Law students are taught to "break a problem down into its component parts" and "avoid fallacies in logical reasoning," Dorf says. They also learn all sides of an issue. In moot court, for instance, they must be able to argue either side.
"Lawyers are well equipped to analyze the pros and cons of most policy positions," says Sandy D'Alemberte, former president of Florida State University and former dean of its law school.
A legal practice also provides useful experience to future presidents, lawyers say. They cite negotiating and communication skills, teamwork, familiarity with the Constitution and government, respect for institutions, crisis management and even that CEO aura many lawyers find so elusive.
"You've got to have the ego of a surgeon," says William Neukom, president of the American Bar Association and ex-general counsel at Microsoft. "You've got the family farm on the line. What is your strategic plan? Who do you call as a witness? You've got to have that self-confidence to move forward."
A private practice, however, can create political trouble because lawyers don't always choose their clients. "The whole idea of being a lawyer is that everybody deserves one," Estrich says. "We don't judge a lawyer by saying you represent bad clients. But guilt by association is the name of the game in politics."
That came up in Thompson's first Senate race, Thompson says, when an opponent argued that he "has even represented criminals."
Pfiffner says hostility toward lawyers is real, but often fleeting. "Everybody hates lawyers until they need one," he says.
Need them or not, here they come.