Opening Statements

Mickey Sherman, Unplugged

Posted May 1, 2008 8:03 AM CDT
By Jenny B. Davis

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Mickey Sherman.
Photo: Superduperphoto.com

With his regular gigs on several news networks, it’s easy to forget that talking legal head Mickey Sherman actually practices law for a living—his office is in Stamford, Conn.

And it’s his experience in the courtroom, defending real people accused of real crimes, that makes his first foray into nonfiction—a memoir called How Can You Defend Those People?—a worthwhile read for lawyers. One chapter alone makes the book worth the purchase price, with comments from noted criminal defense lawyers like Roy Black and Dick DeGuerin on what type of criminal even they won’t defend.

What can lawyers expect from this book?

This book is a re­ality check—it really is a backstage [pass], a VIP laminate to what really happens in the criminal justice system. ... I’ve been pretty honest about everything. I don’t make excuses; I make it very clear that I am proud of what I do.

How do you manage your schedule, plus find time to write?

I am a classic procras­tinator. I would figure out every excuse not to type those first words; I’d make 17 trips to Staples. The only way I got this done was by flying back and forth to LA on airlines that were not JetBlue [with its seatback TVs]. But once I got started, it was OK. ... I am essentially a solo practitioner: I have been doing this a long time, I don’t take things on that I don’t feel comfortable doing, I don’t spread myself too thin geographically. I will take cases out of state that are interesting or profitable or both, but I don’t travel around Connecticut too much. I try to make sure I am not inconveniencing clients at any given time.

What’s it like working with clients who are celebrities?

They’re tough because they’re used to being the boss and having their way and pushing their lawyers around. Usually the lawyers who work for them are at their beck and call. The criminal process is a totally different situation—they truly need us. They’ve been humbled by the entire criminal arrest process, and it helps the relationship because they’re listening to us.

What’s your best advice for practicing lawyers?

As far as trying cases and dealing with cases, think outside the box—do your best not to sound like a lawyer 80 percent of the time. Keep an open mind about pretty much ev­ery­thing. And in big, bold letters: Listen to your client and his “people.” So many lawyers think, “I know everything about this field.” But so often the client comes up with gems and nuggets about how to do things or find things out.

Do you have another book in you?

Probably I do, yeah. But I just have to get on another airplane to LA, maybe to Hong Kong. It was a fun process; just those first five words—that was a tough thing.

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