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Law man

by Shon Hopwood; Dennis Michael Burke

  Print book : Biography  |  1st ed

Memoir of Mistakes, Redemption, and Love   (2012-09-23)


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by whisner

<div class="post-body entry-content" style="width: 490px; position: relative;">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 style="text-decoration: none;" href="">A Mediocre Criminal, But an Unmatched Jailhouse Lawyer<img id="snap_com_shot_link_icon" class="snap_preview_icon" style="position: static; padding: 1px 0px 0px; background-image: url(; -webkit-box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.0976563) 1px 1px 5px; box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.0976563) 1px 1px 5px; margin: 0px !important; max-height: 2000px; max-width: 2000px; min-width: 0px; min-height: 0px; float: none; left: auto; top: auto; visibility: visible; width: 14px; height: 12px; vertical-align: top; display: inline; background-position: -943px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;" src="" alt="" /></a>, Feb. 8, 2010. And last fall, he began studying law the more typical way: in a law school.

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