From prosecutor to professor, finding a better balance

Published: August 15th, 2011

Category: Spotlights

Michael Seigel

Michael Seigel

Fredric G. Levin College of Law

It wasn’t the vague threat of being murdered by the Mafia or the FBI security measures surrounding him that led Michael Seigel to retire from the Organized Crime Strike Force in Philadelphia. It was the hours.

In 1989, Seigel was a 30-year-old federal prosecutor, working 16-hour days, seven days a week on his highest profile case yet, against the Sicilian Mafia, including Francesco Gambino. During the first three months of his daughter’s life, he took a total of five days off work.

“I loved what I was doing, but that wasn’t the kind of husband or father I wanted to be,” he said. “I looked at my wife and I said, ‘Win or lose, this is going to be my last big case because I need a better balance in life.’”

The trial ended in September of that year and by July 1990, Seigel was ready to start his new career as a law professor at the University of Florida. But he arrived to a very quiet campus and town. The contrast with his previous life was jarring.

He remembers looking at his office telephone and wondering if it would ever ring.

He soon found his place in the world of academia, applying his expertise and experience from his prosecution days to courses in criminal law, ethics, evidence and white-collar crime. The latter is the topic of his fourth book, “White Collar Crime: Law, Procedure, Theory and Practice,” an 800-page casebook scheduled for a fall release. Over the years, between teaching classes and a five-year stint as first assistant United States attorney in the Middle District of Florida, he has built a solid reputation as a criminal and white-collar law expert.

These days, his phone rings often; Seigel frequently is quoted in the news media because of his criminal law expertise. With much of the nation’s attention turned toward Florida for the Casey Anthony trial in Orlando, Seigel has recently been quoted in places such as The New York Times, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and ABC News.

But Seigel is perhaps more excited to talk about his newest endeavor at the law school: serving as the first director of the new Criminal Justice Center and certificate program. Seigel said the center is among only a few like it in the country and will benefit both the college and its students by bringing faculty together and giving graduating students a leg-up on competition in the real world.

The certificate program – basically a way to specialize in one area – will help students “signal to the marketplace that they’ve really dedicated themselves to this particular area of study,” Seigel said.

The program does not require any additional credits beyond what already is required, but it lays out a course plan to allow students to make the most of the criminal law courses offered at the law school.

Said Seigel: “We believe it does in fact give them more of an ability to hit the ground running once they have graduated.”

Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography

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