Laughing Near Lawyers

Most people like jokes, but few like to be the butt of one. This is because jokes invariably belittle those they target through imputing to them, whether deservedly so or not, some demeaning quality or other, such as stupidity, cupidity or carnality.

In his highly instructive and amusing book, Jokes and Targets, the internationally renowned authority on humour, British sociologist Christie Davies, seeks to understand why jokes amuse us so and target those whom they do. Among the joke Davies seeks to explain are those which target dumb sexy blondes, the lascivious French, frigid Jewish wives and their shopaholic daughters and timid, sports-averse husbands, the former Soviet system, and unscrupulous American lawyers.

Being busy professionals, American lawyers might initially be inclined to dismiss the questions Davies raises as too frivolous to warrant their serious attention. They should think again, given in what a poor light jokes about them now routinely depict them where they are invariably portrayed as being venal, corrupt, money-grabbing, and dishonest. Could joke tellers be sued for group-libel, surely by now some enterprising American lawyer would have cleaned up.

Among the various unflattering attributes routinely ascribed to American lawyers in jokes, surely the least endearing yet most characteristic one is their imputed fondness for resorting to litigation whenever the opportunity presents itself of using it to make a fast buck for their clients and themselves. Davies illustrates the frequency with which this trait is imputed to American lawyers in jokes by means of the judicious selection of them with which he enlivens his text. Some examples:

What’s the difference between a catfish and a lawyer? One’s an ugly, scum-sucking, cold-blooded, bottom-dredging parasite. And the other one’s a fish.

What educational programs should the United States support to ameliorate the burgeoning U.S.-Japan trade imbalance?

Japanese language lessons for lawyers.

Did you hear about the lawyer hurt in an accident?

An ambulance stopped suddenly.

Everybody in my family follows the medical  profession.

They’re all lawyers.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to climb the ladder, one to shake it, and one to sue the ladder company.

These jokes might amuse you but not all American lawyers find them funny. For example, consider what was said about them by John Carpenter, a former President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and scion of a long and distinguished line of American lawyers that include his father, both grandfathers, and a great grandfather. Carpenter denounced jokes such as these in the following terms:

‘This is a truly great and honorable profession. Yet we stand by and watch other people make fun of it and us and…we even join in the self-abuse… May I suggest that you and I join together to… stamp out “lawyer jokes”? Think about it. Their demise just might begin with me – or you.’ [208]

Again, consider the response to such jokes of the Pennsylvania attorney Terry Light:

 ‘I have been a member of the Bar for 16 years… and have never understood why lawyers sit by idly as others ridicule and humiliate them… My abhorrence of “lawyer jokes” runs deeper than a mere pride in my profession… I resent those who use me and my profession as whipping boys… To be blunt, it just isn’t funny and it hurts.’ [208]

Light, indeed, has gone so far as to call the following joke “an invitation to genocide”:

Question: What do you call a lawyer up to his neck in cement?

Answer: Not enough cement.

Davies provides several further variants of the same ‘death wish’ theme:

How do you stop a lawyer from drowning?

Shoot him before he hits the water.

What is the ideal weight for a lawyer?

About three pounds, including the urn.

If I had but one life to give for my country, it would be a lawyer’s.

About a year ago, another well-known Chicago lawyer now resident in Washington D.C. levelled a similar charge at Sarah Palin for having used crosshairs on a campaign map to indicate target states. Palin denied the crosshairs had been intended to represent sightlines of a rifle rather than symbols used by surveyors on theirs. Whatever their intended meaning on that occasion, Davies has no truck with the suggestion that jokes berating lawyers or any other group do their targets any real damage. As he puts it:

 ‘Somehow I doubt that lawyer jokes were ever very popular with the Khmer Rouge… who murdered not only lawyers but anyone wearing eyeglasses or showing any signs of education… Ideologies kill. Jokes do not… Jokes have no effect in the real world out there… American jokes about lawyers have had no impact.’ [211]

Despite denying jokes influence how people think or behave, Davies considers them ‘interesting and important’ because, as he puts it, although ‘not a thermostat… they are a thermometer’. [211]. In other words, jokes reflect how those whom they target are viewed by the societies where they emerge and circulate.

