Poetic Justice

This is not a book of lawyer jokes.

Looking for the punchline to, “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?” You won’t find it here. What you will find are 100 pages of vignettes from life in the practice of law, rendered as wryly humorous poems. Each one stands alone as the sort of snapshot one lawyer might forward along to another for a laugh or a knowing nod. Together, they comprise a collection to be treasured by anyone who has lived through law school, first jobs, thrilling victories, eye-opening disappointments, and the lifestyle particular to this career choice.

This book is not about laughing at lawyers. It’s about laughing with them. It’s for everyone who’s in on the joke: Everyone who has witnessed the madness and met the quirky characters in this field. Everyone who, even just for a second, has wondered if they should have gone to medical school, culinary school… anything other than law school. Everyone who has ever sat down at the end of an evening and thought, “No one would even believe me if I told them about my day.”

We believe you.

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Just A Few Poems

Hey Gunner, Gunner

Hey gunner, gunner,
Like a marathon runner,
From the starting line, you’re setting the pace.
Sucking up to the professor,
Knocking down those who are lesser,
Even Socrates can’t beat you in this race.

Hey gunner, gunner,
You’re a bit of a bummer,
The vexing bane of every study group.
While your notes may be far better,
Perfect right down to the letter,
You are grating on the nerves of the whole troop.

Hey gunner, gunner,
Your resume’s a stunner,
And you ace every single interview.
When you apply for every spot,
The chances basically are shot,
For those who aren’t the editor of Law Review.

Hey gunner, gunner,
Have you not stopped to wonder,
About this contest you have bought into?
When midnight oil is burning bright
And you’re up working half the night
Will it still feel like a victory to you?

* * *

The Call Not Taken
With a wink in Robert Frost’s direction

Two lines diverged on a Mylar plat,
And to one call I could not commit,
And being new here, sweating I sat,
And wondered just how it could be that
A single line could seemingly split.

One line was an easement of some sort,
But which was which? I was doomed to fail.
The clock was ticking, time had grown short,
And as my guts started to contort,
I sat alone and chewed my thumbnail.

Being young and scared, I dared not ask
My cruel senior partner for his take,
For fear of catching merciless flack,
Or being the victim of a wisecrack,
When he realized I was a fake.

So I chose the one that I thought right,
With anxiety and doubts acute.
Two lines diverged on a plat and I,
I called the one less traveled by,
And that led to my malpractice suit.

* * *

Cease and Desist: A Haiku

50 paragraphs,
300 commas, therefores,
Just to say: Stop it.

* * *

The Generalist

It was Monday morning, calendar call,
When I first heard his voice, that thick Southern drawl.
He sat in the back, so I turned to see,
In a room of dark suits, an old man in khaki.
Not a day under 80, he looked quite well,
Like a spry kind of guy with a story to tell.
I watched him that morning as he watched all of us,
Seeming vaguely amused at our young-lawyer fuss.

So I sought him out later when court was complete,
Here was a character I wanted to meet.
I told him a bit of my brief history,
And how I practiced family law, specifically,
When I asked him his specialty, he raised an eyebrow,
And what he said next I can hear even now:
“Son,” he said wryly, “I’m a generalist.”
I stopped cold – a what? – do they still exist?

Could the same guy who handles a custody dispute
Turn around and take on a sentence to commute,
And then later meet with an Estates clerk,
To file the Final Account paperwork?
Yes, he said, he could meet any client’s need,
He’ll even search titles in the Registry.
He knows landlord-tenant, wills and trusts too,
It seems there is nothing he can’t or won’t do.

He’s practiced this way for 50-plus years,
But sadly, he said, he’s the last of his peers.
Many of them had grown dissatisfied
When it became all the rage to be board certified.
“It’s all so complex now,” he said in frustration,
“The profession was killed by specialization.”
The Golden Age of law, he felt, had faded,
Leaving the legends like him rather jaded.

Such a relic he was, this old-school law guy,
I hated to shake his hand and say goodbye.
Though I’d have loved to hear more of what he said,
We both had a full day of work still ahead,
I was unsure where next I’d see him, or when,
But I guessed his wide path might cross mine again.
He faded from view as he drifted away
In a crowd of not-so-special specialists that day.

* * *

The Courthouse

Many years ago they laid my bricks and mortar,
Noble in design, inspiring awe and wonder.
“The New County Courthouse” is what I’d be called,
Justice and truth would ring through my halls.

“If these walls could talk…” some buildings might say,
They’ve got nothing on what I observe here each day.
When I was first built, daily business was dignified,
If my founders could see me today, they’d be mortified.

Attorneys play dirty, stab each other in the backs,
Resorting all too often to personal attacks.
DAs hide the evidence, information gets leaked,
The only concern: an intact winning streak.

The call to the bench was once seen as respectable,
But now, it seems, any old clown is electable.
Judges and clerks are no strangers to cheating,
(They’re banging more than gavels, if you catch my meaning.)

Not long ago all who walked through my door
Took care in selecting the outfits they wore.
Now flip-flops and T-shirts and low-riding jeans
Are giving me more of a view than I need.

Don’t get me wrong now, I like local flavor.
A colorful character’s something to savor.
But just a suggestion: For your date with the law,
Perhaps choose a shirt that covers your bra?

Grand settlements once took place on my steps,
Now my granite is covered in crushed cigarettes.
Where once my columns stood proud and pristine,
Graffiti now covers them – what does it mean?

Officials are saying I’ve gotten too small,
That my courtrooms and corridors can’t handle it all.
Again and again, I’ve been shocked and amazed,
And I’ve come to agree: it’s time to be razed.

* * *

Sisterhood

It’s dawning on me now that we are not
Thelma and Louise, Laverne and Shirley,
Cagney and Lacey, or Oprah and Gayle,
We don’t sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T,
Or Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves,
Or even I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,
We don’t “stick it to the man” together,
Or hammer away at the glass ceiling,
Or break down the walls of the old boys club,
Because there is no solidarity,
No sacred girl code or “hos before bros.”
We’re the only two females on this team,
And in front of everyone it was you
Who sent me out of the room for coffee.

* * *

Government Lawyer

While my friends at big firms get abused,
I’m relaxed and quite often amused.
Though my suits may be shabby,
At least I’m not crabby.
(Could you spot me some cash for bar dues?)