ISBA President’s Letter: Life in a two lawyer homeJul 28th, 2004 | By critellilaw | Category: Public Service
Life in a two-lawyer home.
Life in a two-lawyer Bar Association-oriented household can be very interesting. Instead of talking about theater, cuisine, or the myriad other topics that engage modern couples, Lylea and I talk about Bar issues. The other morning I was complaining about the newest lawyer joke on late night television when she stormed out of the room. Thirty minutes later she returned brandishing the following article. Thus, the first President’s letter is written by the 1989-1990 President of the YLD, my wife Lylea:
Have you heard any good lawyer jokes lately? “What do you call a dead lawyer?” Do you think you know the answer to this one? You might well be surprised! Dead lawyer jokes have been around longer than we care to acknowledge. In Hamlet King of Denmark, William Shakespeare breathes early life into lawyer bashing. Hamlet throws a skull into the air declaring, “There’s another, why may not be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?” You can almost hear the laughter pouring from the Old Globe theater. Lawyer jokes are nothing new and we have not dealt with them well. The time has come to take a new approach.
Midsummer’s Night Dream: Puck “If we spirits have but offended, think but this and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here .” As a profession, we do continue to slumber. But no more! The time has come to question why we tolerate lawyer jokes and lawyer bashing. Perhaps we view the entire process as harmless. But is it? Try substituting any group of humans for the word lawyer in lawyer jokes, if you dare. Would the rest of society consider the joke harmless? Why do we willingly allow our profession to be positioned at the lowest point on the politically correct scale?
King Henry VI, Scene II, on the occasion of discussing the overthrow of the king with the rebel Jack Cade, Dick the butcher adds to the plot, “First we must kill all of the lawyers.”
Perhaps we listen to lawyer jokes and laugh to show that as a profession we have a sense of humor.
Perhaps we have allowed ourselves to believe that we must have insulting jokes about someone, so why not lawyers? If this is indeed the case, should we not have jokes about all professions in our society? The fact that we don’t reveals the fallacy. Of course lawyers should have a sense humor, but not at the expense of the profession. You are a member of an ancient and respected profession. Protect and cherish your calling as a lawyer. Until you do, no one else will.
Or is it that we say nothing for fear of offending or embarrassing the jokester? But what about the offense to the profession? What would Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, St. Thomas More, or your career mentor say if they heard the joke? Worse yet, what would they think if they witnessed your silence in the face of such offensive humor? Perhaps we think that one little lawyer joke is harmless. Think of the lawyer joke as a harmless little dandelion in the sea of fresh summer grass. What harm is one innocent little yellow flower? The harm is not in the one flower but rather in the quantity of seeds which it will soon produce. Where there is one there will soon be many. If left unchecked they will soon consume the lawn. In the same manner, unchecked lawyer jokes have rapidly turned into lawyer bashing.
Recently, in a restaurant, I overheard a husband tell his wife and son that the neighborhood was in jeopardy because, “There are too many lawyers moving in.” One man’s opinion now becomes three people’s opinions.
Fear not my fellow lawyer for this is the year that we start to Take back our profession. Before we can change the opinion of others we must change the opinion that we hold of ourselves. No longer do we have the luxury of believing that lawyer bashing is a necessary part of the profession. We must start a grassroots effort to change the public opinion of lawyers.
Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.