I Collect Lawyer Jokes, Seriously

My interest in legal humor started when I did my Master of Laws in 2005. At that time, University of Wisconsin Law Professor Marc Galanter was invited by my professor to talk on his article  “The Vanishing Trial: An Examination of Trials and Related Matters in Federal and State Courts.” But it was the “footnote” that got me going. For Dr. Galanter was also introduced as an authority on lawyers’ jokes in the United States, and has written articles and books on the subject. His book “Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture” contains a comprehensive analysis of the genre of legal humor and lawyer’s jokes, which he collected from all over the world and through scouring historical documents. Before that I never thought there was merit in writing about and analyzing lawyer’s jokes.  Galanter debunked such an assumption. I soon found myself collecting my own jokes, albeit with a Philippine flavor. The flicker of interest soon became a passion as I realized I enjoyed savouring every bit of entry in my collection. I also became aware we do not have reading materials of this kind in the Philippines, hence the collection. Three things motivated me to come up with the project: 1) the “truths” the jokes convey, albeit elliptically,  2) producing a resource material for legal practitioners, and 3) the sheer pleasure of a good laugh.

Part of a joke’s “punch” is that kernel of truth in the proffered material. There is, so to speak, something of a “grain of truth” in every joke. This is not to say the truth is direct, or refers to all lawyers. I, in fact, know many honest and decent lawyers. Yet, the fact that such lawyers exist did not stop the public from perceiving by way of commentaries or generic jokes the behavioral manifestations of legal practitioners as less than equipped with the traditional good old fashioned virtues of honesty and integrity. For Dr Galanter, jokes provide a “rough gauge” of the people’s perception and attribution about certain actuations of a group of people, in this case lawyers. Perception may be variable if at times unreliable as any veteran court practitioner will attest. Yet, they are also based on something, thus they provide reason for introspection and self- interrogation.  We lawyers cannot dictate how the public perceives us, but our collective behavior and attitudes certainly can.

My collection is a “treasury” of the “best and worst” lawyers jokes prepared for the Filipino palate. My intent was to provide lawyers and legal practitioners with a huge serving of humorous repertoire for their talks and presentations. For speeches devoid of  humor is much like having a paella without marinara and sauce, or better still eating sawdust with old margarine. Lawyers are among the most vivacious people I know, and we love to savor a good joke, even those composed, rightly or wrongly, at our expense. I still have to see a lawyer without a sense of humor. If there are, then this book definitely does not apply to them.

Jokes are just that, for honest to goodness fun. One must not feel alluded to, or take the materials in the collection personally for they are only true, to paraphrase the venerable F Sionil Jose, in the minds of the writers, or readers. Ultimately the joke’s value lies in its release of endorphins that make people happy. Imagine a world without fun, where everything is taken literally and seriously. What a dreary Brave-New-Worldish place it must be and certainly life with its daily roulette of “drudgery and broken dreams” would not be worth exploring. I believe we are meant to be happy, and our lifelong task on this planet is simply to help our fellow men feel a bit –just a little bit- happier and better each time during our snippet day to day encounters. If the “collection” has done just that, it will have served its purpose.

If you want to contribute lawyers jokes, or need some for a particular occasion, email me at gil.tabucanon@mq.edu.au.

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