A New Look At Law

Parker Alum Len Goodman Presents at Parker

“It’s very hard to make friends with people who are different than you.”

On Wednesday, February 5, Parker Alum and defense attorney Len Goodman emphasized these words in his presentation on his life working with the law and defending those in court. As a defense attorney, Goodman specializes in defending those who have been accused of crimes, varying in charges, and has tried cases in state and federal courts throughout the Midwest.

Goodman’s school days at Parker did not propel him to be a lawyer. In fact, as he puts it, he was the type of student that was “very willing to go along with other kids if they were getting in trouble.” But because of the support he gained from teachers at Parker, he eventually changed his ways and ended up going to law school. From there, he got a job at Jenner and Block firm, where he learned how to primarily represent corporations. But when he got an offer a year later to be a defense attorney, Goodman jumped at the chance.

His decision was primarily due to the fact that he observed many adults leaving college with large amounts of debt, and realized that they were stuck and were left with very little options to proceed forward. “I had the choice to represent people instead of corporations,” Goodman said, “so I became a criminal defense lawyer.”

One of Goodman’s first realizations as a defense lawyer was how the justice system was stacked against poor people. “When I pick a jury in a criminal case, I always want to have some poor people on the jury, and the reason is,” Goodman said, “when you’re a wealthy person, you see the police in a certain way.” 

Because of this reason, Goodman wants more skepticism from a jury in one of his cases. “When a police officer is going to get on the stand and testify in a case, I want to have people on the jury who aren’t going to automatically believe that police officer,” Goodman said. “They’re going to say, ‘wait a second. We have to really look at what he is saying and see if this is true.’”

Going off of the point of different perspectives, Goodman then revealed one of his main discoveries from working in the court system: broadening your horizons. “It’s very important to make friends with people who are different than you,” Goodman said. “I say this because I know a lot of very privileged people that associate with other privileged people, and I think this is a big mistake.”

Goodman was first approached to speak by the Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno, who had met him years before serving as Dean. “I met Len in 2014 when I was working in the alumni office because he hosted our big Chicago Alumni gathering at his home between 2014 and 2017,” Bruno said. “I’ve known the work he had been doing, I know what a great guy he is, he’s so fascinating.” 

In the past, Bruno has brought in many alumni to speak to the student body and hopefully connect with students, but felt that Goodman was the alumni who would be most interesting to students. “Len is very quiet, he’s not the type to talk about the things he is doing but I’ve heard about some of his work through other alums, and I thought he had a great story to tell,” Bruno said. “I just thought there were students and faculty who were going to connect to Mr. Goodman.”

The MX connected with many students and teachers, some of whom reached out to speak to Mr. Goodman in the future. “This is the first time that I have gotten three emails from teachers asking for the contact info for an alumni speaker and sharing how it was a powerful MX,” Bruno said. “I also got an email from two students who would like to bring him in to speak, and that has never happened before.”

As a defense attorney, Goodman often finds that it is important to fight for all clients, guilty or innocent, and set this mantra into practice in 2007 when he represented an Afghani man detained in Guantanamo Bay, who was held with no charges or evidence of wrongdoing. “I believed that every human being had a right to have somebody on their side,” Goodman said. 

He later learned that his client was captured in 2003 and held in Guantanamo Bay for four years, and when Goodman approached the federal government with concrete evidence that proved his client’s innocence, the government refused to reveal to him a classified document that proved his client was a threat to national security. When Goodman was told that his clearance was not high enough for him to view this evidence, it shocked him, and he wrote an article about the case and published it in the Chicago-born magazine, In These Times. In response, Goodman’s clearance was revoked and he was unable to defend his client. Goodman fought the revoking and managed to re-defend his client, who was released later in 2015. 

At the end of his presentation, Goodman left the audience with one piece of advice. “Do things in your life that take you out of your comfort zone,” Goodman said, “do things that scare you.” 

Despite knowing Goodman for several years prior, Bruno felt that he still learned something about Len from this MX. “I was not aware of how passionate he is about journalism and really exposing the truth,” Bruno said, “and to hear how these different markets who are owned by corporations control what is being put out there, you do think and hear that normally, but to hear it from him was fascinating.”