It is precisely because they do that American lawyers should take seriously the jokes that have lately begun to circulate about them. For they betoken that they and their profession are now suffering very badly there from a poor public image. Should any American lawyers be tempted to dismiss that poor public image as of little practical import, they should take a look across the Pond at Britain whose bankers have lately been denied contractually agreed bonuses and stripped of public honors because of the poor image they have lately acquired, doubtless with as much and as little reason as that which with which American lawyers have lately become invested with theirs.

If American lawyers are to improve that poor image, they must first understand why so many jokes have lately appeared targeting them as unscrupulous, and more generally why jokes target those whom they do. It is in the explanation Davies offers of why jokes target those they do that the value of his book lies for American lawyers.

Why, then, according to Davies, do jokes amuse and target those they do? Davies offers a relatively perfunctory answer to the first question. It adds little to the explanation first famously proffered by Freud of what he called ‘tendentious jokes’. Puzzlingly, Davies credits the Russian linguist Victor Raskin and American sociologist David Riesman for the explanation rather than Freud. Either way, he explains the capacity of jokes to amuse so:

 ‘Jokes are .narratives or riddles, whose main, though not exclusive, humorous force lies in the punch line… The joke appeared straightforward… but then suddenly a second hidden and unexpected script… is revealed.… [Their enjoyableness] lies in this combination of appropriate incongruity and suddenness… There is often a further humorous bonus… for the second script revealed in the punch line may evade the conventional rules of a particular society or group about what may or may not be said… Jokes play with the forbidden… Jokes are a brief time off from the everyday inhibitions and restrictions that bind the ways we speak.’ [3]

Given this explanation of why jokes amuse us, to account for their targets, Davies must identify in the case of each which social conventions jokes about these targets are designed to break. To understand that matter, so Davies contends, it is vital to bear in mind when jokes with specific targets first began to circulate. Consider, for example, jokes about proverbial dumb blondes. Blondes have long been associated with physical attractiveness and hence with sex.

Blondes, however, only became targeted by jokes for their imputed dumbness after women had entered the workplace in large number as the increasingly equal partners of men and hence in circumstances where their sexual attractiveness was irrelevant and hence mention of it had become taboo. As Davies explains:

‘The focus in earlier jokes [about women in the workplace] is always on the breaking of sexual rules, not work rules… [B]y the 1920s there were many more women working in responsible jobs outside the home that required the exercise of independence and intelligence, and it is at this time that their comic antithesis, the dumb blonde, first emerged. Far from being a joke about the stupidity of women… it is an acknowledgement that the new world of work requires intelligent rather than merely decorative women.’  [44]

According to Davies, what accounts for the emergence of jokes about dumb blondes is what he describes as being ‘a tension and an ambiguity in the social order as traditional sex roles fail to mesh with the impersonal and instrumental rationality required by modern occupations’ [46].

Davies offers a similar explanation in terms of historical factors peculiar to jokes about the awfulness of the Soviet system.

As to the innumerable deeply cynical jokes about the Soviet regime which those obliged to live under its harsh rule invented, Davies accounts for their emergence and wide circulation as having very often been their only means by which to vent their spleen at it and at the nomenclatura who flourished under it. Davies writes: ‘The era of high terror [between 1928 and 1956] saw the murder of tens of millions of innocent people [in the Soviet Union] and the arbitrary imprisonment and exile of tens of millions of others…  The jokes of, from, and about the time of high terror… are a gallows humour.’ [220-21] As an instance of such humour, Davies offers the following joke of that period:

Three men were talking in a labor camp about why they had been arrested.

“I was sent here because I was late for work” said the first.

“I was so anxious not to be late that I arrived half an hour early and was accused of being a saboteur”, said the      second.

‘The third said, “I turned up exactly on time and was accused of owning a foreign watch.”

In the ensuing period of decadence, from 1956 until the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1990, jokes about its rottenness proliferated still more, as repression lifted somewhat. However, it never entirely abated, which is why such jokes continued to circulate. As Davies explains: ‘It was not so much the gap between ideal and reality as such that gives rise to jokes but the ban on pointing out that the gap exists’ [276].

