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For Aspiring Lawyers, the Whitey Bulger Trial is Must-See TV

If you’ve been following the Whitey Bulger trial, you know that its goings-on are the stuff usually reserved for the cinema or television screen. Lifelong subterfuge, murdering rivals, being pursued by one intelligence agency while working for another, and any other number of incredulities litter the trial’s landscape.

For those unfamiliar with Monsieur Bulger, some of his life is loosely chronicled by Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching that particular film, suffice it to say that Whitey was a bad, bad man.

The most recent development in the Bulger trial would make a Law and Order writer drool over her keyboard. Stephen “Stippo” Rakes, age 59 and a key witness for the prosecution, was found dead in a Boston suburb. Rakes alleged that Bulger wanted to use Rakes’s liquor store as a money laundering front and forced Rakes to sell the store to him below market for that purpose.

If your lawyerly ambitions were stoked by watching the likes of The Practice, the Bulger trial is must-see TV. Sensationalism abounds. A renowned criminal, responsible for countless murders and endless crimes is found living in Santa Monica, CA, at the age of 83 and trucked back to Boston to stand trial for all he’s done. Just the thought of prosecuting (or being defense counsel) in the Bulger trial would make any aspiring lawyer’s heart skip a beat.

Not only would one most assuredly find her face on television, but winning such a case could make a legal career. Should you decide to enter criminal practice, be aware that trials like Mr. Bulger’s are not the norm. The vast (and I mean vast) majority of cases are settled outside of court with plea agreements. Prosecutors don’t try cases nearly as often as Sam Waterston would have you believe. In other words, enjoy the Bulger trial for the spectacle it is and dream about being involved in such a case in your criminal law future. That may be as close as you get to such exhilarating courtroom action (but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you).