That old dude in the suit went to Woodstock….

This has happened to me several times and it is worth writing about in this post. Sometimes, things, and sometimes, people, are not what they seem. When I am working for attorneys, I conduct myself in an entirely different manner, while wearing entirely different attire, than when I am in the presence of friends. Almost everyone I know does the same things; we have professional and personal lives and the two are often very different. My clients, all high powered attorneys, are people just like everyone else and as such, they have complex lives and varied personal histories about which I am usually unaware. There have been several occasions, however, when my clients’ and my personal and professional lives intersect. When this happens, at first, I am shocked, then I am reminded of the many facets that comprise each of us, to make us unique individuals. I am, of course, referring to rock and roll; specifically, Woodstock. Woodstock took place in 1969. Regrettably, I was far too young to attend this amazing event. Some of my clients, however, were fortunate enough to have gone to Woodstock. These attorneys are now in their 60s and 70s. Instead of wearing tie dyed shirts and jeans and driving VW Microbuses, they wear expensive suits and drive Mercedes Benz. Instead of having long, flowing hair, they have short haircuts (or have become “follicly challenged”). In a recent discussion I had with two clients, one of them and I were debating about whether Uriah Heep performed at Woodstock. The other client, who was the last person on Earth I expected to be a rock and roller, quietly intervened in our debate by saying, “No, Uriah Heep never performed at Woodstock.” The authority with which he spoke made me ask if he knew this, with certainty, based on having attended Woodstock. The room became eerily quiet as we waited for his reply. He said, “Of COURSE I went to Woodstock!” as if to imply I had a lot of nerve to think he didn’t! So, the point of this post is to remind myself (and those who are reading it) to never, ever assume someone is uncool just because they are older than you are, or a high level professional, or anything else, for that matter. Maybe, just maybe, that old dude or chick over there went to Woodstock!

Some of our clients are people who will relate to the line from a song “get a real hair cut and get a real job,” because they did.  In a business suit, with that real hair cut, and probably a neck tie, it is sometimes difficult to imagine them in any way other than as  a client or prospective client.  In our world of trial consulting, “client” means attorneys.  In our initial consultations with new clients, many of which are by telephone only, we have little to use to relate to them.  We can learn from their website or on-line bios like Martindale-Hubbell. But, given the nature of these professional materials, it is highly unlikely that anything but their current “day job” is described.  Yet, as we get to know them, and build a more personal connection, or even friendship, it has been fun to learn details about their lives.  These details are not necessarily hidden, they are just not an initial point of conversation.  Some of these “discoveries” have been about military service.  Some have been hobbies, fishing, hunting, golf, etc.  Some are prior careers, including as news reporters, police officers, paramedics, and manual laborers on road crews to name a few.  All of these help understand the perspectives of these people, just as learning about jurors during voir dire.  But, the more surprising ones have been the rock and roll guitarist(s), singer and actor, poet, the one who went on a post college drive through Africa and Europe in a micro van, and yes, those who saw the Doors, who went to Woodstock, who had a personal connection with Tom Petty, who currently follow bands on tour or who otherwise do things that one might not guess seeing them in their work “costume.”  In any situation, assuming a person is who they are in 1 dimension is a dangerous assumption.  Learning more about them and seeing them as a more complete person is much more insightful, and fun!

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