July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Too often, legal humor means that a lawyer is the butt of the joke. 

You know what I mean:  “How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” or “Why won’t a shark attack a lawyer?” or “A lawyer, a Rabbi and a Methodist minister walk into a bar, and …”  Enough already.  You’ve heard the jokes.

To make it worse, the joke is usually followed immediately by the teller’s obnoxious cackling laughter, and the lawyer’s bemused and slightly annoyed smile. 

But San Francisco lawyer Kevin Underhill has a blog, Lowering the Bar, featuring the humor he finds in the law and what lawyers, clients and judges do, that will appeal to and amuse lawyers and judges whose own experience often includes the absurd.  There is some seriously funny reading here, like the South Carolina community that passed an ordinance to ban hooting, wedding photo tips for bigamists, or the police officer who testified he ticketed the driver because his car “sounded like” it was speeding.  Underhill’s commentary is droll and witty, and will evoke a laugh.

Underhill is not only clever; he’s also creative.  He crafted IF LITERARY WORKS HAD BEEN WRITTEN BY LAWYERS, his hilarious versions of works by Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Shakespeare and others rewritten as if they had been penned by lawyers.  Here is his version of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” …

Paradise Lost, New Business Found

Of Man’s first inconvenient slip and Fall Upon the ice,

and the party whose petition

Brought the hourly bill into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of joy, till a Judgeship may

Sustain us, and inspire more blissful work,

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top

Of downtown’s height, didst inspire

That Partner who first sowed the holy seed

Of business and brought forth the fabled green

From out of Chaos; or, if oral argument

Delight thee more, and thy advocate that holdeth

Fast unto the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my most friv’lous brief,

That with no better voice will never soar

Above appellate mount, though it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or headnote.

There is much, much more, including a treasure-trove of pleadings(e.g., “Motion to Compel Counsel to Wear Appropriate Shoes”), hilarious case names, and dubious litigation of every stripe.  Anyone who has practiced law will recognize the tomfoolery here.

This is humor that is not only intelligent, but also rings true with your own experience.  I commend this site to your enjoyment.

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  • Jak Smith says:

    Judge P: Back years ago,right out of law school at Ole Miss, I was stationed with the JAG Corps at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, in Denver, Colorado. There were three of us lawyers there, one of whom was a dear friend of mine from Louisiana, named Chester Budz. We were surrounded by a sea of doctors all of whom outranked us but who were of about the same age or younger. It was a galling experience to have to listen to all the lawyer jokes from that smug bunch of youngsters. Finally, Chet struck back. At the end of a forensic conference that lasted all day in which every speaker felt duty-bound to tell another lawyer joke(all of which we had heard before), Chet rose to the occasion and began his speech by saying: “Gentlemen, to put all these lawyer jokes in perspective, when the lawyers were writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, the doctors were putting leaches on George Washington’s rectum to cure his Pneumonia!” Stunned silence greeted what I thought was one of the greatest put-downs of all time. It was on that day that I realized that doctors, for the most part, have no sense of humor.

  • Hi

    I am a civil lit lawyer practicing in the Toronto area. I am also a humourist. If you enjoyed Kevin Underhill’s work, please check out my website, or for our American friends, will also work.


    Marcel Strigberger

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