The Soul of a Poet

How he became a lawyer is stranger than fiction

Published in 2006 Florida Super Lawyers — June 2006

As an English major at the University of Michigan, Lee Atkinson developed his writing skills. He had authored a couple of novels and hired an agent to see if he could get them published. “I got a phone call, and it turns out my agent was a fraud,” Atkinson says. “He was selling other people’s manuscripts as his own, and he was prosecuted. This was during the very time I was trying to decide what to do with my life.”
 
It’s not surprising, then, that he ended up becoming a lawyer. His career brought him to Florida in 1980, where he eventually became a federal prosecutor for the Middle District and head of the narcotics section. “When you’re a prosecutor for 20 years, the truth is a lot stranger than fiction,” he says. “I was fortunate — or unfortunate, depending on your view — to have been an on-call prosecutor. I’ve probably been to 200 autopsies. You get the story that never gets published in the paper.”
 
So Atkinson took up writing again. This time, he focused on his interest in poetry as a way of dealing with some of the unsettling scenarios in which he found himself. He’s written about prosecuting a serial killer and about a case in which a young mother was murdered on Christmas. “Poetry is a way of dealing with emotional things,” he says, “a way of expressing and venting strong emotions.”
 
But poetry isn’t just a release — it also benefits Atkinson’s current practice with Forizs & Dogali. “I’ve always liked opening and closing statements,” he says. “I write them as free-verse poetry. [Writing skills] allow me to put emphasis where it belongs, have good pace and rhythm, create a dramatic and interesting presentation, and come across persuasively.”

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