Fabulosity, Money, Munger Tolles & Olson, Rankings

Super-Rich Law School Graduates: Lawyers on the Forbes 400

Some J.D. holders are swimming in money.

For some holders of the Juris Doctor degree, “J.D.” has depressing meanings: Just Debt, Job Disabled, Justifiably Depressed.

But for others, “J.D.” stands for something happier: Just Dollars. Lots and lots and lots of them.

Partners at large law firms do quite well for themselves. So do general counsel at major corporations.

But they are pikers compared to members of the Forbes 400, the annual list of the 400 richest Americans prepared by Forbes magazine. The 2011 list has been issued — and it contains a number of lawyers and law school graduates….

Last year, the American Lawyer went through the list and located all the lawyers and holders of law degrees. It counted up a total of 38 law school graduates on the list — an impressive 9.5 percent of the total.

We updated the research for this year by noting the lawyers and law degree holders among two groups on the Forbes 400 for 2011: the newcomers, and the dropouts. There were two lawyer newcomers, both tied on the list:

#293 – Eric Lefkofsky – As the chairman and biggest shareholder of Groupon, Lefkofsky, 42, has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. He has a J.D. from the University of Michigan.

#293 – Donald Sterling – The 75-year-old Sterling, a real estate magnate, also has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. He owns the Los Angeles Clippers — and a J.D. from Southwestern Law School.

Charles Munger: no longer on the Forbes 400, but still pretty stinking rich.

And there was one lawyer dropout: Charles Munger, of Berkshire Hathaway (and Munger Tolles) fame. The 87-year-old Harvard Law graduate ranked #236 last year, but didn’t make this year’s cut after giving away some of his Berkshire Hathaway shares to relatives.

Two lawyer newcomers + one lawyer dropout = a net gain of one lawyer, for a total of 39 lawyers on the Forbes 400 for 2011.

UPDATE (9/20/2012): Make that 40. As noted by a commenter, Daniel Gilbert, of Quicken Loans fame, has a law degree (from Wayne State).

UPDATE (9/28/2012): Sorry, back to 39. We forgot to remove Jess Jackson, a billionaire Boalt Hall grad who passed away in 2011.

Of these moguls, not many made their money practicing law. Most are law school graduates who left the practice of law — or never entered it, in some cases — and found success in the business world. The notable exception is Joe Jamail, #293 on this year’s Forbes 400, who is described by the magazine as “America’s richest practicing lawyer.” You can read more about how Jamail built his fortune through the practice of law over here.

Congratulations to these law school grads turned billionaires (yes, billionaires; $1.05 billion was needed to make the cut this year). You can think hateful thoughts read more about them over at Forbes or at Am Law Daily.

The Forbes 400 [Forbes]
The Lawyers of the Forbes 400 [Am Law Daily]
Joe Jamail Is Richest Practicing Lawyer, But Not the Richest Law Grad [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel?
In This Economy, What’s the New Meaning of JD?

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