Monday, April 03, 2006

RIP Norm Leonard...

In the vein of people whose death I missed because reading the Obit section depresses me almost as much as the Fashion section, I wanted to mark the passing of Norm Leonard. Over the last few months I've been having this conversation:

Some guy: So, you're going to law school?
Me: Yeah, I think so.
Some guy: What kind of law do you want to practice?
Me: I'm not sure I actually want to practice law, but...
Some guy: Then why are you going?
Me: Well, there's a lot of other things you can do with a law degree, but I don't know...I might practice law. If I did, it'd be, like, labor law or law directed towards social justice.
Some guy: You mean, like A Civil Action?
Me: No.

Well, if I did practice law, Norm Leonard would be the blueprint to follow. I'll link to the LA Times and SF Chronicle obits.

Here's the short summary of his work, from the Chronicle:

Mr. Leonard's cases included his 1954 defense of Harry Bridges before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which he successfully got the labor leader's perjury conviction overturned. Other cases included the defense of activists who picketed in spring 1964 at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel to protest a whites-only hiring practice; the defense of UC Berkeley students during the fall 1964 Free Speech Movement; conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War; and the representation of people subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings for alleged Communist Party activity.

I had the good fortune to work for three months at Leonard Carder LLP, Bay Area firm started by Norm Leonard and his partner Bill Carder. I even attended a holiday lunch with Mr. Leonard in 2004, where he spoke forcefully about the importance of carrying on the work. His colleagues at the firm were an inspiration to me, and helped show me what could be done with a legal education. So, if I do end up practicing law (and again, I don't know if it's likely or not), it'll be due to that as much as anything.

Glad I got the opportunity to see him in person.

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