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Did You Hear the One About the Lawyer?

Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Central Library,
Law symbols - Scales of Justice, Pie for Plaintiff, and Delta for Defendant

Many people have felt like screaming at lawyers—their own, or someone else’s. A major problem for non-lawyers is communication. Whether in English or other languages, legal documents, and their explanation by lawyers, seem to be larded with sentences that wrap around and entwine themselves, like a Gordian Knot. Sometimes one lawyer cannot figure out what another lawyer intended, in writing or in person. I witnessed one lawyer reading a legal document filed by another. With his head in both hands, he muttered out loud, “What were you thinking? Why did you do this?” It was this lawyer’s loathsome task to disentangle and make legally correct what another had woven into legal gibberish.

There is a line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Scene II, LIne 73, “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers,” which is frequently referenced, but taken out of context. “Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.”

Daumier drawing of lawyers yelling

From the book, Lawyers and Justice: "Yes, they would plunder this orphan, whom I cannot describe as young since he is fifty-seven year's old, but is less an orphan for that ... Yet I am not in the least anxious, for justice always keeps a watchful eye open for dastardly plots ... "
—Honoré Daumier

To prove that all lawyers are not heartless—yes, there probably is more than one joke in that line: a heart of stone; an implanted heart—The Los Angeles County Law Library offers Legal Help, which includes referrals to lawyers, legal aid, and pro bono services (reduced or no fee). October 22-27, 2018 is the LA Law Library’s Pro Bono Week. If you are dissatisfied with a lawyer, remember you can always find another, there are plenty of them.

There are more than a few anecdotes and jokes about the legal profession, told by others and by lawyers, and cartoons and caricatures. However, there is one artist, Honoré Daumier, whose drawings and paintings are searing indictments of the profession. It is far better to laugh than scream, so read on.

Did You Hear the One About the Lawyer?

The Bench and Bar: Great Legal Caricatures from Vanity Fair
Ward, Leslie, Sir, 1851-1922.

The Book of Strange and Curious Legal Oddities: Pizza Police, Illicit Fishbowls, and Other Anomalies of the Law That Make Us All Unsuspecting Criminals
Belofsky, Nathan.

The Handbook of Law Firm Mismanagement: From the Offices of Fairweather, Winters & Sommers
Kanter, Arnold B., 1942-

Happy Hour is for Amateurs: A Lost Decade in the World's Worst Profession
Philadelphia Lawyer.

Innocent, Your Honor: A Book of Lawyer Cartoons
Shanahan, Danny.

The Judge Who Hated Red Nail Polish: And Other Crazy but True Stories of Law & Lawyers
Bray, Ilona M., 1962-

Lawyers and Justice
Daumier, Honore, 1808-1879.

Lawyers and Other Reptiles
Brallier, Jess M.

Lawyers and Other Reptiles II: The Appeal
Brallier, Jess M.

Lawyers! Lawyers! Lawyers!: A Cartoon Collection

Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture
Galanter, Marc, 1931-

The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons

The Official Rules for Lawyers, Politicians - and Everyone They Torment

Trials & Tribulations: Appealing Legal Humor: A Collection