The Un-Lawyer-Like Coiffure

hair 1Ladies and Gentlemen: The New ‘Do!  Blues and pinks and purples, oh my!

(Hair By Lauren Little at Lisa Power Salon)

My hair was maroon for much of my career as a lawyer. There were times it was black, or platinum, and in the early years it was blonde, but mostly it was a deep magenta.  It was a color that did not occur in nature, and it was as far as I could push it in such a conservative profession.  I longed for green, or blue, or pink, or purple, and I resorted to wearing wigs on the weekends for variety.

In 2002, I was summoned to the office of a shareholder in the firm; I was preparing to second chair a jury trial in Tacoma.  He opened, “You are about to try the biggest case of your career.”  I replied, “I would agree with you, so far.”  He proceeded with unsolicited advice: “I think you should go home, look in the mirror, take an inventory from head to toe, and decide if your appearance is appropriate for trying this case.”  (The “head to toe” comment led me to believe he was also talking about my long fingernails, which I always polished in red.)

I glowered at him in silence.

“Now, I’m not saying …” he blurted.

“Oh no, of course you’re not saying,” I replied. “We have men walking around here with comb-overs and untucked shirts who look like unmade beds, but my hair is the issue?”

I was angry as I left his office (and hurt), but the “creeping vine” thoughts started.  What if a juror did not like my appearance, and that negatively reflected upon my client? The case was not about me.  I was not the story; I was merely the conduit to help tell the story.  I visited the attorney who was first chair, and he gave me great advice (which Greg was so often prone to do): Ask the client.

The client lived out of state, but we had recently met in person at her home in California.  I phoned her, sheepishly asking, “Well, you know I’m going to try your case with Greg.”  She replied in the affirmative.  “Is there anything about me that gives you concern about me being one of your lawyers in the court room?”  She asked me to be more specific.  “Okay, does the color of my  hair bother you?”  She chuckled and said, “Are you kidding?  It’s one of my favorite things about you!”

We won the case.

The partner never questioned my appearance again.

Photo By Marissa Natkin

The Platinum Days