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The Barrister and the Buddha


By Norma Meyer

Published Jul 1, 2013 8:00 AM


Lawyer Julia Strickland has traveled to many continents in search of Buddhas to add to her collection. photo: Vern Evans.

Heavy-hitting Los Angeles lawyer Julia Strickland J.D. '78 is nationally known for defending financial giants. A lauded litigator who has argued before the California Supreme Court, Strickland represents corporate titans like JPMorgan Chase, Discover and PayPal against class-action claims such as alleged improper fees, improper billing practices and unfair interest rates. Working 12-hour days and overseeing more than 20 attorneys nationally, Strickland is also one of the country's rare female managing partners—a job that seems anything but Zen.

But wait. This busy barrister is a Buddha buff.

Each year, Strickland—who studied Far Eastern art and religion as a UC San Diego undergrad—travels multiple continents, along the way hoping to add to her bevy of Buddhas, which so far includes 30-plus robed sages who are reincarnated in hand-carved wood, shiny metal and Baccarat crystal. The Buddhas range from palm-sized to waist-high, date as far back as the 18th century, are beautifully painted on silk mandalas, and harmoniously adorn Strickland's Cheviot Hills and Newport Beach homes. (In the latter, a Buddhaemblazoned door from a Tibetan temple hangs on the wall.)

Strickland is not a Buddhist herself, nor does she meditate. But the selective collector does admit to feeling a sense of peace when discovering a potential addition that "calls out to me"—like the Buddhas she's purchased from small merchants in Thailand, Cambodia, India and Bhutan. "I just find the Buddha image to be calming."

Notable Quotable

"The NRA used to be far more open-minded on gun control—and, amazingly, paid almost no attention whatsoever to the Second Amendment."

—Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA and author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, writing in The Huffington Post

Strickland has been at the venerable Stroock firm since 1977, balancing jurisprudence with the travel bug. During her annual overseas trip, she forgoes filing legal briefs and negotiating thorny settlements and embarks on a global adventure with her husband, Tim Wahl, a retired lawyer. They recently took a gorilla-trekking expedition in Rwanda and a safari in Tanzania.

Attorneys, she advises, can be bores. "One of the challenges of practicing law is you actually have to work to keep yourself a more interesting person. Travel makes you not only an interesting person, but a better person in the sense of understanding that the world is filled with different people who see things differently and who live differently."

And of course, there's always the prospect of stumbling across a beckoning Buddha to add to her serenity-spreading brood.