Alumni Shon Hopwood writes a new chapter
Bellevue University alumnus Shon Hopwood contacted the University this summer with an update. The David City, Nebraska, native reported he has completed his first year of law school, and an autobiographical book, titled “Law Man: My Life of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption,” has been published by Random House.
Two short years ago Hopwood was a 34-year-old student in Bellevue University’s B.S. in Legal Studies degree program, working full-time for an Omaha legal document publisher, and writing a blog about the law and the legal profession. He had recently received national notoriety after an account of his life story appeared in the New York Times.
“The Times reporter told me it was the second-most read article on their website for two days,” Hopwood said. “I think people just like to hear about someone who received a second chance in life and did something positive with it.”
Hopwood’s “second chance” came after compiling a lengthy resume/rap sheet and eventually turning his life around. “I grew up in a small town and had a loving family. But after high school, I made a series of really bad, stupid choices of friends and activities.” Those activities included two years in the Navy, and a brief stint in a youthful small-town bank robbery gang. “We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” Hopwood told the Times. The robberies netted about $200,000 for the gang—some of it supporting Hopwood’s drug habit. After their fifth bank job, the gang was caught. He spent more than ten years behind bars, mostly in a federal penitentiary in Illinois. During his stay there, he began studying the law and assisting other prisoners with appeals. He began corresponding a former high school classmate who would become his wife, and he underwent a religious conversion.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in 2011, Hopwood received a major scholarship for law school. He and his wife, Ann Marie, who earned a M.A. in Human Services degree from Bellevue University in 2009, moved to Seattle with their infant son, Mark, now 2. Their second child, Grace, was born in September 2011.
“Every year, the William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholarship is awarded to five incoming students at the University of Washington School of Law,” Hopwood said. “William Gates, father of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, attended law school at UW. I interviewed for the scholarship along with 20 other incoming students who were selected out of all the students who applied for the scholarship. The Gates Scholarship is a big deal for me, because it pays for all my tuition, books, and a decent amount of money for living expenses and a summer internship. Basically, the scholarship amounts to about $180,000.
“My bachelor’s degree from Bellevue and specifically the legal studies courses I took helped prepare me for the rigorous academic challenged I faced in law school. And Economics Professor Dr. Judd Patton's Biblical Economics course has helped me immensely when I cover economic issues in law school or when blogging. I can't say enough good things about Professor Patton,” he said.
Despite his prison record, Hopwood said he will be able to practice law in many states in the future. “My passion is litigating cases on behalf of those you usually don't have access to the courts or access to justice because they cannot afford a good attorney. My other passion is following and writing about the U.S. Supreme Court.”
For now, the Hopwoods are busy with law school, book promotion, his judicial internship, raising two young children, and looking forward.
“My plan after law school is to work as a public service attorney helping people who are unable to afford a good attorney,” Hopwood said. “I plan to use my second chance in life to provide others with the same opportunity. And immediately after law school, I will try to land a prestigious law clerk job with a federal judge. I am interning for Federal District Court Judge John C. Coughenour here in Seattle this summer.” Social media fans can find more about the book on his Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/shonhopwood His Twitter feed is: @shonhopwood. And Hopwood writes a legal blog called the The CockleBur (www.thecocklebur.com). “I will also soon be joining “The Resurgence,” one of the top ten Christian blogs in the country,” he said.