Vu Van Mau was born in Hanoi on July 25, 1914. He attended law school at Hanoi University and the University of Paris and began practicing law in Hanoi in 1949. He became a professor of law at Hanoi University in 1950 and dean of the law school in 1954. After the division of Indochina in 1954, Mau moved to the south and became minister of foreign affairs in the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1963, Vu Van Mau resigned in protest when Diem's police forces began attacking Buddhist strongholds. He even shaved his head in the manner of Buddhist monks to protest the discrimination and persecution. After the fall of the Diem government, Mau returned to private law practice.