So there I was- on a bright and sunny Arizona morning, sitting in a crowded courtroom in Phoenix, waiting for the hearing on a Motion to Dismiss. The hearing stemmed from a breach of contract lawsuit that I had filed against a very wealthy family that agreed to hire me as a full-time live-in nanny for their three kids. About three months earlier, after two grueling interviews and a highly invasive background check, the mother called me to let me know that I was hired, and asked me when I could start. I happily informed her that I would be there in two weeks.
I immediately told my roommate that I’d be moving out, and he found someone to replace me within three days. I quit my job at the juice bar and moved my furniture and other belongings into a storage unit. On the morning of my first day, I showed up at the mansion with a smile on my face and a suitcase in my hand, only to be told that the kid’s mother had changed her mind about having a male nanny, and I was unceremoniously escorted off the property. I was homeless, jobless, and furious.
I went to see a lawyer who told me I had a strong case for breach of implied contract, but I couldn’t afford to hire him, so I decided to do it myself. I spent hour after endless hour in the local law library, studying up on contract law to support my case. I went down to the courthouse and looked up some similar cases so I could review the complaint and copy the language if it fit.
After a week of preparing, I filed the lawsuit and served it personally on the lady who screwed me. When I ran up to her with the papers, she actually looked a little scared- I think she thought I was going to attack her!
A few days later I received an Answer to my lawsuit, filed by a high-powered law firm that the family probably kept on retainer. Along with the Answer, the attorneys also sent along a huge stack of interrogatories, requests for production, and deposition notice, and a whole pile of other papers that must have weighed at least 20 pounds. I could see that it was going to be a case of David vs. Goliath, and, like my biblical counterpart, I was determined to win.
A few weeks later, the defense attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss. After a tremendous amount of time and effort, I filed a response, and prepared myself for the hearing that was scheduled to take place in a few weeks.
Flash forward to the morning of the hearing: I spent the entire weekend rehearsing my performance in front of family and friends. I had a response ready for each and every argument they mustered to throw my case out of court. I was clean shaven and had a fresh haircut. What I didn’t have was a suit. I owned a suit, but it was old and shabby, and so I elected to wear khaki slacks, a white shirt, a striped tie, and navy blue sports coat. I looked and felt great.
My confidence was at an all time high when the judge called my case. I strode up to the stand and identified myself with a loud, clear voice. The judge looked like an ancient gorilla. He stared at me for a second and then said something that I was absolutely not prepared for:
“What are you wearing?”
I was taken aback by the question. Did he want to know who designed my clothes, as if I were an actor walking into the Academy Awards? I told him that it was a Ralph Lauren sport coat, and I heard the defense attorney snicker. The judge then asked me who the hell did I think I was to show up in his courtroom without a suit, and he didn’t care that I was representing myself, and where did I think I was, a country club brunch, and it just went on and on in that vein for what felt like ten minutes.
By the time he was done, I had completely forgotten everything I was planning to say. The defense attorney went up to the podium and gave an impassioned speech in support of his motion, and when it was my turn to respond, all I could do was think about my damn stupid sport coat. I stammered for a few minutes, and babbled something about fairness, and then I sat down, totally deflated, with my face as red as a beet.
I wasn’t surprised when the judge ruled in the defendant’s favor. After all, they deserved to win- their attorney showed up in a suit, and I didn’t.