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So, What’s Wrong with Lawyer Jokes?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 14, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

Sometimes lawyer jokes are funny. Here’s one. The Anonymous Lawyer, found in our Blogroll, is one continuous running lawyer joke. Even the Nutmeg Lawyer, which we endorsed in its protest of ethnic jokes with a barb, is usually pretty funny. (Intentionally, of course.)

One lawyer joke website says that the problem with lawyer jokes is that lawyers don’t think that they are funny and nobody else thinks that they are jokes. There’s the crux of the matter.

The blog “Overlawyered”, which will never pass up telling what it’s author thinks is a good lawyer joke, believes and advocates the message of the jokes. The message is that lawyers as a group are greedy and dishonest. According to Overlawyered, lawyers are working a corrupt system for personal gain and the lawyer gets rich and everybody else is impoverished.

The truth is no obstacle. In a recent “one-liner” post with a link, Overlawyered proclaimed that Wells Fargo Bank is “suing itself” in a mortgage foreclosure. Of course, there is an obvious and reasonable explanation. The Rules of civil procedure provide that junior lienholders should be named and given notice. Failing to name and give notice on a second mortgage, even one held by Wells Fargo, might be viewed as a technical defect in the title when the property is eventually sold after foreclosure. But such details ruin a good joke. So when I posted a comment to that story a few days ago pointing out this obvious fact, Overlawyer simply blipped it out of existence. Instead, it posted four other (may I say “moronic”?) comments that agreed with its editorial philosophy — that the law is a joke and the joke is on us.

Lawyer jokes are fine as long as they are not promoting an agenda of insulting and demeaning the legal profession in blank. Yes, there can be, and are, Mark Dreyers. But to assert, even deviously through a joke, that Dreyer is the norm, is just plain wrong.

The truth is that the legal profession has the difficult job of vigorously advocating for its clients in an ethical way. Yes, there are lawyers who violate our code of ethics. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Those of us who practice law every day, know that the typical member of our profession is a decent, fair individual whose conscience is in good working order.

Lawyer jokes, like other cultural phenomena, cannot be put out of existence. But thoughtful people can and should point out if the message unfairly attacks a group. Jokes with an agenda should be seen for what they are.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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