Superior Court Judge Seamus P. McCaffery said he can't exactly put his finger on what it is about him that might make members of the legal profession think of him as an outsider.
Maybe it's the fact that he rides a Harley.
Maybe it's the fact that he came to the practice of law relatively late in life, after years as a Philly cop.
Maybe it's Eagles Court.
But the Belfast-born ex-Marine seems to truly believe that he can win over any doubters if just given a few minutes of face time.
"There have been many, many attorneys who, once they have met me, once they have seen and read my work product . . . and actually had the opportunity to sit down person-to-person with me - I have been taken aback by how many are impressed by my whole package, if you will," McCaffery said, adding later, "Initially people look at me and go, 'He's a character', but when they meet me, they like me."
McCaffery, 56, is one of seven children born to a working-class Catholic couple.
He left Northern Ireland when he was 4. His father, a former 118-pound prizefighter, had left for Canada two years earlier and been saving to bring over the rest of the family.
McCaffery said his father left Belfast after a violent incident at the all-Protestant printing company where he worked as an apprentice. One day the elder McCaffery came to work and found his station covered with ribbons the colors of the Union Jack. An assault ensued, McCaffery said, and his father was beaten into a 10-day coma with a hammer.
No longer being able to supplement his income with purse money, McCaffery said his father was set up in Canada by a relative. McCaffery spent a short time in Canada after the rest of the family crossed over, and has been in Philadelphia since he was 5. He grew up in Germantown.
After his stint in the Marines straight out of Cardinal Dougherty High School, McCaffery flirted with following his father into the printing business.
"I was not cut out to be an eight-to-four kind of guy," he recalled, laughing.
He joined the Philadelphia Police Department at 20 and eventually worked his way up to homicide detective.
"Some time during my tenure as a detective, I noticed a trend. . . . I really became to believe firmly that victims of crime were being victimized in the court system," he said.
Like many cops before and after him, McCaffery watched countless defendants get off on technicalities. He said he wanted to understand what was making that happen.
After nearly a dozen years in night school, McCaffery had earned an undergraduate degree from LaSalle University and a J.D. from Temple University by 1989.
But law school, he said, changed his perspective on the nature of the legal system and its perceived flaws.
"Law school took out the black and white and put in place the necessary gray. It gives you a total appreciation - unlike that you receive as a law enforcement officer - what the law really is," he said.
He joined the firm then known as Lavin Coleman Finarelli & Gray and did mainly environmental work.
McCaffery said he doesn't see why people make assumptions about his legal acumen "because I ride a Harley and used to be a cop."
"I spent years at a civil litigation firm," he said.
But it wasn't very long at all until McCaffery got the itch that only a seat on the bench can scratch. In 1991 he made his first bid for a city judgeship. He came up short, but was voted onto the Municipal Court by 1993.
By the end of his 10 years with the court - the last two as one of its administrative judges - McCaffery was practically a household name in the Philadelphia area, thanks in no small part to the national attention attracted by McCaffery's activities in a makeshift hearing room deep inside the confines of the Vet.
It seemed as if only a judge of McCaffery's background had the mettle to wade through the complex, drunken emotions that love for the Birds inspires among many Philadelphians. The local and national press couldn't get enough of Eagles Court.
Election to the Superior Court came in 2003, and none were surprised when McCaffery let it be known he was interested in one of the two Pennsylvania Supreme Court seats up for grabs in this year's elections.
The Democratic primary is shaping up to be quite a battle.
Many watchers of the race believe that of the four Democrats with their hats in the high court ring, McCaffery is really running against Philadelphia Common Pleas President Judge C. Darnell Jones II.
Jones is many things McCaffery is not. African-American, born into a family of educators, a lifelong lawyer and jurist, the type of man who might use a string of elaborate sentences to illustrate a point McCaffery would make with a few words.
Jones has the Pennsylvania Bar Association's highest recommendation, and the exclusive support of Gov. Edward G. Rendell.
McCaffery has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party and a network of contacts across the commonwealth from his previous win at the statewide level.
"If you take the moment to really sit down and look at my credentials, I'm the only one [in the race] that's been a police officer, a lawyer, a judge and an appellate judge."
Having worked his way up, Seamus McCaffery is ready. He's just waiting for the voters to tell him he's arrived.