"In my day, a barber was a counselor".
Eddie, Barbershop 2
For my uncle, the best place to get good advice was the barbershop. Not a fancy hair salon tucked into some mall, but a good old fashioned barbershop complete with a red & white pole and a jar filled with an ominous blue liquid for combs. The kind you almost expect three old timey guys with curly mustaches to step out of the shadows and start singing in harmony. Whether he was buying a new lawnmower, needed legal advice or had a strange mole that needed checking out, my uncle could count on his barber Giuseppe. From tips on cooking pasta to fixing your marriage, the eighty year old coiffeur could give you advice on just about anything.Steps from city hall and only a briefcase throw away from the local courthouse, Legal Cuts was nestled within the newly renovated portion of New Britain's West Main Street. Its storefront stood among the new businesses that were poised to be a part of the renaissance of the city's downtown district. My timing couldn't have been more perfect. Legal Cuts accepted walk-ins and I happened to walk in as a satisfied client walked out. He had a hairline so neatly trimmed, it would've made the Yankee Stadium ground crew envious. Sitting down in the comfortable barber's chair, I was spun into view of a shelf of neat white dress shirts and ties. I learned that the barbershop offered a complete court appearance package that included a cut, shave, razor line, shirt and tie. It was under the heading "If it don't fit, you must acquit." A sign on the wall listed the various haircuts available to clients. Another contained a list of legal services offered. The barbershop was arranged with neatly arranged chairs on either side. In the back, I observed the entrance to the actual law office portion of the business. Above the door were the words "Nothing's Difficult, Everything's a Challenge. Luke 1.37". Inspirational words for clients facing difficult legal problems.
A man's relationship with his barber is forged over many years. It is a deep bond that can outlast most marriages. It is as American as apple pie. In the movie Grand Torino, it's where Clint Eastwood takes his young protege to teach him how to banter like a real man. The right barber will know everything about you. A place where razor sharp wit is often accompanied with a straight edge razor. They know where the cowlick sticks up on the back of your head and which way you part your hair. They can immediately tell if you cheated on them for a cheap fling with a Supercuts stylist. The barbershop was the place you could count on for some solid advice. So it was no surprise to me when I heard that a new hybrid business opened near me. It would combine the two bastions of advice for men. A combined law firm-barbershop. In desperate need of a trim, I headed down to New Britain's aptly named Legal Cuts to check it out. I was about to cheat on my barber.
|Warner Brothers "Grand Torino"|
The Legal Cuts hybrid business concept was the brainchild of Attorney Donald Howard. Apparently, he found his inspiration in "Legal Grind", a hybrid law firm/coffee shop in California. Although Attorney Howard had once served as a barber's apprentice, he wasn't actually the guy cutting hair. Instead, he had two full time barbers working seven days a week. His barbers are prohibited from giving legal advice. The legal stuff is left up to him.
It's an interesting concept that might attract a few harrumphs from the stodgy crowd. Yet, the more I thought about the concept, the more it grew on me. The thought of walking into a stuffy law firm with long dead senior partners glaring down from oil painted perches is pretty intimidating to some people. Perhaps this hybrid barbershop could offer a nice alternative. A place where many are more comfortable to discuss their problems. It can really break down barriers. And it's gotten Attorney Howard some positive press including an article in the Connecticut Law Tribune and an interview on NPR.
The Nutmeg Lawyer wishes Attorney Howard and the staff of Legal Cuts much success. As Attorney Howard stated in his Connecticut Law Tribune interview "in this economy, you have to step outside the box — and burn the box."