Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 56

A SLICE OF WRY

'HELLO I MUST BE GOING'
By Paul Kiernan1

T

his is the first of my (at least
one) humor columns for
Washington Lawyer.

No one asked me to do this. Lord knows I'm
not getting paid for it. (Yes, your Bar dues are
untouched.) So how did this get here?
For many years, this valuable page was the
home of the late Jake Stein. Here, Jake would
combine his boundless curiosity, his love of
pre-Big Law days, and his insights into human
foibles to craft tales about lawyers. His columns
brought to life the exemplars and the scoundrels, the philosophers and the also-rans who
work our trade. Invariably, a Jake Stein column
would leave you wanting to pull up a chair to
chat with Jake, or to read that book you were
supposed to have read in college.
And while Jake was no Aesop, his stories
usually taught a lesson: Pay attention to the
world around you and to the client sitting in
front of you, and you'll be amazed at what you
can learn.
This column has no such lofty goals. I am no
Jake Stein. I have no lessons to teach. My
columns are intended only to share something
fun in the life of the law. To steal borrow from
Twain, persons attempting to find a moral in
these columns will be banished.
What are my credentials for taking up this
page? Well, I am a paid-up member of the
District of Columbia Bar. I also find that law and
lawyers can be amusing. I love it when lawyers
and judges include jokes or puns in their briefs
or opinions. And because I have spent many
years working in Big Law, I have seen behavior
that is gratifyingly all-too-human. People
can be petty, ambitious, clever, naïve, hardcharging, and understated - sometimes all
at once - and that can be funny indeed.
The institutions of the law can stand a little
ribbing, too.

56 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

JULY/AUGUST 2020

I have writers in my family tree. Both of my
grandfathers were well-known radio and television writers. My dad was a professional writer in
the New York advertising world - not exactly
Mad Men but not exactly Bewitched either. He
also wrote a humor column for the North Jersey
Suburbanite newspaper. (Anybody here
remember free community newspapers?
Anybody here remember newspapers?) I honor
him with the name of this column (I stole it
from him). My mom has worked in the New
Jersey legislative world of constituent letters
and speeches, and she is famous for her
rhyming celebratory toasts for just about any
occasion. My wife is an attorney who crafts just
the right language to keep her clients out of
trouble and off the front page, which is just fine
for them. So I am surrounded and influenced
by great writers.

This column has no such lofty
goals. I am no Jake Stein.
I have no lessons to teach.
Over the years, I have taken a run at drafting
things on the comic side - presentations,
holiday poems, April Fools' Day pieces, petitions for rehearing en banc. I've written several
articles for the ABA's Litigation magazine. (Oh,
and please don't tell them but I've never
belonged to the ABA.) I can sum up the critical
reaction to these attempts at lightheartedness
in one word: mixed.
Humor is a funny thing. Literally. Some people
think there's nothing funny at all about law and
lawyers, that this hard life does not allow for
laughter. Lawyers must be serious, learned,
driven, solemn, always on the clock, dour even.
This column will be sure to make fun of people
who believe this.

I know that the worst thing a comedian can do
is tell you that this next joke is "hilarious." No
matter what comes after, it won't be hilarious.
And that promise of impending hilarity puts
you on guard to resist even smiling. So let me
assure you: This column will not be funny. At all.
Let me also assure you that I won't go for the
cheap "Didja ever . . . ?" routines. For those of
a certain age (old), the kind of thing Andy
Rooney used to do all the time: "Didja ever
notice that waxed and unwaxed floss are really
the same?" "Didja ever wonder why they call
those little powdered donuts 'Sweet 16'?" None
of that.
No lawyer jokes either. Like when the guy says
to the police officer, "I'm not saying another
word without my lawyer present!" Officer: "But
you are a lawyer." Lawyer: "So where's my
present?" None of that.
The focus of this page will be the things that
make life worth living as a lawyer: billing and
collecting, your office colleagues, judges who
think they are funny (and if the judge thinks
she's funny, she is hilarious!), escrow, escheat,
estoppel, estimated quarterly tax payments.
Maybe one month we'll explore applying for a
law job, the next month memories of the bar
exam, and the month after a musical tribute to
the Third Amendment. And before you know it,
someone else will be anchoring this end paper.
So, Gentle Reader or Scroller, I invite you to join
me in exploring the lighter side of the law business and the legal profession. And if you ever
have an idea for a column, feel free to keep it to
yourself - because you'll probably be writing
this page by then.
	
	
NOTE

1	All rights reserved, whatever that means. The
opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily the opinions of the author's law firm. In fact,
they don't know he's doing this.



Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Election Coverage
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Staying Afloat feature
Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Annual Report
Taking the Stand
The Learning Curve
On Further Review
Member Spotlight -
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Women's Suffrage special section
Speaking of Ethics
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 10
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Staying Afloat feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 38
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Member Spotlight -
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Women's Suffrage special section
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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