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Robert Shapiro was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in September 1942 and graduated from Loyola Law School in 1968. Once he opened his own firm in 1972, Shapiro started off on a firm path, often representing famous clients who had minor entanglements with the law. In 1994, he was hired as part of the defense team for O.J. Simpson and became part of what would become known as the “trial of the century.” While Shapiro has always had a stellar legal reputation, the O.J. Simpson trial would come to be his ultimate career touchstone.
Robert Shapiro was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on September 2, 1942. He graduated from the Anderson School of Business at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1965 with a degree in finance and from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles in 1968. At Loyola, he set himself apart from his classmates by winning two American Juris Prudence awards and the school’s moot court competition. This earned him the spot as the court’s chief justice. His experience as justice provided him with future connections and showed him that his calling was the courtroom.
In 1969, a year after graduation, Shapiro was admitted to the State Bar of California. In 1970, he married Linell Thomas, with whom he had sons, Brent (1980-2005) and Grant (b. 1984). Shapiro had clerked for the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office during his last year of law school. He got his first job there as a public prosecutor, and stayed for nearly three years.
Upon leaving the District Attorney’s office, Shapiro hit the ground running by starting his own practice in 1972. It wasn’t long before he was representing his first famous client: Linda Lovelace, the 1970s porn star who became famous for the film Deep Throat. In early 1974, Shapiro defended Lovelace when she was charged with possession of cocaine and amphetamines in Las Vegas. As cocaine use became rampant in the 1970s, Shapiro gained a reputation for defending famous or rising musicians who had been arrested for doing or possessing illicit drugs.
Other early clients of note included fellow future O.J. Simpson attorney F. Lee Bailey and talk-show host Johnny Carson, who were arrested for drunk driving on the same day. The celebrity client trend continued into the 1990s, when Shapiro defended Christian Brando, son of acclaimed actor Marlon Brando, against manslaughter charges, and negotiated a financial settlement for baseball star Darryl Strawberry, who agreed to vacate his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after confessing to a drug habit. But the case of a lifetime was waiting just around the corner.
O.J. Simpson Trial and Beyond
On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside Brown’s Los Angeles condo. Simpson was a person of interest in their murders, and five days later the police engaged him in a bizarre low-speed chase that was broadcast live nationally for its duration.
Shapiro was hired as a part of Simpson’s defense team and in October 1995, the jury found Simpson not guilty of the murders, sealing Shapiro’s already stellar legal reputation. After the Simpson trial, Shapiro shifted the focus of his practice to the less-sordid white-collar criminal defense arena.
Outside of the courtroom, Shapiro has launched two companies, LegalZoom and Shoedazzle, and has written two bestselling books, The Search for Justice (nonfiction) and Misconception (fiction). Following the 2005 drug-related death of his son Brent, he founded a charity, the Brent Shapiro Foundation, which raises awareness about drug and alcohol addiction.
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