After five years prosecuting white-collar crimes for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa, Stephen Locher will be defending the accused, along with performing other duties after starting work Jan. 28 in Belin McCormick law firm’s litigation department.


What prompted the move?

A couple of different things, but the single biggest reason was just that I missed private practice. I had been in private practice for a number of years before joining the U.S. attorney’s office. I really liked the relationships that you develop with clients; I liked the variety of work that you can do in private practice and I missed those things at the U.S. attorney’s office, although I did enjoy the work a lot there. All I was doing there was criminal work; I was always in front of the same court every day and I wanted to have a little more variety.


What was most the most significant case that you worked on at the U.S. attorney’s office?

The most interesting was probably the prosecution of Rumeal Robinson. He was a college basketball star and an NBA basketball player. That case had a lot of interesting personalities and facts. He was a very manipulative person, with some out-of-control spending habits. So there was some interesting evidence I got to put in front of the jury in that one. The most challenging cases were ones that involved some specific and unique type of business where you had to help the jury understand the business before you could even try to prove your case. So that was a good challenge for me and something I learned a lot from.


What will your focus be at Belin?

I’ll be in the litigation department and I’ll be handling commercial litigation cases, which will include business disputes, class-action defense. In my prior practice, I represented a lot of secured lenders and that’s work that I’d like to do again. And I’ll also do some white-collar criminal defense.


What is the first day or two like at Belin?

You spend more time in training than anything else. But the nice thing about a firm like this is that they have a lot of good attorneys, they’re busy, so they have a whole bunch of cases that they’re waiting to throw at you. Which is fine for me. I’d rather work than sit still.


Why did you become a lawyer?

I like to read and write. I come from a family of lawyers. My dad is a lawyer, his dad is lawyer, I think there are four generations of Iowa lawyers in my family. It’s just something I always felt like I’d enjoy.


What is the pleasure about being in a courtroom, about being an advocate?

More than anything for me, it’s about trying to convince somebody to see the facts your way. Trying to build a case where they understand your client’s perspective. That act of trying to persuade someone is really fun and really challenging. And on top of that, I really do like the counseling side of being a lawyer, helping them navigate that process, trying to find ways to make the process more efficient for clients, getting to an acceptable outcome more quickly.


Is it easy to make the switch to white-collar defense work?

In some ways, it is. For one thing, the government isn’t always right. But even if the government is right, it doesn’t mean that the person who has made a mistake isn’t entitled to have their rights represented.


Did you ever feel bad about getting a conviction?

I didn’t feel bad about getting a conviction. The sentencing side of being a prosecutor is hard sometimes. ... I didn’t take any great pleasure in that, even though I thought the sentences were very well deserved.


Tell us about lecturing economics students at Harvard.

It’s a little intimidating at first, but sooner or later, everybody’s just bored, just like at any other college. One of my students was Mark Zuckerberg. … I don’t think he tried all that hard in the class or found it to be all that inspirational. We had office hours every week, but he wasn’t the kind of person who would come to office hours. This would have been his freshman year. So Facebook wasn’t in existence yet or even its precursor. You could already tell he was someone ... who wasn’t just trying to get a degree.