Despite the enormous difference and incomparable superiority of the United States to the Soviet Union, Davies argues that a similar gap there between ideal and reality, one that has widened in recent decades, accounts for the recent spate of jokes there about lawyers and the legal profession. He writes:

 ‘It is… the sacred quality of law in… the United States that led to the great cycle of lawyer jokes. The U.S. Constitution is the one aspect of American political life that may not be challenged or ridiculed… [They are] a very indirect evading of the taboo on trashing the Constitution… More precisely they stem from the clash between the [idealized] perception of America as essentially harmonious and the reality that the much honoured virtues of egalitarian individualism inevitably lead to strife in the courts. The clash is framed and briefly resolved by jokes about villainous lawyers stirring up conflicts for their own profits.’ [276 & 198]

It would, however, be grossly to misrepresent Davies to construe him as suggesting jokes about American lawyers express or warrant any disaffection by Americans with that profession as such or with the law and the ideal of its rule. Quite the reverse. As he puts it:

 ‘In fairness there is only one thing worse than having far too many lawyers and that is having too few. In the absence of enforceable legal contracts [as] in the new Russia, disputes and debt enforcement… [are] settled gangster fashion.’ [235]

Nevertheless, behind the recent spate of jokes in America about its lawyers, Davies sees genuine a public concern about how far short its lawyers have begun to fall in recent years from the standards and ideals traditionally associated with their profession. As Davies puts it:

 ‘The last decades of the twentieth century saw the destruction of many of the old constraints on competition rooted in custom, convention, or the concept of the lawyer as engaging in a profession as opposed to a business… American jokes about lawyers… are a strange tribute to the distinctive American virtues, to the emphasis on rights, legality, due process, limited government, free speech, rugged individualism and the American dream that anyone can make it.’ [205 & 212]

Should Davies be right about what ultimately lies behind the current spate of jokes about American lawyers, perhaps, the time has arrived for the latter to decide what they want to be. Do they want to be part of a profession with its own time-honoured, non-mercenary standards and values or just another business in which anything goes so long as it pays and stays within the letter of the law?

Lest any American lawyers today have difficulty appreciating that distinction, they would do well to reflect on the extract from an address that Davies quotes which was given in 1845 by the chief justice of Pennsylvania John Bannister Gibson. As well as serving as a timely reminder, it provides a fitting note on which to end this review of Davies’ splendid book:

 ‘It is a popular but gross mistake to suppose that a lawyer owes no fidelity to anyone except his client and that the latter is the keeper of his professional conscience. He is expressly bound by his official oath to behave himself in his office of attorney with all the due fidelity to the court as well as the client and he violates it when he consciously presses for an unjust judgement… The high and honourable office of a counsel would be degraded to that of a mercenary were he compelled to do the bidding of his client against the dictates of his conscience.’ [207]

It only remains to be added that one hopes that the economic and moral climate of America has not deteriorated so badly as might have led to any lawyer reading this extract there to respond to the sentiments expressed in it about their profession by echoing the Englishmen who drew praise from Arthur Schopenhauer for his candour when he openly confessed: ‘I cannot afford to keep a conscience.’

David Conway is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Westminster-based social policy think-tank Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society which he joined in 2004 and where he worked full-time as a senior research fellow for five years, after leaving academia following a thirty year career teaching Philosophy at various British universities. Professor Conway's numerous publications include A Farewell to Marx; Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal; Free Market Feminism; The Rediscovery of Wisdom; In Defence of the Realm; A Nation of Immigrants? A Brief Demographic History of Britain; and Liberal Education and the National Curriculum.

About the Author

Comments

  1. Seedtickinohio says

    As a lawyer not only do I find these jokes funny, I actually hear less of them than I used to. There is a reason people find them funny and it has to do with the underside of our profession. There is a reason people still seek lawyers out to help them and that has to do with the laudable aspects of our profession. The lawyers who don’t find these jokes funny are the ones you should avoid because they are the ones who secretly feel guilty about charging people $400.00 per hour to tell them stuff that shouldn’t cost $400.00 per hour. They are the ones who can’t admit that lots of fun stuff we used to have and do are no longer available because of us: teeter totters and high dives to name a couple, because then they would have to seriously consider whether what they do is actually productive beyond the $400.00 per hour they make.

