Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Law Man: Memoir of a Jailhouse Lawyer Now Law Student

Law Man is second-year law student Shon Hopwood's memoir of his unusual path to law school, written with Dennis Burke.

Unlike the students who come to law school after 17 years of playing by the rules, kindergarten through college, Shon Hopwood made some significant mistakes. He dropped out of college after less than a year, drank so much while he was in the Navy that he landed in the hospital, had some low-level jobs, and had to get his father to help him with his debts.

And then he made some really big mistakes: he robbed five banks.

In federal prison, Hopwood was assigned to work in the kitchen but was lucky to be reassigned to the prison law library, where he started reading and studying law. Over time, his diligence paid off. He became the go-to guy for inmates who wanted help with a motion or an appeal.

And he was remarkably successful. The great majority of petitions for certiorari are denied, but Hopwood's first cert petition, on behalf of a fellow inmate, was granted. Seth Waxman, the prominent Supreme Court advocate appointed to represent the inmate, kept Hopwood involved with the case. Hopwood's fellow inmate eventually had his sentence shortened. Through his relationship with Waxman and another lawyer, Hopwood got encouragement and more opportunities to learn.

During Hopwood's ten years in prison, he not only took college correspondence courses and taught himself law: he also grew emotionally by forming a strong relationship with a young woman he had known in high school—a woman who is now his wife.

After he was released and was working, Hopwood was profiled in the New York Times: Adam Liptak, A Mediocre Criminal, But an Unmatched Jailhouse Lawyer, Feb. 8, 2010. And last fall, he began studying law the more typical way: in a classroom.

Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption, catalog record. (The Law Library's copy hasn't arrived yet; we'll update this post when it gets here.) Publisher's page. Shon and Ann Marie Hopwood's website.


Kevin Landry personal injury lawyer said...

One of my interns just read this abd absolutely loved it. she fit the profile of the 17 years of perfect grades and naivete, then got into law. Very good book she said. Thanks, Kevin

Mary said...

It is so nice to learn the history of people around us. Learning their history just like the main character of the book will help us become a much better person. I am now working on college graduate dissertation project which main purpose is to make a study on how college graduates really behave.