Boston University School of Law

September 18, 2009

Norman Gross ('69)

Norman Gross (’69) publishes America’s Lawyer-Presidents, 2nd ed.

The United States has a long legacy of presidents who were also lawyers. In Norman Gross’ (’69) book, America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office (Northwestern University Press), the author explores this history and the legal careers of some of our most famous presidents. The second edition of the book expands on this history to include President Barack Obama, a chapter on “Almost Lawyer-Presidents” and updated information on Supreme Court, attorney general and solicitor general appointments.

America's Lawyer-Presidents is the only book that covers the legal careers of these national leaders and its impact on their presidencies,” said Gross. The volume includes some of the greatest U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, whose legal career spanned 25 years and 5,100 cases, and John Adams, the nation’s first lawyer-president.


“Interestingly, the president whose actions most reflected his legal background was Abraham Lincoln. His communications with his cabinet officers – most of whom were lawyers – and even with his generals often reflected those of a lawyer requesting a legal memorandum on an issue,” said Gross. “Another example is the Emancipation Proclamation…. Lawyer Lincoln, well aware of the constitutional shortcomings of the Proclamation, used his legal expertise in carefully crafting its language. As a result, this ‘legally dubious act’ had its intended impact until all possible challenges were addressed through passage of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery and involuntary servitude.”

The first edition of America’s Lawyer-Presidents was produced in 2004 in conjunction with a companion exhibit at the American Bar Association’s Museum of Law in Chicago. “At that time, I was the museum's director, a position I held for ten years before retiring from the ABA in 2005,” he said.

Gross began working at the ABA in 1972. While there, his other positions included serving as founding director of the ABA Division for Public Education and director of Entrepreneurial Projects. Along with the updated edition of America’s Lawyer-Presidents, Gross has also edited the volume Noble Purposes: Nine Champions of the Rule of Law.

>>Read more about America’s Lawyer-Presidents on the Northwestern University Press Web site