Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why People Hate Lawyers

Sure, it's from the Onion and it's a parody, but I swear I know a hundred people, mostly lawyers, (I know, I am one), who can be found at various bar functions "holding forth" as this asshat does. Lawyers are the world's worst at "talking shop" wherever they are including such otherwise fun events as cocktail parties ( at least there's liquor for relief), concerts and cookouts. Being a lawyer is nothing special. I was an English major who managed to bullshit my way to a high GPA, did well on a test which probably tested my aptitude for advanced bullshit, sat through 3 years of lectures on topics that a good bar reviewer could teach in one night. (I'll never forget the soporific SOB who taught me Agency and Partnership and spent 3 weeks on the first 6 pages of the casebook-here's A & P in nutshell-"You hire someone and they fuck up, you can be sued.)" Wow that's tough and goddamn profound! Then after paying a king's ransom for learning a slew of latin-rooted words, you pay more money for a group of shakedown artists (bar reviewers) to teach you over the course of 2 months what the people you paid so dearly didn't teach you in 3 years. Then you sit through a 3 day exam in a large meatlocker (convention center), wait a month for a letter telling you you passed, then get a certificate in the mail giving you the ability, at least in North Carolina, to immediately announce your candicacy for the position of Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, or to file a multi-million dollar class action suit against any group or agency you wish or be retained to defend a serial killer in a capital murder case. My first question when I got my letter and certificate was simple and twofold-"Where's the courthouse and what the fuck do I do when I get there?"
Learning "the law" is, in my opinion, the equivalent of learning to speak a foreign language. People pay you good money to go speak the language in court or interpret the language for them because they don't know it. People who incessantly talk "the law" in public places are as entertaining as a guy telling jokes in Swahili. Besides being boring as shit, it's also rude and borderline hostile. What if you asked your wife if she had seen your needle-nosed pliers and she answered you in Brazilian Portugese or Farsi? Probably cute for about 2 minutes, then you would retain counsel.
Keith Evans, an English barrister and a member of the California bar, is the author of a terrific book for trial lawyers called "The Common Sense Rules of Trial Advocacy." One of his three fundamental truths that he says must be understood to be successful is that "PEOPLE DON'T LIKE LAWYERS."
This does not mean they don't like the ones they know or their own lawyers specifically, it simply means that "as a whole," they don't like them and if you want to be a successful trial attorney, you have to talk and act like a lawyer as little a possible. It's terrific advice not only at trial but in life also. People simply do not want to hear about your persuasive and cogent legal arguments put forth in your summary judgment motion or any other phrases that begin with the words "and then I said." That is why they're knocking back triple whiskey and cokes while you hold forth on the subject-not because they're future 12-steppers. So you lawyers, at your next cocktail party or concert or cookout, in the words of Todd Snider, "give it a rest." Or even better, just shut the hell up!


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