Law Man made it to my reading queue because of the following Facebook message from Brent Lee, an old friend from Aneta, ND:
- “Another book I would recommend, Law Man, was an easy reading interesting book about a small town, basketball playing, son of a farmer, who went to federal prison and then, while in prison became a successful lawyer and had a romance with a hometown girl that led to marriage. A story of redemption.”
I’m not sure Brent realized how much Shon Hopwood’s story would resonate with me. Brent and I came from a town even smaller than Shon’s and we played high school basketball there, albeit not at Shon’s star level. I was the son of a farmer and became a lawyer who filed numerous writs to get inmates out of prison. Unfortunately, I never had a romance with a beautiful hometown girl (although Brent’s sister Debbie was as beautiful as the girl in Shon’s fairytale story, and in my dreams she could have played that role, but she moved out of town after our freshman year in high school).
Brent’s summary of Law Man is dead-on. It is such an inspiring story of redemption that you can hardly believe that it is a true story. On the surface at age 22, Shon must have appeared like a loser destined for a horrible life – he couldn’t hold a job or a girlfriend and started robbing banks to avoid having to work. When the criminal-justice system collared him after his 5th heist and sentenced him to 12 years in prison, his life looked lost.
During those twelve years in prison, Shon somehow found a calling as an inmate lawyer and just as importantly found a soulmate, a girl from his hometown who reached out to him. But his story is incredible not because he found a calling or a soulmate, which happens from time to time to inmates, but because he found a world-class calling and a world-class girlfriend. He got so good at writing briefs that he worked with some of America’s best appellate lawyers, and his soulmate was so beautiful that people mistook her for being a model, plus being smart and athletic. I can’t imagine this story not being turned into a movie.
Upon further reflection, however, Shon’s story of redemption is not totally incredible. Unlike most inmates, he came from a solid, supportive family and community in Nebraska. He was not a lifetime criminal, but rather a decent, immature kid who turned to crime in a moment of weakness. Although the federal prison system did not play a significant role in reforming Shon, I am grateful that it did not prevent him from maturing into the solid citizen he surely is.
Shon married his soulmate and they are currently raising two kids while he attends the University of Washington Law School on a Bill Gates scholarship.