    So no need for the angst. The analysis is overdone. We really don’t need to analyze why we laugh and then worry about genocide. Although, did you hear the joke about the sociologist?

  2. Walter Sobchak says

    American lawyers have worked very hard to become renowned as blood sucking greed heads. They have made their beds and they should toss and turn in them.

    Q: What do you call ten sky diving lawyers

    A: Skeet

  3. Ted Moore says

    Love jokes. Equal opportunity bigot. Lawyers, Pollocks, Honkies . . . Most of us realize it is a joke not reality. Think lawyers are important, vital really, but that we have an oversupply. Huge costs assumed to be fault of lawyers is actually fault of 0f ‘someone’s to blame’ mentality. Lawyers do play upon that. Worst cost of lawyer glut is that is an awful lot of talent we could use other places in society. Ol Abe told my favorite lawyer joke. But truth is, I am not a believer in the virtue of many (will not go so far as to say most) lawyers.

  4. pst314 says

    “It is… the sacred quality of law in… the United States that led to the great cycle of lawyer jokes. The U.S. Constitution is the one aspect of American political life that may not be challenged or ridiculed”
    And yet progressives challenge and undermine it constantly.

    • roystgnr says

      Indeed, where did “the Constiution may not be challenged or ridiculed” come from? Anyone who suggests we stop ignoring it is *guaranteed* ridicule. Just repeat a few reasonable conclusions about what can happen “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare…” and see if anyone thinks you’re quoting James Madison rather than the Unibomber.

  5. Surellin says

    America is a litigous country and lawyers are perhaps more obvious here than elsewhere, but I’m not so sure that there is anything new or particularly American about dislike of lawyers. Consider Shakespeare – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

    And, since it seems to be incumbent on me to supply a lawyer joke, here we go:

    Q: What do you call a traffic accident in which ten lawyers die?

    A: A good start.

  6. says

    Maybe if lawyers would quit running for office in order to make more laws to further engorge their profession’s coffers, people would quit equating lawyers with everything that’s wrong with their country.

    Now let’s laugh about Critical Race Theory. What? Too soon?

  7. Ron Moses says

    “I resent those who use me and my profession as whipping boys… To be blunt, it just isn’t funny and it hurts.”

    There’s a bit of Internet slang that fits this comment perfectly. The word, an adjective, is “butthurt.” It means, more or less, to be overly delicate in the face of even the mildest ridicule. So lawyer jokes make you cry inside? Wah, go tell it to your Mercedes.

    In fairness, the legal profession is essential to our democracy, and most lawyers do the best job they can in a difficult and demanding field. But come on. Man up and take a joke, emo boy.

  8. Skyler says

    This is way over analyzed. There is nothing new about lawyer jokes except that lawyers who complain about lawyer jokes are the biggest jokes of all.

    In my experience, everyone jokes about lawyers until they need one. It is the dependence on lawyers that causes frustration and resentment at their cost.

  9. Dennis says

    Best lawyer joke I have ever heard came from a friend who happened to be a Judge. The same is true of polish jokes. The best came from a polish friend who must have known every polish joke ever told.
    Jokes in many ways are a reminder not to take life too seriously. Sometimes we can even learn from them.

  10. Chuck Pelto says

    TO: The Thin-Skinned
    RE: Heh

    Get over it!

    Twety-seven years in the infantry and called a “baby killer”, there’s much worse that can happen to you.

    Suck it up and learn to laugh at yourself.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [If you can't laugh at yourself, your taking yourself entirely too seriously.]

  11. AliceH says

    The assertion that there is a “current spate” of lawyer jokes and that “so many jokes have lately appeared targeting them” is not especially compelling, given all the samples are jokes I heard at least 30 years ago, and they were already old then. Also, IANAL, but my sister, who is, counter-claims that lawyers are the biggest fans of lawyer jokes, and are in fact the originators of most of them.

  12. Joe Blow says

    I am an attorney and find lawyer jokes amusing, partly because they are funny and partly because they skewer the people that many of us ordinary practitioners loathe – the greedy white stocking firm partners who talk about the nobility of the law, the ambulance chasers who make us weep for the poor plaintiffs, the politicians who think understanding the law governing a field of endeavor makes them an expert in that field, and the natural governor of it. Instead of being a useful support to society’s works, lawyers in general have sought to rule them and profit from them.

