How to Respond to Bad Lawyer Jokes
It’s hard to imagine a practitioner who hasn’t been told at least one joke or remark making
fun of lawyers. The jokes can range from the classic thigh-slapper, “What do you call 5 dead lawyers? A good start!” to things on the subtler side, such as “Wait, you’re becoming a lawyer? But you seem so nice…”
While these jokes might induce you to spend the next 30-odd seconds rolling your eyes, they are hinting at something we should all take seriously: that the public’s experience with the profession is all too often an unpleasant one. As the saying goes, a joke is a truth wrapped in a smile. And the truth is, unfortunately, that too many people’s dealings with lawyers have left an unpalatable taste in their mouths.
Those of us practising in family law are especially likely to experience the ire of the public; why else would family lawyers have some of the highest rates of being reported to our respective law societies? While some of this a natural result of the extreme stress and emotional difficulty surrounding family breakdown, we probably wouldn’t have to listen to so many barbs about family lawyers being highly comparable to vultures if there wasn’t another underlying problem.
What can we do to improve the reputation of the profession as a whole, and stop having to grin and bear so many painful lawyer jokes? One easy way to start is by looking at how we bill our clients, and asking ourselves how we can change our model so that it prioritizes the client, rather than prioritizing our pocketbooks.
The billable hour frustrates and upsets a great deal of family law litigants, when they see just how much every phone call and email is costing them. If their matter drags on for any reason, this problem is obviously exacerbated. Because the billable hour works for us financially, we have little incentive to take a serious look at what we can do to practice family law efficiently and cost-effectively. This is doing our clients absolutely no favours; it’s little wonder that people don’t settle their bills with their lawyer and then tap-dance away like they won the lottery. It is even less of a wonder that so many people find it necessary to represent themselves.
At Aspire, we prioritize flat fee, sliding scale billing for good reason. It gives the client a concrete cost that they can rely on; there are no surprises when they come in to pay their bill. It also provides accessibility to our clients, since lower income individuals will still be able to afford our services. This also has the effect of forcing us to be efficient when we work, embrace technology, and constantly review our processes and prevent the duplication of work.
But, in the meantime, here are some tips on how to deal with would-be comedians:
1. Beat them (gently) with a wooden gavel.
2. Beat them (viciously) with an inflatable gavel.
3. Bore them to literal death with a lengthy, drawn-out soliloquy defending the long and illustrious history of the legal profession.
4. If your monologue fails to render them comatose, regale them with every "real" lawyer joke you can think of, including hilarious tales of Carbolic Smoke Balls and snails in ginger beer.
5. Master the art of laughing hysterically, abruptly followed by uncontrollable sobbing, and finished with a painful existential crisis where you ponder the vast meaninglessness of life. No one will ever tell you a joke again!
And if all of these fail, you can always cheer yourself up by following Bad Legal LLP on Twitter. At least the lawyer jokes there are actually funny.