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Robert Shapiro: Law trumps finance, writing

Robert Shapiro

There sure are a lot of lawyers out there, but few are as famous as Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro. His extensive client list includes Johnny Carson, Linda Lovelace and Darryl Strawberry. But it was undoubtedly the O.J. Simpson trial that made Robert Shapiro a household name. The case of the century put him on the universal map and reinforced his position as one of the most sought-after lawyers in the world. Not bad for a guy who graduated from UCLA with a degree in finance and aspirations to work in mutual funds.

Bankrate: How did you slide off that finance track?

Robert Shapiro: I wanted to get into a senior position at companies that dealt in mutual funds, and then I realized that law would be useful.

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Bankrate: Any regrets in not following through with the finance jobs?

Robert Shapiro: Based on what's happened in the stock market, I think I chose the right career path.

Bankrate: So do you do any of your own investing now?

Robert Shapiro: I really don't. I don't have the time. And I honestly believe that there are people who are much smarter than me at it. So I leave everything to the people who handle my accounts, and I don't really follow the results month to month. My goal is just a preservation of capital with a fair rate of return.

Bankrate: So instead, you went on to become one of the most famous trial lawyers in the country, thanks to the case of the century ... how did that change your life?

Robert Shapiro: Any time you're involved with a case for 16 months, it's going to have a severe impact on your family and everyone else. But prior to that, I had handled more high profile cases than any lawyer so the immediate result was a much wider base of recognition.

Bankrate: Did it change you personally?

Robert Shapiro: It certainly made me take a closer look at my strengths and weaknesses.

Bankrate: I read somewhere that you really dislike consulting with clients while they are in jail ... why?

Robert Shapiro: It's very difficult consulting with someone while they're in jail, and people in jail, generally speaking, typically can't make bail, so they are not the type that would be hiring a lawyer. Let's just say it's a very difficult relationship to maintain.

Bankrate: It's been widely reported that not consulting with O.J. Simpson in jail ultimately led to Johnny Cochran taking lead counsel at the Simpson trial.

Robert Shapiro: It was my policy to not discuss cases, including the Simpson case, that I work on in detail, and it remains my policy today.

Bankrate: Fair enough. I should add that you probably don't have to go chasing after cases these days, so if you don't want to represent someone who cannot make bail, you certainly don't have to.

Robert Shapiro: I take very few cases, basically cases that have a special interest to me, that are challenging, that have a lot at stake, and people who I like to work with. But unfortunately, it's not possible for me to represent everyone who comes to me. We do have a screening process and I'm fortunate to work in a firm that has a lot of lawyers. I'm a partner at Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, and we have a substantial litigation practice. Sometimes I'm the lead attorney and sometimes I'm just called in to troubleshoot.

Bankrate: What's your hourly rate?

Robert Shapiro: My rates are competitive with all lawyers who have my experience across the country. But it really depends on the client. There are lawyers at my firm that bill $525 an hour.

Bankrate: Tell me about your Web site.

Robert Shapiro: Legalzoom.com is about 2 ½ years old. It is an Internet company that allows people to create their own legal documents via the Internet. It makes affordable documents that every American should have but doesn't have. Because they can't afford a lawyer or they don't have the ability to understand and know the documents they might need. For example, 80 percent of the public does not have a will and we do a will for $60. And everything we do at Legalzoom is an original document. We're not a form-filling service. Our documents are first-rate.

Bankrate: Are they admissible in court?

Robert Shapiro: These are not documents for court with the exception of divorce. We deliver the documents immediately via the Internet. In the example of wills, you could change them over and over again.

Bankrate: Your book "Misconception" was based on reality and was well received by the public ... any plans to write again?

Robert Shapiro: I had a lot of fun with that book, and I'm researching something called "Law and Disorder," a work on criminal cases.

Bankrate: What about giving up law and writing full time?

Robert Shapiro: No way. I'm just not that good of a writer.

-- Posted: June 15, 2004




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