4. Master of the Law
Jill of All Trades
Master of Some Stuff, Maybe
A blook written on an iPhone.
" The Justin Bieber Man."
Because I have the attention span of a small Pekinese, I often forget that I’ve written countless law exams, skipped countless of law classes, and lost countless brain cells from partying too hard when I wasn’t doing the other two activities. But whether or not I wish to believe it, the reality is, I continue to haphazardly pursue a legal career.
My various law degrees involved my bouncing around the world, from London to Toronto to LA collecting very expensive pieces of paper with typos in my last name. Following my latest educational stint, and thanks to my neighbor of very questionable sexual identity, I found a legal assistant position in a small town outside of New York City--a town where non-New Yorkers who thought they were New Yorkers, took their unfounded pretentiousness to unchartered territories. I felt truly blessed to be part of that demented snobbery. I worked alongside a very interesting man: my boss, Barney.
Barney didn’t drink coffee or alcohol, but, he did know his way around the cleaning section of any Walmart in the state of New York.
Barney had great intellect and enthusiasm for the law. His enthusiasm for the law was matched by his enthusiasm for cleanliness and personal hygiene. Just as he would his legal documents, Barney would store Windex and other cleaning supplies in the filing cabinets. Sometime I learned more about leather maintenance and wiping my feet off at the welcome mat than I did about medical malpractice. Barney was so tidy he made my version of clean look like an episode of Hoarders.
When he wasn’t telling me to wash my hands after using the bathroom we were the dynamic duo of boutique law firms. We got along well. I worked hard. I loved what I did. I was working for people who didn't have a voice. And despite my ESL sentence structure, I gave our clients a platform on which they could assert their rights.
One case in particular was really important to me. It was a wrongful dismissal case that we had been working on for months. Obviously I can’t tell you any more specifics since, you know, that would be unethical. I can tell you the case involved a large, round man who looked like Mayor Rob Ford. I had serious rage when it came to this man. I couldn’t believe he had treated my clients the way he did: Kicking them to the curb, accusing them of theft, forcing them into welfare housing, causing their health to fail…. All the while, he’s rolling in the dough because of it.
I don’t have tourrette’s. But once I took this case on, I had very regular spells of what I like to call ‘drunk sailor ranting.’ Every so often and out of the blue, I’d shout out more curse words than regular words, making everyone feel uncomfortable. Barney said it was normal to get emotionally attached to your first few cases. He also suggested I take a lamaze class. Not because I was pregnant (I wasn’t) but because they had a studio next to our office.
Barney was so pragmatic.
Trial day was fast approaching and I was petrified. This was my first case ever, and Barney wanted me participating in real life examinations of witnesses. How could this be? All I ever learned in law school was brown-nosing and how to stay up really late on Red Bull.
In no way did I feel ready to take on the case in such a way. So I prepared the only way I knew best. I watched the entire first season of Law and Order, I practiced Jim Carrey’s monologue in Liar Liar right after he kicked the s$** out of himself and I’d continue to remind myself that I had almost read as many law books as I had US Weeklys. I also mastered the art of lamaze breathing.
Come trial day, I was feeling ready. But while my book of documents was color coded and alphabetized, I realized one hour before trial that I had nothing to wear. To a jury trial AKA a trial of my peers. Never mind the fact that I was cross-examining witnesses for the first time in my life. I would have to face a panel of real humans—some of which I would likely have mutual Facebook friends with—in what I like to call the best failed attempt at dressing oneself.
I clearly remember that morning. I stood in front of my dresser mirror when suddenly I realized…
I was so busy preparing for the case and taking lamaze classes, I had forgotten to wash my hair in days. There I was: a greasy WWF wrestler fresh out of the ring.
I assessed the situation and quickly realized that my options were limited.
Do I pull it back? Do I brush it out? Do I cut it all off?
I pulled my hair back.
Wait---but do I put it in a bun?
I put my hair in a bun. I then reminded myself to pack a pink tutu.
Do I slick it back with no part?
I tried slicking it back.
I look like Alec Baldwin.
I tried parting my hair in the middle.
I look like a policewoman.
I tried parting my hair to the side.
I look like Danny Devito.
I had surprised myself, because in reality when combining hair part and height of ponytail, my options were quite limitless, really.
I opted for policewoman meets Danny Devito.
Just when I thought the most important part of my outfit was taken care of, I realized that I had forgotten one major component: what I was going to put on my body.
I had never been in a courtroom other than to defend a stop sign violation, and on that particular occasion, I had chosen to wear a mini skirt and an eye patch. Moreover, at work things were so casual I literally wore the same jeans every day (I’m not gross, I’m a genius. In my closet I have “sitting jeans” and “standing jeans.” My standing jeans are more expensive and naturally I don’t want to over-stretch them. That would be silly. Sitting jeans are perfect for any occasion/ profession where no one will ever see you from the waist down. Honestly, even if your sitting jeans zipper doesn’t work, you can still wear them if your shirt is long enough to cover up your fly).