    If you are trying to figure out why there are so many lawyer jokes, just read Walter Olson’s site for a few weeks. All will become clear.

  13. B says

    These jokes are old. I have seen most of them since the mid eighties. Lawyer jokes have not increased in number, they have always been popular. Furthermore, as proof that people do not take these jokes seriously I would like to point out that the number of people going into law in the United States has increased over time not decreased, so I’m not sure that jokes are a good thermometer in such a case.

  14. John W. says

    I have had the pleasure of knowing a number of ethical lawyers over the years. The kind who say things like: “Anybody can sue anyone for anything. But I won’t be the attorney representing them.” Or who refuse to file a bankruptcy for a couple because they had hidden assets and were gaming the system. Or who advised a client to drop a damage suit because the defendant made plaintiff whole. These are attorney’s who made Rule of Law the primary value of their life, and duty to client second. There are Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse and Eugene Volokh. All are role models for the profession – and the reason for the always misunderstood quote from Shakespeare: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers).”

    Now, here’s the reason for lawyer jokes: Gloria Allred. Morris Dees. John Edwards. Sonya Sotomayor. Eric Holder. Every Federal Judge, up to and including the Supreme Court, every law school professor, and every lawyer turned politician who has ever spoken or written the phrase “living Constitution” with anything but scorn and contempt.

    We can have a society under Rule of Law, or we can have mob rule. Theirs is no middle ground, only a temporary transition from one to the other, and usually in the wrong direction.

    And every other lawyer who has abused the law for personal profit or subverted the Rule of Law to advance their ideology is taking us in that wrong direction.

    So understand when you hear a lawyer joke, it’s based on a very real anger at people who understand better than quite a few lawyers the damage caused by far too many in that profession.

  15. John W. says

    (Note to moderator: I corrected some typos and grammer. Please use this version.)

    I have had the pleasure of knowing a number of ethical lawyers over the years. The kind who say things like: “Anybody can sue anyone for anything. But I won’t be the attorney representing them.” Or who refuse to file a bankruptcy for a couple because they had hidden assets and were gaming the system. Or who advised a client to drop a damage suit because the defendant made plaintiff whole. These are attorneys who made Rule of Law the primary value of their life, and duty to client second. There are Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse and Eugene Volokh. All are role models for the profession – and the reason for the always misunderstood quote from Shakespeare: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    Now, here’s the reason for lawyer jokes: Gloria Allred. Morris Dees. John Edwards. Sonya Sotomayor. Eric Holder. Every Federal Judge, up to and including the Supreme Court, every law school professor, and every lawyer turned politician who has ever spoken or written the phrase “living Constitution” with anything but scorn and contempt.

    We can have a society under Rule of Law, or we can have mob rule. There is no middle ground, only a temporary transition from one to the other, and usually in the wrong direction.

    And every lawyer who has abused the law for personal profit or subverted the Rule of Law to advance their ideology is taking us in that wrong direction.

    So understand when you hear a lawyer joke, it’s based on a very real anger at people who understand better than quite a few lawyers the damage caused by far too many in that profession.

  16. Larry J says

    99% of the lawyers make the rest of them look bad.

    In what sane world could you justify having 1 out of every 300 Americans be a lawyer? There are lawyers who serve useful purposes but a significant percentage are parasites on the rest of us. They produce nothing of value and instead seek to sue and suck the life from those that do produce.

  17. Frank says

    Two developments in American society may be related to the relatively recent popularity of lawyer jokes, in particular those accusing the profession of cupidity. One is the occasional outrageous civil award rewarding stupidity- case in point, that grandmother who carelessly scalded herself and then successfully sued McDonald’s for giving her too-hot coffee. People do blame the silly jury, and blame also the clever lawyer who manipulated them. Another is the proliferation of adverts, on TV & elsewhere, soliciting business from anyone with a grievance… James Sokolov, Binder & Binder, etc… are you listening? Are you surprised?

  18. Marc K says

    What’s the difference between a snake and a lawyer lying in the road?
    Skid marks in front of the snake.

  19. Bob59 says

    If the lawyer jokes are dangerous, then would there be a corresponding incidence of violence against lawyers. I am not seeing it. I think there is a hydra phenomenon going on here. There are always three more behind every threat.

