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‘Comebacks for Lawyer Jokes: The Restatement of Retorts’

Review of a self-defense manual against lawyer jokes.
by Malcolm Kushner

Reviewed by Bo Links  |  January 22, 2016 Buy this book

Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. No, I’m not talking about clients, or spouses, or anything other than lawyer jokes. And yes, I’ve heard them all. The dead snakes. The doctor, engineer and lawyer debating which one made the first contribution to human history. Shark-infested waters. Like I said, I’ve heard them all.

Art: Books - Comebacks for Lawyer Jokes

Museum of Press, 192 pages, $9.95, paperback

What I’ve not come across is a little book that not only sets forth a whole slew of lawyer jokes, but also provides some handy comebacks, just in case you find yourself at a party with a wisenheimer who is also a lawyer-basher.

The book is called, not surprisingly, Comebacks for Lawyer Jokes (Museum of Humor Press, 2015). Written by humorist Malcolm Kushner—who is also a lawyer, keynote speaker, humor consultant and workshop leader—this diminutive tome bears a cute subtitle: “The Restatement of Retorts.” And there’s a sub-subtitle (Kushner is simply proving that he really is a lawyer): “Humor that shifts the balance of power to YOU.”

You will definitely have fun with this.

  1. What do you get when you cross the The Godfather with a lawyer? An offer you can’t understand.
  2. What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years, while a good lawyer makes it last even longer.
  3. Why don’t lawyers play hide-and-seek? Because no one will look for them.

Ah, you are wondering: what about the retorts? Well here they are, to each of the above, in order:

  1. A very final contract.
  2. A bad lawyer bails on you, while a good one gets you bail.
  3. It violates Discovery rules.

This book also demonstrates that these jokes are not unique to the legal profession. There are separate sections that offer similar “humor” aimed at accountants (why did the CPA cross the road? To bore the people on the other side), doctors (what do you call a surgeon in a three-piece suit? The defendant), pharmacists, dentists, med students. You get the idea.

But there is a message here: lawyers need to know the jokes that make them look good. For example: How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, if the lawyers are Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela; with them, the light comes from within.

Indeed, Mr. Kushner believes (and I concur) that if we tell and spread the witticisms that demonstrate why people need lawyers, we will be on the road to changing public perceptions. Just as we educate folks about the value of our freedoms and the right to pursue remedies in courts of law presided over by neutral judges, so too we must show that we’re the ones who make that system work. Kushner preaches that it is at least possible to move public attitudes in a positive direction. “It’s like water flowing against a boulder,” he writes. “The boulder will eventually become a pebble, but it won’t happen overnight.”

If I have one criticism, it’s that Kushner did not include what I consider the greatest retort to any lawyer joke. I didn’t invent this one. I heard it thirty years ago from an attorney friend who practices in Bangkok. It goes something like this: A good doctor can save your life. A good accountant can save your money. A good clergy person can save your soul. But it’s going to take me to save your ass.

None other than Alan Dershowitz describes this book as a self-defense manual against lawyer jokes. It is that, for sure. But it’s something else entirely. At $9.95, it’s a cute gift for the barrister of your choice—a perfect stocking stuffer, last minute birthday gift, or friendship token for the lawyer who has everything.

Bo Links is the legal editor of California Lawyer.

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