San Francisco’s Hall of Justice is never short on dark humor or good storytelling — they are tools of the trade and survival mechanisms for criminal defense attorneys — but one lawyer seems to be particularly rich in both.

Hall of Justice veteran Alfredo Vea Jr.’s own story sounds like legend: He worked as a migrant farmworker as a kid, and says he didn’t enroll in school until 10th grade, but ended up at UC-Berkeley. A Vietnam vet, Vea has written three novels, including “Gods Go Begging,” which the Los Angeles Times named one of the best books of 1999.