I am aware of two schools of thoughts on lawyer jokes. The first is that lawyer jokes are funny. The second, mostly subscribed to by lawyers, is that lawyer jokes are not funny.
I wasn’t aware of this second school of thought until I was in law school and a professor impressed upon me the immense obligations and powers an attorney possesses in our judicial system.
I understand and take my obligations as an officer of the court seriously. I took an oath and abide its terms. I follow the rule of ethics and try to embody the spirit of the code of civility.
Nonetheless, I think lawyer jokes are funny. Most lay people do, too.
The bottom line for most of my clients is that if they are coming to see me, things aren’t going well. The situation can be — and often is — grave. Counseling people through their legal problems can require a lot of tact along with a measure of directness. People come to attorneys for an objective assessment of a situation when their emotions, finances, and personalities are all tied up into a problem. Sometimes, folks want an affirmation of their position but that cannot always be delivered.
Humor is one tool to take the edge off of a situation. So, if there’s an opening and I sense it will help ease the tension, I don’t mind taking the opportunity to poke a little fun at myself and my profession’s reputation. If people’s only interactions with attorneys have been adversarial, they might need to know that lawyers do have compassion and can have a sense of humor.
Timing is, of course, everything — client consultations are not a time for me to hone my stand-up routine and the decorum of courts is paramount.
Do you ever use humor to make stressful situations with clients easier? And what’s your favorite lawyer joke?