“Modify The Requirements For Much Of The Work Lawyers Do” 3 Ways To Fix The System, With Nicholas Wooldridge
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Wooldridge. Nick is an internationally known criminal defense attorney. His client roster reads like a virtual whos-who of white-collar criminals, cyber crooks, and international terrorists. Following a stint in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, Nick is now back home in Las Vegas.
What is your “backstory”?
I was born and reared in Las Vegas, and it was while growing up here that I had my initial introduction to the overall unfairness of the law in this country. I watched as a cop arrested a homeless person for nothing more than resting on the edge of Fremont Street. There were other people also sitting around — on the sidewalk, benches and those big concrete planters they have for traffic barriers.
But it was this one homeless man who got hassled and arrested. I learned quickly that there are two kinds of justice in America. Justice for the wealthy — the 1% if you will, and justice for the rest of us.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
A friend, who worked for a judge, told me a story of how two well known ‘local news people’ found themselves to be the laughing stock of the court when their dispute turned petty.
‘They filed mutual restraining orders against each other for “violence.” The filings were vague on details, but still somehow conveyed a sense of Shiloh or Antietam levels of blood.
‘When it came time for the hearing, it turned out the “violence” was spitting.
‘More specifically, during a heated argument, flecks of spittle managed to touch the other party. The judge denied the restraining orders, and both parties’ attorneys probably bought new yachts. Such is justice.’
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m sorry. I’m not at liberty to discuss cases I’m currently working on.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Can you share any stories?
Azamat Tazhayakov was a client who was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy for removing a backpack and laptop computer from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room. Tsarnaev was convicted for the Boston Marathon Bombing, and Mr. Tazhayakov was his college friend.
Three days after the bombing, Mr. Tazhayakov and two other friends went to Tsarnaev’s dorm. Mr. Tazhayakov was looking at decades behind bars, and I was able to get his sentence reduced to 3.5 years, with credit for the two-years he had already served.
Once he was released, he was deported to his home country, Kazakhstan.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Possibly Dan Webb. Ranked as the top litigation expert by Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers and the top white-collar criminal defense attorney by Corporate Crime Reporter, Dan Webb is one guy you don’t want to come up against in court. One of his most significant achievements was exposing corruption at all levels during the Iran-Contra trials. This even included interrogation of Ronald Reagan. He has also successfully represented Microsoft, Philip Morris, and General Electric. He has been lauded for his talent to win over jurors with his country charm. He undoubtedly has a lot of knowledge and wisdom to go along with that charm.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in law?
Study. Study hard. Before locking into a career in law, find a firm where you can do an internship or work as a paralegal while you’re going to college.
Law school can teach you how to perform research as well as show you courtroom procedures, but you have to remember — there’s the law and then there’s the way it’s taught in law school.
If you could make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
1. First, I’d reform the bail/bond system. Too often we keep people locked up waiting for trial merely because they don’t have the money to make bail.
2. Mandated sentencing. While this has been resolved somewhat in courts, I’d like to see mandated sentencing eliminated. Each judge should be allowed to set, within guidelines, their sentencing based on factors which may or may not be known outside the courtroom.
3. Modify the requirements for much of the work lawyers do. There are many areas, such as court filings with the Clerk of the Court and so on, which could be done by a paralegal. Paralegals do a lot now, but they could do more.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I don’t like to talk about what charitable work I’ve done. To do so makes it appear I work for the glory instead of the quiet and internal contentment which cannot be explained.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
When I was a kid, I witnessed an injustice. It was a petty crime, one which many people commit. But it was a crime committed by a poor person. It showed me the imbalance of justice in my town, my state, and my nation.
What drives me? The insatiable desire to see that justice prevails — for every person regardless of their socioeconomic status.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. There’s a difference between the ‘law’ and ‘justice.’
2. That justice is not always ‘blind.’
3. Everything built around ‘hours billed.’ It’s the foundation.
4. Often there is justice for the wealthy, and then there is justice for the rest of us.
5. John Grisham used to be a great lawyer.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer now living in South America. Jerry has spent his career in writing about and working with people as varied as the Mexican Drug Cartels, illegal immigrants from Central America, the Aborigines in Australia as well as covering acid rain effects on ancient temples in Cambodia and unlawful logging of The Amazon.
Igor Klopov, who is a young man living in Russia and has experienced life’s ups and downs. During a stint in prison, Igor experienced a spiritual awakening, and I would love the opportunity to spend an evening with him discussing this. I feel he has some lessons which would benefit me.
Arkady Bukh, my ‘mentor,’ if you would, in New York City. He came to America with little more than coins in his pocket and had built a boutique law firm which handles international cyber-fraud, white-collar criminals and even had a part to play in the trial of the Boston Marathon Bomber.