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Lawyerland: What Lawyers Talk About When They Talk About Law Hardcover – May, 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lawyer, law professor, and published poet Lawrence Joseph has an uncanny ear for dialogue, and in Lawyerland he reproduces conversations he's had with attorneys practicing in New York City. His unorthodox technique involves extensive and lively quotation that reads at times like a Mamet play, and Joseph readily admits, quoting the late New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, that the book is "truthful rather than factual, but solidly based on facts." Names and some factual details have been changed, but the interview subjects relate their stories and do provide the gritty texture of how these lawyers view themselves and their insular world. In eight separate chapters, each devoted to a practitioner of a specific legal specialty, Joseph presents the people who keep the system working in all their profane, cynical, and exuberant glory.

From Publishers Weekly

Joseph, a poet and law professor at St. John's University in New York, sat down (mostly at meals) with several lawyers of his acquaintance and distilled their conversations into stories that read like radio mini-plays. Indeed, the frank, high-pitched language verges on Mamet. "Reasonable doubt? They go fucking bananas!" declares a weary criminal lawyer of the law-fascinated juries he encounters. A corporate lawyer offers some grim truth: "What we do is determined by who pays us." A loquacious judge, after damning lawyers as liars, finally tells her interviewer of a mind-boggling attempted-murder case involving a husband and wife that resonates with painful clarity. A torts lawyer explicates the world of medical malpractice, where transactional costs trump other considerations: "The public believes in fairness. Well, what's fair for me isn't fair for you." A black lawyer tells a hilarious story about a black law partner who, exasperated by a condescending white client, finally "[g]oes and violates Negro Rule Number One," i.e., never act crazy: act smart. The noirish world that Joseph creates should serve as a tart reminder to practicing lawyers and as a cautionary tale for the aspiring; others may wish for stories with a larger dose of narrative and epiphany.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st edition (May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374184178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374184179
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,895,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I can't really understand others' criticism of this rather fine book. As a current law student, it was a breath of fresh air to hear members of my future profession discuss their work in the context of everyday practice. The author has made no claim that this book will teach laymen anything about the law or the specifics of how it is practiced. It is simply a collection of insights related to the lifestyle which accompanies a career in the legal profession. For those of us soon to tread those waters, I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is by far the best representation I have ever read of what happens when lawyers talk to other lawyers. It is a world-weary, foulmouthed, infinitely nuanced and stunningly intelligent view of the world, rendered in a profoundly honest way here. Professor Joseph has written the authoritative text on lawyers, and how practicing law brings about a certain life perspective that is shared only by lawyers.
If you want to know what it means to practice law - not HOW to do it, but rather its very essence - stop watching all of the garbage on television, just read this book and get on with it.
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Format: Hardcover
The Amazon synopsis is right on. You may not like the people you meet here (Phoebe-Lou obviously didn't, I found them a more mixed crew) but you learn a great deal about the law when you learn the attitudes and dispositions of those who tend the machine. True, Lawyerland won't help you write your own will ("one does not learn anything definite about the law")--but then, that's not the point. The genre is unique--truthful, not factual--and the writing is wonderful
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By A Customer on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished Lawyerland and have only one comment: IT'S JUNK! I have learned absolutely nothing new about New York lawyers, except that the drivel from their mouths rivals only that of Eddie Murphy live on stage. Apparently foul language is an everyday thing in New York but to be used by supposedly educated men and women is a turn-off. Furthermore, the rambling "stream of conciousness" blather of several of the interviewees was a joke! I don't know how the literary critics could have recommended this book to the general public. Unless the ulterior motive was to show the reader that lawyers are actually WORSE characters than we perceive them to be. As if that were possible. I will henceforth do my best to persuade anyone who asks for my opinion on this book to bypass it.
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