  20. BlogDog says

    That is just *way* over thought. Lawyer jokes are targeted to a profession that has amassed money and status for its practitioners out of proportion to a perceived value of production so jokes will be made to capitalize, as it were, on the venality and uselessness of lawyers. “Dumb blonde” jokes really started taking off when it became politically incorrect to make “Polack” jokes. There will *always* be jokes about some cohort of society being dumb. As it stands, blondes are a socially acceptable target.

  21. Deoxy says

    In my experience, everyone jokes about lawyers until they need one. It is the dependence on lawyers that causes frustration and resentment at their cost.

    No one SHOULD ever need one. OK, maybe not “ever”, but awfully close. “Lawyer” should be about as common as “historian”, and of similar use.

    I’m required by law to follow the law every day in everything I do. If I CAN’T know the law (and no one human being can), then THAT is a problem. If the system itself acknowledges that I really can’t know the law (and it does, with “if you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be assigned to you”, among other proofs), the solution is to fix the system, not use a lot of lawyers.

    THAT is a big part of what drives this. Even when we “need” a lawyer, and we certainly are appreciative of a good one, we still understand underneath that this need is artificial, created by a broken system.

    And the utterly obscene, ridiculous cost, enabled by other broken government BS, is just a bonus, eh?

    • Squid says

      Deoxy hits the nail on the head. Almost the entirety of the small fortune I’ve spent on legal advice was due to a maze of regulations and reporting requirements set up by other other legal professionals. Now, I hate fraud as much as anyone, but we’ve created an army of bureaucrats that hold flaming hoops before us, and we employ an army of lawyers to help us get through the hoops, and yet fraud is as big a problem as ever.

      Take away the lawyers needed to navigate the maze that was set up by past lawyers, and take away the lawyers specializing in helping people take advantage of the byzantine entitlement state (“disability” claims, anyone?), and we’re left with a handful of professionals needed to help with compliance in a simple, straightforward regulatory environment.

      Even the most competent and honest lawyers suffer, because the system they support is unfair, unjust, unnecessary, and deeply unloved.

  22. OleWm says

    This country truly is over supplied with lawyers…….and many are bright enough to be quality teachers. Can’t we design a system where bright folks choose an education/career where there is demand. (STEM stuff?)
    Obligatory Lawyer Joke:
    Two lawyers sitting at a bar spy a beautiful young woman across the room.
    Lawyer # 1: I would really like to screw her!
    Lawyer # 2 Outa what???

  23. Jim Nagle says

    Do you have any idea how cold it was that day?
    (How cold was it?)
    It was so cold, the lawyers had their hands in their own pockets.

  24. JimBrock says

    I just last year received a certificate from the Texas Bar Association memorializing my fifty years as a member. So I guess I qualify to opine on this subject.

    What in hell are you complaining about? Get a life. In fact, get a sense of humor. We have gone too damn far down the yellow brick road of political correctness. Laugh a little. In fact, laugh a lot. If lawyer jokes don’t make you laugh, it is simply because you have not the capacity to laugh at yourself.

    In the tense moments of a contract negotiation, a VP of the other party asked me:
    “What’s the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the road? Skid marks before the skunk.”

    I got a good laugh out of it and negotiations smoothed out a little.

    My advice: Live a good life, be a good lawyer, love the law and be proud of your profession.

  25. anise says

    The jokes are old, yes. I have a theory about the rise of the blond jokes, though. The generalized “blonde” is a replacement for an ethnic group. For example, when we were young, the joke might be against a Swede if you were Norwegian, against a Ukrainian, against a Pakistani, etc. Now people frown upon using specifi

    • anise says

      Pressed send by accident (ha ha – I’m blond). Anyway, as I was saying, I believe the relatively inoffensive “blonde” has replaced the fill-in-the-blank ethnic group as the brunt of modern day jokes.

      • says

        The butt of almost every television commercial is a white man. Unless there is a black man and a black women, in which case it is the black man.

  26. Earnest says

    You’re locked in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and a lawyer. In your hand is a pistol with two bullets. What do you do?

    Shoot the lawyer — twice.

