Influential lawyer speaks on experiences

Alan Dershowitz traded in the courtroom for the beach.

“I want to become a Florida beach bum,” he said.

Despite his wishes, prominent attorney Dershowitz manages to keep busy after retiring from his 50-year tenure at Harvard Law School. He spoke at the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse on Friday to talk about his 30th book “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law,” an autobiography about his legal career. The University of Miami’s School of Law and the local bookstore, Books and Books, hosted the event.

“A few years ago, I figured, I’m coming to milestones, this is my 30th book, and it’s a good time to reflect,” he said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane. “My hope is that this isn’t my last memoir.”

Dershowitz is primarily a civil liberties and criminal lawyer. He has won 30 out of 37 homicide cases.

He represented well-known clients who were accused for murder such as British socialite Claus von Bulow, O.J. Simpson and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Some of his homicide cases ended with the death penalty.

“The easiest cases to win are murder cases with a death penalty,” Dershowitz said. “I’ve told a couple of my clients, ‘You are so lucky you’re getting the death penalty.’”

Dershowitz learned not to get nervous about cases involving murder, although the Kuchma case proved different.

“I was working with my legal team and we found one of the lawyers on the team dead,” he said. “When we found out how he died, that was the tip-off that there was something else involved.”

Aside from these high-profile crime cases, half of Dershowitz’s cases are pro bono, a legal term for “the public good.”

Dershowitz decided to pursue a career in law because “you can use your mouth and not your brain.”

Dershowitz thinks prospective lawyers can become successful if they learn to listen. He also believes that there’s a life outside of the corporate law route and a decent living can still be made at a small firm.

“Don’t fill in other people’s pigeon holes,” he said. “Figure out what you’re good at, and figure out your strengths, because too many lawyers fit into predicted patterns.

Looking back on his retirement from Harvard Law School, Dershowitz has no regrets.

“I tend to not be a regretting type of person,” he said. “People ask if I’m going to regret retiring from Harvard, and I see it as a new beginning.”

November 17, 2013


Megan McCrink

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.