Small talk, peppered with challenges

I was at a networking event last week, carefully attempting to balance my plastic glass of wine while simultaneously eating enough of the hors d'oeuvres off my plastic plate to make it “dinner.” Just as I was stuffing a piece of bruschetta into my mouth, an older gentleman sauntered over and greeted me pleasantly. I returned the greeting and asked him how he was doing. We got to talking, and he asked what I did… which, frankly, is why I come to these events. Since I work at a full-service law firm, I approach business development and networking events like this one with the mindset that everyone I meet can be a client or refer me to a client -- if someone needs an attorney, my firm can handle it. I told this gentleman that I was an attorney. He immediately made a face as though he just taken a bite out of a lemon. “Ewwww,” he said as he grabbed a piece of yellow pepper off his plastic plate and took a bite. "You know what Shakespeare said," he grinned while chewing on the pepper. "Yes, " I told him, "I do know, but I and my firm do a lot of important work for our clients." I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, although I was pretty sure that was a mistake. He stopped chewing long enough to reply. "Yes, but you lawyers ruin everything. I mean, how many people really need an attorney?" he asked, dragging it out so that it was clear what he thought.


  1. Had you known more about Shakespeare you could have explained the ambiguity in Dick the Butcher’s “kill all the lawyers” remark from Henry VI, part 2. It is a far more complicated statement to interpret than it appears to be when read literally, and might even have been a joke about people who make cheap-shot lawyer jokes. Dick the Butcher was an unsavory character and Shakespeare did not use him to make substantive points of any worth; the scene in which the remark appears is a form of comedic relief; and the remark is made in the context of a discussion about helping Jack Cade, a pretender to the English throne, overthrow the King. Lawyers are one of the obstacles to this venture and, metaphorically, a barrier against anarchy. Had you explained this and more to the “older gentleman” it might have softened his view of lawyers, convinced him that they were not culturally illiterate (at least not all of them), and even pointed out his own cultural limitations. You also would have sidestepped the formidable task of trying to trump Shakespeare with Joseph Murphy.

  2. Neil J. Bixler, Esq.

    Dear Mr. Cannon,

    I believe you are spot on. At the end of the day, our job as lawyers is to help people. We just need to figure out a way to do it in a more compassionate and affordable way for our clients.

    Neil J. Bixler

  3. I predict that within 24 months he will be very grateful for legal services and will pay retail for them.