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March 13, 2008

Good news for criminal defense lawyers who want to run for office?

In this post a few weeks ago, I linked to this Newsday article providing a long account of Senator Clinton's work as a criminal defense attorney three decades ago.  The Newsday article seemed to be written to provide talking points against HRC because of her work on behalf of an accused rapist: it stressed that "a 27-year-old Hillary Rodham, acting as a court-appointed attorney, attacked the credibility of a 12-year-old girl in mounting an aggressive defense for an indigent client accused of rape in Arkansas."  Interestingly, though, this story did not end up having any legs in the heated 2008 campaign; I cannot even recall seeing any legal blogosphere discussion of this article.

But now I see this notable new article from the American Lawyer, which asks "Is Clinton's Corporate Law Background Hurting Her Candidacy?".  Here are snippets from this very interesting article:

An inarguable fact — and lawyers love inarguable facts! — is that Hillary Clinton spent the longest stretch of her professional life working in a corporate law firm. From 1977 to 1992 she worked as a lawyer in the firm of Rose, Nash, Williamson, Carroll, Clay & Giroir (renamed Rose Law Firm in 1980) in Little Rock, Ark.  She devotes a single sentence to these years on her campaign Web site: "She continued her legal career as a partner in a law firm." (And this, in a section called "Mother and Advocate.")...

The ability to argue all sides of an issue is a hallmark of the lawyerly mind.  Hillary's ability to assert moral residency on different ideological sides of an issue showed itself soon after she joined the Rose firm....

Neither Hillary Clinton nor the average corporate law partner is likely to make anyone's blood jump or heart sing.  When you are in trouble, however — real trouble — it may be that the person you want to see isn't the guy who wows you with his wit and charisma, but someone who has really done her homework, pored over all the boring details, and then gone back over them again, just for fun.  It's pretty clear that the country is in real trouble. Bridges are falling down; the stock market is all over the place; and let's not even bring up Iraq or Sudan.  This might or might not be the right time to look past Hillary Clinton's cool, corporate, bill-by-the-hour sensibility, her lawyerly inclination to avoid risk and run everything past the pollsters, to smile and keep a stiff upper lip because appearance and propriety matter more than most things — and certainly more than impropriety.

So, all you wanna-be lawyer-pols out there, it seems your political future could be hurt more by time in a corporate law firm than from time practicing criminal defense.

Cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg (under a different post title).

March 13, 2008 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

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Comments

It is all in how you spin it. Non-lawyers really don't know much about what we do, so they really have no way of judging us objectively.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 13, 2008 11:20:07 AM

In the Demoncratic Party anyway. Should she win the nomination, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Republican candidate pay a little more attention to it than Sen. Obama.

Posted by: Chris | Mar 13, 2008 11:56:01 AM

In the Demoncratic Party anyway Typo or really really bad joke?

Posted by: | Mar 13, 2008 1:28:17 PM

Those scumbag criminal defense attorneys shouldn't be allowed to be judges, either, and as a rule they aren't.

Posted by: George | Mar 13, 2008 1:42:32 PM

1:28 - neither - just a realization that to become a politician - aka win office, members of both parties usually get a shot at you. This includes those that otherwise might find objectionable one's having represented those seen as less than sympathetic.

Posted by: Chris | Mar 13, 2008 6:11:39 PM

Prof. - you didn't look hard enough in the blogosphere.

As a public defender, I had to mention the story:

http://apublicdefender.com/2008/02/26/the-hillary-as-public-defender-flak/

Posted by: Gideon | Mar 13, 2008 6:47:58 PM

Hey, it works both way. A lawyer that spent his career writing agreements between dentists to obtain and purchase office space together can be bashed as a "corporate" lawyer.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 14, 2008 6:49:31 AM

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