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The Art of Lawyering

By Lucas Schmitt

When you think of a federal prosecutor, it’s unlikely the image that comes to mind includes a children’s storybook about art.

But University of Dayton School of Law alum David Perri ’95 is the rare attorney able to paint pictures for kids and jurors alike.

“I sometimes tell people I am not a lawyer who happens to be an artist, but an artist who happens to be a lawyer,” Perri says.

The United States District Attorney published a book last year titled Messy Larry, which follows the story of a misfit grade-school kid who has trouble finding a way to express himself until he discovers his love for art.

At his wit’s end, Larry seeks out his Great Uncle Ken, who has a clever idea. Larry is then able to express the beauty that had been in him all along.

The book allegorically suggests that self-realization is sometimes a messy and uncomfortable process.

So how does a federal prosecutor develop the skills to be a children’s author and illustrator?

“I started painting when I was in college and I have been painting ever since,” Perri says.

Perri says he wrote the book to encourage kids to accept themselves, and the theme of compassion is something that will resonate with children and parents when reading. The book is intended for children ranging from four to six years old and features a section at the end called “Things to Think About,” which has interactive exercises for children to enjoy.

Perri also relates his love for art to the attitude he believes people should have when deciding to go to law school. He says Larry’s determination to be himself, regardless of the circumstances, is a good example for young adults with aspirations for studying law.

“Don’t lose who you are as a person in order to be a law student,” Perri says. “Law school will take all the time you can give it and still be hungry for more.”

Perri plans on writing more art stories for kids to help them further explore ways to express themselves. Only time will tell the impact his new stories will have on showing art as more than just colors on the page.

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