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The trial lawyer in the purple seersucker suit

Sep 06, 2011 The trial lawyer in the purple seersucker suit

Last week, I was in Stafford County, Virginia, Circuit Court for an arraignment. I am accustomed to lawyers’ outfits blending into the woodwork there, as in most of the courthouses where I practice. My clothes blend in, too, for the most part. Although I sold clothes and shoes part-time for a brief period in college preceded by high school, I prefer entering a clothing store like a guerrilla. I go in, find what fits and suits me enough, pay, get the hell out of there, and bring the suit to a top-notch tailor around the corner from my office. At the local vegan Pangea store and online, I buy breathable cruelty-free leather-look shoes, as well as imitation leather belts and wallets. Silk’s coming from heating and killing silkworms, I buy cotton ties, at the expense of wearing Jerry Garcia ties. Wool needs to leave my closet, too, although I have not yet taken that step.

Back to the Stafford courtroom, I did a double-take when I espied a lawyer in his fifties or sixties wearing a purple seersucker suit and a purple necktie, carrying a purple file folder. The suit did not seem to detract from his air of experience and confidence, and seemed to add to his individuality. The judge was on the bench, and I started writing a note introducing myself and asking his name, but I figured we would either meet or not, without the note. He left the courthouse before I finished in the courtroom. He apparently is from another county.

This man probably would not have been as noticeable to me on the Left Coast.

It appears that being on the Left Coast is not sufficient by itself for one to flex his or her own wings of dreams, creativity, and individuality. That all comes from inside. For me, I was committed before ever starting my first law school semester to using my law degree to fight for justice. I had some initial detours, but got on the path that particularly suited me through such steps as participating in my law school’s immigration law clinic, co-starting a law school Amnesty International chapter, getting a good grounding in federal litigation at my first law firm, and becoming a public defender lawyer two years out of law school.

My teacher the amazing Sunwolf recently recommended Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement speech (see the video and text). It turns out that Jobs did not need to don a purple seersucker suit to find his fulfilling professional path. Nevertheless, just as the purple seersucker-suit-wearing lawyer probably found personal meaning in wearing that suit, Jobs found personal meaning in carving his own path in life, and kept on that path even after dropping out of college and dropping into the classes that he wanted to.

Whether or not Jobs’s commencement speech was penned by Apple’s public relations department, his personal journey is remarkable — but also replicable, to a point — including:

– His mother put him up for adoption and insisted on college-educated adoptive parents. When that plan fell through, he was adopted by non-college-educated parents one of whom did not complete high school. They promised to send him to college.

– Jobs felt his parents’ life savings was not giving a sufficient return in college, so he dropped out.

– During his time of dropping into college after dropping out, he slept on friends’ floors, and walked seven mile on Sundays to get a sufficient meal at the Hare Krishna temple. (Theirs are vegetarian meals, wonderfully.)

– He emphasizes finding and doing what you love, and not living for others.

Fortunately, with criminal defense, I have found what I love to do. Jobs’s commencement speech hopefully inspires people to take risks finding what they love rather than risking being miserable by sticking with the safe. And the man in his purple suit is a reminder to do the same. 

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