Ever since I was in high school I've heard lawyer jokes. When I became a litigation paralegal many years ago I became patently more aware that they existed and heard them even more. Today I don't hear them as much. Why? Probably because I'm a Rhode Island lawyer and there are a good many people who are decent enough not to simply throw out a tasteless (or even tasteful) joke at parties or gatherings simply to have a laugh by insulting my chosen profession.
In truth, most people would agree that personally I have a fairly good sense of humor and that I could (and in all probability would) appreciate a well-told joke regardless of any negative connotation that it may have on my chosen profession. I mean, let's face it. . . .most jokes poke fun at what people perceive (albeit stereotypically) as a dominant trait of a profession, race, religion, etc...
In fact, on our office coffee table we have a book of 500 Lawyer Jokes for those waiting to meet with us. This little book and the idea of jokes about our profession actually spawned a brief conversation between a few of my Rhode Island colleagues, myself included.
First, the attorney who actually provided the book to us for the table found it to be ironic and expressed that clients would probably appreciate it that an attorney's office would have such a book for their clients not only in plain view but literally placed right in front of them so they would almost certainly read it. The message conveyed to clients and visitors in this case seemed to be that we as lawyers are not so stuffy, pompous and overly professional that we cannot step back and either "look at the lighter side of our profession as lawyers" or laugh at ourselves and colleagues who, though lawyers, may have made atypical bunders that are in truth funny or downright hilarious.
Now another Rhode Island attorney who came into the office found the book personally offensive and thought it inappropriate to have the book at all. This attorney's feeling was that lawyers as a profession have been ridiculed for years and a gross mis-impression has been presented to the public that we are all greedy thieves who make too much money and only survive to see how much money we can get out of people. My colleague's opinion was that by providing such a book to clients we are perpetuating and fueling the bad sentiments of the public toward lawyers.
Then there is me. I'm undecided on the subject of this little book. In the scope of a law practice, the big picture of world events, the struggles of those who barely survived in the wake of Katrina's devastation, this little book seems so trivial and yet it still has a place and plays even the smallest role societies perception of the profession or even the person (or people) who have the book such that people continue to make judgments and those judgments still affect business and personal decisions about who we will and will not work with, who we will hire and who we won't and even who we will associate with. It is, to say the least, a small yet interesting philosophical maze of thought.
There is, however, one point upon which I can generally agree. The general public consensus reveals that lawyers are not looked upon well and they have received a "black eye" as far as professions go. As a Rhode Island lawyer I fell into family law more by accident and necessity than anything when I first began my law practice. Today focus my practice on Rhode Island divorce and family law issues.
Today, however, I find myself contemplating this little book of 500 Lawyer Jokes and the opinions of my colleagues as well as what I know to be a fairly consistent consensus of the general populous that by and large most lawyers (divorce, family law or otherwise) are cheats and swindlers that are overpaid and can't be trusted.
The conclusion I come to is somewhat self-informative. We as attorneys (in various areas of law) have a black eye in the community and the public at large.
I found this much more fascinating and much more significant than the little book on the waiting room table. Yet this is a thought process that is far from complete and will take a bit more pondering.
In closing this particular blog post, I have no true opinion on the little book itself. It can stay. It can go. It's a book. It's information. It's entertainment. Just as the author has the right to poke fun at the legal profession which is still only made up of people who do make mistakes which are sometimes hilarious, I believe that clients should be able to read such things if they like. If I can't laugh at myself and at those who artfully poke fun at my profession then my skin is a bit too thin for me to be practicing in my own profession. Pride in my profession does not mean I need to be intolerant of others or their writings.
The more crucial question I will ponder for the continuation of this blog article is this.
Whether as a Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law Lawyer or a Rhode Island Superior Court Litigation Attorney or an Estate Planning Lawyer my profession has a "black eye" in view of the public, is the black eye misconceived or is it well-deserved?
I'll keep you posted as this philosophical joust continues.
In the meantime, there are still good Rhode Island Lawyers out there and I'm happy to assist anyone with their divorce and/or family law issue. Yet to the extent that I am not the right attorney for you or the match simply isn't there, I am familiar with several attorneys in Rhode Island besides myself that I believe are also atypical of the black eye our profession may have and I can recommend them unwaveringly and without hesitation to help you in any of the various legal matters you may encounter.