Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a liar?
A: The pronunciation.
IT IS the most admired profession. It is the most ridiculed profession. Proof of the admiration is the fanfare that attends the release of the bar examination results—front-page news coverage complete with pictures and profiles of the top passers. Proof of the widespread ridicule is the number of lawyer jokes unequalled in any other profession.
As many as 1,731 attorneys out of a total of 6,605 aspirants were added to the ranks of the legal profession when the Supreme Court released on May 3 the results of the 2015 bar examination.
With a passing rate of 26 percent—high compared to the 19-percent passing rate last year—the bar examination is considered the most difficult professional licensure examination in the country, which explains the prestige and mystique of the profession.
Filipinos who aspire to join the association of compañeros and compañeras, as lawyers call one another in the Philippines, spend a total of eight years in college by completing both a prelaw degree and a law degree. Law graduates then embark on a grueling five months of review seminars, before taking the physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting bar examination during the four Sundays of November.
Three out of the five presidential candidates in today’s elections are lawyers, namely Rodrigo Duterte, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor Santiago. This means that there’s a 60-percent chance that a lawyer will be elected president today.
Three out of the six vice presidential candidates are also lawyers namely, Leni Robredo, Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano. This likewise means that there’s a 50-percent chance that a lawyer will be elected VP today.
Eight out of our 15 presidents from Emilio Aguinaldo to Benigno Aquino III were lawyers, namely Manuel Quezon, Jose Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos. No lawyer has been elected president for the past 30 years since the ouster of Marcos in 1986.
Lawyers are often accused of making money out of other people’s misery. The more problems other people have, the more sources of income for lawyers. The more difficult the problem is, the higher the lawyers’ fees. The association between lawyers and misery has spawned many lawyer jokes:
Q: What’s the difference between a mosquito and a lawyer?
A: One is a blood-sucking parasite, the other is an insect.
Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a prostitute?
A: A prostitute will stop screwing you when you’re dead.
But lawyers actually provide solutions to problems that cause misery in our lives, in much the same way that doctors provide treatment to illnesses that cause suffering in our lives. Life has become so complicated—with problems arising from the moment of birth to the moment of death and even beyond—that the guidance of lawyers has become indispensable in our lives.
Because lawyers hold so much power in determining the fate of their clients—liberty or imprisonment, bankruptcy or prosperity—there are lawyers who abuse this power to the prejudice of their clients. This has generated more lawyer jokes:
Q: What do dinosaurs and decent lawyers have in common?
A: They’re both extinct.
Q: Why did God make snakes just before lawyers?
A: To practice.
Q: Where can you find a good lawyer?
A: In the cemetery.
A lot of people misunderstand the role-playing function of lawyers in our system of justice. In order to arrive at the truth, our justice system requires a strong clash of arguments between the plaintiff and the defendant in court cases. The role of the plaintiff’s lawyer is to passionately present the one-sided arguments of the plaintiff, while the role of the defendant’s lawyer is to vigorously present the one-sided defense of the accused. The opposing lawyers are also encouraged to highlight the weaknesses and loopholes of the other party’s evidence.
Under our system, it is not the role of the defense lawyer to judge the guilt of his or her accused client. That role belongs to the judge. And it is only through the vigorous conflict of evidence and the passionate clash of arguments that a judge is enabled to separate truth from falsehood which, in turn, equips the same judge to decide guilt or innocence.
The role-playing performance of lawyers—their blind advocacy of their client’s position, and their zeal in magnifying loopholes in the opposing party’s evidence—is usually resented by the opposing party. This has led to many other lawyer jokes:
Q: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
Q: What do lawyers and sperm have in common?
A: One in 3,000,000 has a chance of becoming a human being.
- What’s the difference between an attorney and a pit bull?
I grew up enamored of the lives of two lawyer-uncles, Querubin Rasiles and Ulysses Butuyan, who both inspired me to become a lawyer myself. As little kids, my cousins and I sat around our uncles as we played a game: We took turns blurting out a word, any word, and the uncles alternated in narrating impromptu funny stories based on that single word. Even at the dinner table, they regaled everyone with unending jokes and funny stories, mostly about their courtroom experiences.
Ulysses Butuyan is now a retired regional trial court judge, but he continues to visit and pester working judges with his jokes. Querubin Rasiles died in 1995; etched on his gravestone is the epitaph he himself composed: “Here lies a lawyer. For the first time.”
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