Last week, we searched this year’s Forbes 400, the list of the 400 richest Americans, for lawyers and law school graduates. Lat pointed out the newcomers and the dropouts since last year’s roundup, but there are still more than thirty other lawyers on the list.

Let’s take a closer look at these affluent attorneys. Their stories will either inspire you with visions of vast wealth or afflict you with jealousy at how many times over they could pay off your loan debt….

As we noted earlier, most of these wealthy law school graduates are not practicing attorneys, and many have never pursued careers in law. The majority have earned their billions through investments, hedge funds, real estate, or, of course, inheriting the family fortune. Still, there are some intriguing legal backgrounds on the list:

  • The wealthiest law school grad on the list is S. Robson Walton, who ranks #9 on the list with a net worth of $26.1 billion. Yes, that’s “Walton,” as in “Wal-Mart” — the world’s largest retailer, which his father founded. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Walton became a partner at Conner & Winters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which represented Wal-Mart, before joining the family business. He became chairman of the company after his father’s death.
  • Ten members of the Pritzker family made the Forbes 400, and four of them are proud law school graduates: Jay Robert or “J.B.” (#179), Thomas (#218), Penny (#271), and Daniel (#285). (Nicholas Pritzker II, who has a J.D. from the University of Chicago and who made the 2011 list at #359, dropped off the list this year.)
  • Before Randal Kirk (#190) became the founder, chairman and chief executive of New River Pharmaceuticals, earning himself a net worth of $2.4 billion, the UVA grad practiced law for 11 years in Bland County, Virginia … where he was the only attorney.
  • Apparently being a lawyer is a good way to make yourself the 250th-richest person in the United States, because four of our law school grads tied for that rank — Michael Jaharis, Donald Sterling, David Rubenstein, and Daniel Gilbert — all with respective net worths of $1.9 billion.
  • As we noted in 2011, Joe Jamail, Jr., known as the “King of Torts,” is the wealthiest practicing attorney in the United States — and the only practicing attorney on the Forbes 400, where he came in at #311 with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

Wondering which law school gets bragging rights for having the highest number of graduates on the list? The University of Virginia and Harvard Law School tied for first place, with a grand total of four alumni each on the list. Stanford Law School, Southern Methodist University, and Northwestern University tied for second, each boasting three billionaire alums.

The full list is on the Forbes website, featuring profiles for each of the 400 members. We’ve also compiled a Google Docs spreadsheet for your perusal, which includes each person’s rank, net worth (in billions), law school, and biographical information (in the “comments” column):

So, what can law school grads (or current law students) take away from this list? Although the legal job market is… not great, it’s encouraging to see that a law degree can still land you on a list of billionaires that includes the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Rupert Murdoch.

Earning major cash with a law degree isn’t an impossible dream just yet. You just might need smart investments and a little bit of luck — or at least good genes — if you want earn the coveted title of billionaire barrister.

Forbes 400 [Forbes]

Earlier: The Richest Lawyers (or Law School Graduates) in America: Lawyers on the Forbes 400 (2012)
Super-Rich Law School Graduates: Lawyers on the Forbes 400 (2011)


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