Take a look at this story about Ched Evans, an English footballer who played for Sheffield United, released from prison after serving half of a 5 year term for raping a 19 year-old girl.

He was making $4.8 million dollars a year before his conviction. Should he be allowed to play again?

What’s the right answer here? This debate is raging in the United Kingdom, but we have the same struggle here in the United States. Witness the controversies about Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.

Meanwhile, here in the United States we impose some 45,000 collateral consequences based on conviction. These are statutory or regulatory civil legal disabilities that may apply based on a record of conviction. You can browse the list at the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction. The average ex-offender can expect to drag the burden of conviction around for a lifetime.

What should the rules be?

Should the rules be better or worse for athletes? Do we really think athletes should be role models?

Should the rules be different for celebrities? If his legal troubles result in conviction, should Justin Bieber be deported?

Should the rules be different for sex offenders? Abusers?

As to people we don’t imprison for life, what do we really intend? Do your time and return to your old life? Live only in a criminal underground? Something in between?

Readers, tell us what you think.



Viewed from a certain perspective, practicing law is a lot of work. But the right question is “compared to what?”2014-10-09 16.43.14-1.road side

The summer after my freshmen year in college, I took a job with a man named Luke. He ran a small business washing grocery-store floors.   We were up many hours before dawn, driving across three states traveling from store to store. When we arrived we would wrestle the floor-washing machine down from his van, and then I would go from aisle to aisle, scraping up gum, price stickers and whatnot from the floors. Luke would wash the floors and I would mop them dry.  We would strip and wax one aisle per store, per week. By noon, we were home and done for the day.

There was a certain amount of real labor involved, and fair amount of boredom. Still it was a good job. Luke was a nice man and a fair boss. He treated me with respect, even though I was just a kid, and we enjoyed one another’s company. He paid me as agreed and on time.

It was only summer work, but I left it sooner than I should have when something more exciting came along.

Luke and I stayed friendly and I saw him one day years later. I told him I was in law school. Luke’s comment was that being a lawyer sound like a good job. “After all,” he said, perhaps echoing Bob Dole, “it’s indoor work, and there is no heavy lifting!”

In the many years since then I have kept Lukes’ comment in mind.   I enjoy practicing law, but as even my hero Rumpole says, “In the practice of law, there is a certain amount of the hum and the drum.”

But overall, perhaps because my practice has been varied, and I’ve enjoyed the thousands of stories my clients have told me (and some of the thousands of counter-stories my opponents have told), there has been very little boredom in it for me.

In my practice, few days are the same. Many days are challenging. Once in a while, I have truly easy, pleasant day.  Last week, I had such a day.

2014-10-11 13.37.32.tree aloneI was in the office early, editing and proofing a memorandum for filing. A few calls and emails, and then I met a colleague for a two-hour drive through Vermont’s fall foliage to a rural courthouse.

My motion was contested, but I could see from my opponents’ papers that the fight would be mostly perfunctory.  And so it was.

Then we had a late lunch and pleasant drive home. Most of the time we were out of cell phone range, so we did not even have to respond to phone calls and emails.

As my friend Luke said, “No heavy lifting.”




Clarence Darrow: Archetype of an American Trial Lawyer — Part II

September 29, 2014

Last time,  I focused on Clarence Darrow’s cases and other accomplishments as recounted in John A. Farrell’s biography, Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned (Vintage Books: New York, 2011; 561 pp. $12.92). But Darrow wasn’t just a lawyer. He was a radical and activist. He was a sometime politician. Surely, he was a celebrity, and some […]

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Clarence Darrow: Archetype of an American Trial Lawyer — Part I

September 25, 2014

Resilience. That is the characteristic of Clarence Darrow that translates most vividly from the John A. Farrell biography, Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned (Vintage Books: New York, 2011; 561 pp. $12.92). Resilience is, of course, a quality that all lawyers need, to one degree or another. Even lawyers in transactional practice work in an adversarial […]

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A Mediator’s Toolkit: Repetition

September 15, 2014

One of the best mediators that I have ever seen in action makes a practice of repetition. No, I don’t mean that he repeats what he says over and over. I mean that he listens carefully to one side of the dispute and before he turns to the other side, he repeats what he heard, almost […]

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The Limits of Judicial Impartiality

September 12, 2014

Some years ago,  I visited the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Boston. Inscribed on a plaque outside the courtroom is language from the first constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: “It is essential to the preservation of the rights of every individual, his life, liberty, property and character, that there be an impartial interpretation of […]

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Military Justice in the United Kingdom: Justice is Not Simple.

September 8, 2014

Today, OnLawyering.com is fortunate to have a guest post by Robert Seymour, a retired Judge Advocate. In the United Kingdom, Judge Advocates preside over courts martial. Judge Advocates are civilian lawyers appointed in the same way as any other member of the British judiciary. The case of Alexander Blackman, a Royal Marine sergeant, has attracted world-wide attention. […]

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Uniform Law Conference of Canada Adopts the Interjurisdictional Recognition of Substitute Decision-Making Documents Act

September 3, 2014

On August 14, the Uniform Law Conference of Canada adopted the Uniform Act on Interjurisdictional Recognition of Substitute Decision-Making Documents. The Act is intended to insure that plans for health care and financial management, such as powers of attorney and health care powers, are portable among Canadian and United States jurisdictions. According to SLAW, Canada’s […]

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Legal Education and Access to Justice: A Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

August 20, 2014

Under the leadership of outgoing American Bar Association President James R. Silkenat, the Association took a major step in the right direction this year by recognizing that the crisis in American legal education represents the crossing of problem with opportunity. We are a nation in which many millions of Americans can’t find lawyers to help effectively […]

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ABA President William C. Hubbard Calls for Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform

August 16, 2014

The American Bar Association’s incoming President, William C. Hubbard, delivered an eloquent speech at the 2014 Annual Meeting last Monday in Boston, calling among other things, for change in our criminal justice system. It’s a system that incarcerates too many people, for too long, with an impact shocking it its disparate effects on members of […]

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