According to Law and Order, lawyers only wear black suits. So I pulled out the only “professional” things I owned in the color black: a pair of shiny black pants from a store that specializes in nightclub wear and an oversize polyester blazer that I think belonged to my sister’s boyfriend.
Black suit? Check.
In terms of blouses, the only fancy shirt I had was an old frumpy blouse that belonged to my mother. She bought it a while ago but never wore it. I now knew why.
Finally, shoes. This was the trickiest part. All I had were converse sneakers—and UGGS, since I live in the arctic. I managed to find something in the back of my closet.
A pair of brown leather loafers only a French paperboy in WWI would be familiar with? Check.
With my outfit complete, I was ready to attend Boy George’s pretend funeral.
I arrived late. As I was still flustered from dressing myself, I hadn’t thought about the trial… or the defendant. But when my pleather belt set the alarm off at the security checkpoint, it hit me. I was going to see the defendant, and someone better hold me back when I did.
As the security guard was patting me down I briefly contemplated stealing his baton.
Barney was waiting for me outside the courtroom. He tried hard not to say anything about outfit and/or hair. Barney was a nice man.
He told me we had to bow when we walked into the courtroom. Unsure of exactly when this bow to take place, I bowed 3 times to be on the safe side as I walked to our seats. I bowed to the judge, I bowed to the public, I bowed to the policewoman at the door with a smile because we had something in common that day. I sat down, took a deep breath and looked to my left.
There he was: the man, who in my eyes was in the ranks of Justin Bieber and that Asian man who sued his wife for birthing ugly children.
Throughout the trial, I maintained a delicate balance of paying attention to the case and trying to intimidate the defendant with my eyes. When Barney was cross-examining him on the stand, I tried to whisper to one of the jury members that the defendant had called her names behind her back.
Although I didn't get a chance to examine the guy myself, I did get to put in a few closing remarks about the case. As I stood infront of all those people, I felt my nerves try to get the best of me. But with my clients in mind, I put on my best Jim Carrey impression and I hit a home run. I did so well that I made some jury members cry and I still had time to sneak in a wink to the cute stenographer.
But midway through my last sentance, something inconceivable happened. Someone’s phone went off.
I quickly turned to the defendant, who was sitting at his desk with a smirk on his face. It was definitely his phone. It had to be. I mean look at him! And it's was definitely on vibrate in his pants pocket, and he was definitely enjoying himself.
“Excuse me, but whoever has their phone on loud needs to silence it immediately!” shouted the Judge.
But the pervert did nothing. The Judge continued. I wondered if I should say something. I mean, isn’t trial essentially the process of one adult tattletale against another?
The phone rang again.
“I’m saying it one last time, turn that phone off or I will hold the owner in contempt of court!”
The defendant didn’t even blink an eye. Soon after, the phone stopped ringing.
“I’m sorry Miss, uh.......Wonis…onifon…ovich. Please, continue. It appears we have some imbeciles in the courtroom with us today,”
I nodded in agreement of the douchebaggery and gave her credit for butchering my last name only slightly.
During the final jury deliberation, the lawyers were all waiting in the lunchroom. A tiny female lawyer the size of my dresser sat down next to me. She complemented me on my pants. I thought this was the start of a great conversation until she followed up but mentioning how nice black heels "spruce any outfit right up." She then looked at my brown leather loafers.
I smiled, but I wondered if this was a backhanded insult or just some constructive advice. She then proceeded to say:
“Honey. If I could give you just one piece of advice, get a really expensive purse.”
I held on tightly to my pride and joy, a Tory Burch tote I got for $75 at an outlet store on Hollywood Blvd.
"Don't worry old friend, she couldn't possibly mean you," I thought.
"Tory Burch is more of a casual gym bag for sports socks," she continued, "think more, exotic. Italian or French maybe."
My jaw must have dropped to the floor. I was already on edge, and this was no way to speak to a woman already on edge, dammit. Who was she to comment on my purse? Sure my outfit made me look like I had the fashion sense of a toddler, but there was no reason to bring my purse into this.
Just as I was about to fling Tory at the woman, Barney informed me that they were ready for us. Before we stepped back into the courtroom, Barney pulled me aside.
"Jill, is that blouse meant to have one collar sticking out and the other tucked under your bra strap?" he asked.
Barney was a sarcastic man.
We won the case.
The defendant turned a deep shade of grape when he realized he was going to be 2 million dollars poorer. I was ecstatic, but I was also still thinking about how rude that woman was to me in the lunchroom. When I got home, I looked at myself in the mirror again. I then realized just how sweet the woman had actually been, having kept a straight face the whole conversation while my fly was down.
Just then I picked up my cell phone to tell my sister about our win.
I had a missed call.
Until next time Master Readers,