News & Politics » Year In Review

A Bad Year for Lawyers

But you have to admit they know how to take a joke.



Pity those poor lawyers. This year a whiny, greedy one was eaten by a tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park; a porky, frightened one was chased by a lassoing cowboy in a Miller Lite commercial; and the very thought of his son turning into one sent poor Gomez Addams into a deep depression in Addams Family Values.

The public relations maven of the American Bar Association had to ask Jay Leno to cool it with the lawyer jokes, and the association earmarked $700,000 for a program to improve the image of lawyers.

Fat chance, huh?

Funny thing is, most lawyers love to spread a good lawyer joke. They tell them in conferences, pass them in elevators, and crack up their partners in business sessions.

With that in mind, we asked a few lawyers: What's the best lawyer joke you heard this year?

Patsy Felch, Chicago lawyer/agent: The one I really know is a motion joke. There are two guys at a bar standing next to each other. The one on the right keeps knocking into the other one. And finally the other one says, "What the hell is wrong with you?" The first guy says, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I've been a sailor for 20 years and I just can't stop knocking into people. I got so used to the motion of the ship."

And the other guy turns to him and says, "I know all about that." He puts his hands on his hips and thrusts them forward. "I've been a lawyer for 45 years."

You have to see it to really appreciate it.

Mel Katten, partner at Katten, Muchin & Zavis in Chicago: You catch me off guard. I can't even think. Hmm. At the moment I can't think of one. I only heard a hundred of them. Oh, here's one:

What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?

A good start.

You know, it's hard coming up with a joke you want your name associated with.

Ted Banks, assistant to the general counsel at Kraft General Foods in Northfield: Boy, I've drawn a blank on jokes. But I can give you the names of two guys you can call. They're funnier than I am. I hear jokes all the time, but I'm really bad at telling them. These guys are great. They tell jokes all the time at staff meetings.

Seth Eisner, another lawyer at Kraft General Foods: I haven't a clue why Ted Banks gave you my name. I just tell stories. There are four zillion jokes about lawyers but none of them come to mind. Listen, I'm here doing work.

Bernardine Dohrn, director of the Juvenile Court Project at Northwestern University School of Law: My favorite joke is the one that everyone must have heard. It made the rounds.

What do a lawyer and a single sperm have in common?

One chance in a million of being a human being.

I love that joke and my sister is a nurse so it's perfect.

Tom Osran, assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago: You heard the one about how you can tell a lawyer is lying?

His lips are moving.

Oh, oh, here's one. The devil comes to this lawyer and says I can make you the most fabulously richest lawyer on the face of the earth, but you have to sell me your soul.

And the lawyer says, "OK, OK, what's the catch?"

Arnie Becker, pseudonym for a lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous: I'm sure you heard the one about the lifeboat. A priest, a rabbi, a lawyer, and three boys are in a boat. The boat starts to sink and there are only three life jackets.

The rabbi says, "We have to save the boys. They have their whole lives ahead of them. We must save them."

The lawyer says, "Fuck the boys."

And the priest says, "Do you think there'll be time?"

Andrea Schleifer, Chicago general practitioner: I don't have any favorite lawyer jokes. I hate them all. I find they're like anti-Semitism.

Mike Kozubek, general practitioner and computer consultant: Oh, I love lawyer jokes. Here's a few:

A minister, a doctor, and a lawyer are in a boat and it stalls right in the ocean, not far from land. Sharks are swimming all around and their only hope is if someone swims to shore for help. Finally the lawyer agrees and he jumps into the water. The sharks circle and form two perfect lines and escort the guy to shore.

How'd he do it? It's an example of professional courtesy.

Oh, here's a good one: A pretty girl is walking down the street when two lawyers pass her. One turns to the other and says, "Boy, I'd sure like to screw her."

"Oh, yeah?" says the other one. "Out of what?"

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven D. Arazmus.

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