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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reflections of the way law's going to be, August 30, 2004
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This review is from: The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons (Hardcover)
I'm surprised at how small this collection is. Attorneys are such an inviting target for comedic attacks that it amazes me that as long as the New Yorker has been around, it only found about 85 attorney cartoons worthy of collection into this 1993 edition and that it hasn't found enough worthy cartoons since then to fill out a second edition.

Originality isn't a feature point of this New Yorker collection of cartoons, but talent is.

The 85 attorney cartoons largely revolve around two themes. One is surrealistic art which makes attorneys look as uncharacteristically undignified as possible (many of which are variations on the old "shark" joke that shows attorneys in the open water with fins and teeth).

The other is animated commentary on the ubiquitousness of attorneys in everyday life, a ubiquitousness that deprives each attorney of his individuality ("Would everyone check to see if they have an attorney?" asks a meeting-organizer. "I seem to have ended up with two.")

As I say though, the talent of the cartoonists is great enough that the same joke can be replayed several times and still retain a certain amount of freshness each time.

Still, the funniest cartoons are those which break the mold and display some actual knowledge about the profession such as the courtroom setting on the moon, in which judge, jury, and counsel are dutifully wearing spacesuits. The spaceships that transported them there are displayed in the background. "Not ANOTHER change of venue, counselor," the judge protests to one forceful advocate.

But as for the garden-variety attorney jokes, to my mind as a member of the bar myself, the joke is always on the jokester.

The public that enjoys these cartoons hates attorneys so much that they place their kids on an ever-increasing basis into law school and hire attorneys with the same frequency, expecting their own attorneys to engage in the same tactics that they would object to in anyone else's attorney. The public even hates attorneys enough to recently forgive an attorney who happened to be President of the United States for criminal and unethical conduct in a litigation setting.

Sure, this collection has a funny wedding-cake cartoon, in which the plastic bride-and-groom at the top of the cake are both accompanied by their respective plastic lawyers. In a world in which the divorce rate approaches 50 percent and pre-nups are necessary legal insurance, the bride and groom have created the need for counsel.

Sure, there's a cartoon in this collection that shows attorneys sold over the grocery counter in six-packs. Since 1993, at least one organization has taken to marketing legal services on a multi-level marketing basis in the same way that Amway or Herbalife market health products. Legal services ARE becoming like food, drink and health to the public.

Who creates such demand? Who's responsible for the proliferation of attorneys? The cartoonists who lampoon us and the public who laughs at the lampoons; that is, you, me and all of us because we've created the demand for that which we outwardly disdain. And I have a feeling that the cartoonists themselves know this.

It's OK to laugh at cleverly-delivered jokes ostensibly directed at the legal profession, but you'll probably enjoy the jokes more if you don't peer too closely to see if the joke isn't really on you.
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