Convicted Bank Robber Gets Gates Scholarship to Law School

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on September 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law students come from all walks of life but Shon Hopwood is probably one of the more interesting law students you'll meet.

Hopwood is at University of Washington on a full scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is married and has two kids. He clerks for a federal district judge in Seattle. He published an award-winning book before coming to law school.

He is also a convicted bank robber and served more than nine years in prison, reports the ABA Journal. That's not even the most interesting thing about his legal career.

While he was serving his time, Hopwood got a job working in the prison law library. There he was approached by a fellow inmate who needed help drafting a petition for cert to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He helped draft the petition which was accepted by the Supreme Court, reports the Lincoln Journal Star. The case finished with his friend winning by unanimous vote. It changed how Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights are interpreted.

Hopwood worked on that case with former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman. But he didn't stop there.

While he finished out his sentence Hopwood helped other inmates file briefs, many of which were successful, including another cert petition accepted by the Supreme Court.

After his release Hopwood found a job as a paralegal helped along by a reference from Waxman. He published a book about his experiences called 'Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases and Finding Redemption.'

The former bank robber is now planning for a career in public interest law although he's not sure if that will be criminal or civil work, reports the Lincoln Journal Star.

When it comes to advice, Hopwood has some choice things to say. 'It turns out that school is not so difficult if you actually read the textbooks.'

Those are wise words to live by for any current or aspiring law student.

Whether Shon Hopwood's past as a convicted bank robber will prevent him from being admitted to the bar remains to be seen. But he is a reminder that a willingness to work hard can get you out of almost any tight spot.

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