  27. Robert says

    A senior corporate lawyer friend of mine has a favorite Dilbert Cartoon.

    Dilbert has been assigned to work with communist “North Elbonians” on a secret military project. He goes to see the company lawyer because he is afraid he will ” be guilty of treason and could be executed!” The final panel has Dilbert saying to the lawyer “Can you help?” The lawyer responds “Sure, What would I have to do – Pull a lever?”

  28. Robert says

    Honest lawyers tolerate dishonest lawyers in their profession, and therefore deserve to be the butt of such jokes.

  29. Steve says

    The legal profession went to Hell the moment the billable hour came along. Instead of solving a client’s problem as expeditiously as possible (even if it meant telling the client they were wrong and to just drop it) the object became to make the minimum billables for partner. I knew one lawyer who claimed to have billed 21 hours in one day. Another defense attorney set his goal as making as much on a personal injury case as the plaintiff’s lawyer would recover.
    We need to rid law students of the notion that law school is a gateway to riches, but instead a noble profession which will make you comfortable, but not wealthy, while you aid your clients with their problems.

  30. Christie Davies says

    As the author of Jokes and Targets so ably reviewed by David Conway – the book you are all commenting on can I just make a couple of brief points
    1 There have always been jokes about lawyers in both Britain and America. BUT in the late twentieth century there occured a huge cycle of new jokes in the United States only. What is different about America?
    2 The Polish cycle began in the very early 1950s and survived political correctness and the election of a Polish Pope. It faded in the late 1990s when no more new jokes were being invented. Why the Poles? In UK the same stupidity jokes are told about the Irish, in Switzerland about Fribourg , in Greece about Pontians. What do they have in common? Ethnic and racial jokes have not gone away. They are not told on the media but they flourish in private
    3 The dumb blonde who is stupid and promiscuous is the 1920s Lorelei Lee. The jokes begin in the late 1980s. In England they became Essex Girl Jokes
    The equivalent male jokes are about the dumb athlete
    ie crude adherance to sex roles is seen as stupidity. Jewish jokes tell exactly the opposite story.

  31. says

    I’m a lawyer who loves lawyer jokes. All the ones I know have already appeared in the comments. Maybe this one hasn’t: Why is it that when a lawyer falls overboard the sharks don’t eat him? Professional courtesy.

  32. Oliver says

    As an Irishman living in Britain since the 1970′s I noticed that Irish jokes flourished when the IRA was giving Britain the most trouble. Is there an analogy with American-lawyer jokes? If American lawyers are pushing up the cost of every product and sevice because of their fees and damages awards, perhaps the people are having their revenge with lawyer jokes. (A rich man asked his son what he wanted for his birthday. The son said a cowboy outfit. So the father bought him [insert name of your least favourite law firm])

  33. Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk says

    Lawyer jokes have a long and rich history. If you’re interested in this topic, I’d recommend Marc Galanter’s Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture. For my part, I think the expansion in liability over the last generation or so and the rise of a fairly entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ bar explains the proliferation of lawyer jokes in America in large part. (A lot of legal humor seems directed at personal injury lawyers.) My own personal favorite, which is directed to lawyers more generally: What do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities.

  34. adsf says

    If you have a system that allows easy abuse, people will abuse it. As long as the justice system is provides jackpots for unethical lawyers and looses for ethical ones, no amount of soul searching on the side of lawyers (or law schools) will change anything. Lawyers are no different than doctors or technicians in this regard.

    “We can have a society under Rule of Law, or we can have mob rule. There is no middle ground, …”

    There is plenty of middle ground between rigidly inflexible and anarchy. You do not need capital letters rule of law in order to avoid chaos. The insistence on “you must be perfect all the time, any simple small unintentional mistake can open you up to lawsuit” is part of problems that we have.

    The concept of “living Constitution” has nothing to do with the problem with judicial system. Most of judicial system problems are not based on constitution and various interpretations have nothing to do with it.

    Sight, I wish people would stop bringing their personal pet enemies (whether right/left division or constitutional interpretation) into every single discussion. If it is not substantial contributor to the concrete problem at hand, let it be.

  35. David Smith says

    I notice no one has had the nerve to post the REAL lawyer jokes – the ones circulating the prisons.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>