariel Clark & Allison Margolin
Ariel Clark and Allison Margolin share the #7 spot on our list of most famous legal professionals from California because of the overlap in their pioneering legal practices.
Specifically, Ms. Clark and Ms. Margolin — both California attorneys — are among the preeminent Cannabis law attorneys in the United States.
Ms. Clark, a Boalt Hall graduate and a named partner at California law firm Clark Howell, has won numerous accolades, including being named a “Top 100 Cannabis Leader” by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the “75 Most Important Women In Cannabis” by Cannabis Business Executive.
Ms. Margolin, who heads her own firm, was one of the first attorneys to advertise on YouTube. She quickly gained notoriety as “L.A.’s Dopest Attorney” for her work in Cannabis law. A Harvard graduate, Ms. Margolin began her career by defending terminally ill patients who had been arrested for marijuana activity. She is also the author of Just Dope: A leading attorney’s personal journey inside the war on drugs.
#6: Jeffrey Cohen
If you were between the ages of seven to seventeen in 1985, then you’re likely familiar with Jeffrey Cohen, although you might not recognize him as a California attorney.
That’s because in 1985, Mr. Cohen played the role of “Chunk” in the Steven Spielberg movie, “Goonies.”
Today, however, Mr. Cohen heads a firm called Cohen Gardner where he practices transactional entertainment law. He is also the author of The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.
#5: Harvey Levin
Some would argue that Harvey Levin has achieved Hollywood icon status for his work churning out celebrity gossip for TMZ.
What many people don’t know is that Mr. Levin began his career as a California attorney.
In fact, credits his legal background for much of his current success. Not too long ago, he even gave a talk at the University of Chicago about using your law degree to start a business. Given his success in the entertainment industry, it’s probably worth a listen.
#4: Erin Brockovich
No list of famous California legal professionals is complete without mention of the world’s most famous paralegal: Erin Brockovich.
Ms. Brockovich, whose career highlights became fodder for a Julie Roberts movie bearing her name, is a consumer advocate and environmental activist.
Back in the early 1990s, her work as a paralegal helped expose Pacific Gas & Electric as being responsible for massive groundwater contamination. Today, she heads her own consulting firm that helps people who have been injured by environmental toxins or faulty medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
#3: Gloria Allred
For decades, Gloria Allred has been the preeminent protector of women’s rights.
Through the years, she has represented thousands of women whose rights have been violated in the workplace and beyond. In fact, if there was an issue of national scope impacting women, you’d better believe Ms. Allred would be on camera providing her wisdom.
Due to her long and tireless work, Ms. Allred has received innumerable accolades, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Trial Lawyer National Portrait Gallery, and receipt of the American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dolores Huerta Adelita Award.
#2: Katie Porter
Katie Porter is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Orange County, California.
As a long-time lawyer prior to entering Congress, Rep. Porter quickly gained prominence for her hard-hitting interrogations during Congressional hearings.
Ms. Porter is also known for her no-nonsense explanations of issues impacting Americans, such as her recent explanation of the causes of inflation, which she recounted for popular podcast host, John Stewart.
#1: Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris is, of course, the current Vice President of the United States of America and the first woman to be elected to that post.
Prior to becoming the second-in-command to President Joseph Biden, Ms. Harris was a U.S. Senator from California.
Before that, however, Kamala Harris served as the Attorney General for the State of California, as well as the District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. In each of her roles, she has been known as a studious, hard-hitting attorney who places honor and justice above all else.
If you think about it, it is pretty impressive for one state to crank out so many famous legal professionals – especially since we didn’t even mention any of the attorneys from the OJ trial!