The trouble with lawyers
I was among dozens of economists and lawyers the other night on the occasion of the first anniversary celebration of the Philippine Competition Commission, a very new—and I must say very critical—institution in the Philippine government. Here is one institution that combines the best of the two professions I’ve been describing as the ones people like to bash the most. Those who have been following this column would know that my last two pieces have been disparaging my own profession—tongue in cheek, of course—and the last one was on jokes that portray what’s supposedly wrong with us economists.
In the name of equal time, allow me to turn the focus on liars—er, lawyers (sorry, they sound alike)—and share a few digs on these lowly creatures, which I gathered online. I found, by the way, that there are a lot more lawyer jokes one can find than economist jokes. This tells me that we economists may not be as loathed as our lawyer friends are, and gives me comfort that they may have the most widely despised occupation, after all.
One reason is that lawyers are often seen to take liberties with the truth. Hence the joke that asks: “How does a lawyer sleep?” The answer: “First he lies on one side, then he lies on the other.” But what makes them particularly loathsome to many is how they are seen to be the biggest beneficiaries in legal cases (recall the oft-stated claim that the biggest winners in the Marcos ill-gotten wealth cases were neither the government nor the defendants, but the lawyers). There’s the story about a farmhand who consulted a lawyer. He had long tended a deceased farmer’s cows, believing they would become his when the farmer died—but then the farmer’s son claimed ownership. “I’ll take your case,” said the lawyer. “Don’t worry about the cows.” The next day the farmer’s son came. He insisted that the cows were raised on his land, so they were his. “I’ll take your case,” said the lawyer. “Don’t worry about the cows.” Puzzled, his secretary asked, “How can the cows belong to both?” He replied, “Don’t worry about the cows. They will be ours.”
Are lawyers truly that greedy? A speeding truck hit a successful young lawyer’s new Ferrari as he got out of it. Before the arriving policeman could ask any questions, the lawyer started screaming hysterically. He had just bought the Ferrari, he ranted, and now it’s completely ruined and would never be the same, and so on and so forth. When he calmed down, the cop shook his head in disgust and said, “I can’t believe how materialistic you lawyers are. You are so focused on your possessions that you don’t notice anything else.” The lawyer protested: “How can you say such a thing?” The cop replied, “Didn’t you know that your left arm is missing from the elbow down? It must have been torn off when the truck hit you!” “Oh, my God!” screamed the lawyer. “Where’s my Rolex?”
And then there’s the one about a barber who, after giving a priest a haircut, refused payment, saying, “You do God’s work.” Next morning the barber found a dozen bibles at his shop door. A farmer came for a haircut, and again the barber refused payment, saying, “You feed the people.” Next morning there were a dozen cabbages at his doorstep. Then a lawyer came, and once again the barber refused payment, saying, “You serve the justice system.” Next morning the barber found a dozen lawyers waiting for a free haircut.
Even judges are not spared. A judge met with two opposing lawyers in his chambers. “So, gentlemen,” he began, “both of you have sent me a bribe.” Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably. “You, Attorney Diaz, gave me P75,000. And you, Attorney Perez, gave me P50,000.” The judge reached into his folder, pulled out a check, and handed it to Diaz. “Now then, I’m returning P25,000, and we’re going to decide this case solely on its merits!”
That should be enough of lawyer jokes (and I promise I’ll get back to serious matters next week). After all, it is said that there are two things wrong with lawyer jokes: Lawyers don’t think they’re funny, and people don’t think they’re jokes. But then again, how many lawyer jokes are there? The answer: only three. The rest are true stories.
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