How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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I definitely think it is lack of exposure to lawyers "in real life". The first time I ever encountered a lawyer was when I was in an accident in college... he was nice enough, but dare I say, in some respects fit the stereotype of a PI attorney. My next exposure to an attorney was when I started my first development company some years after college. What a contrast! He was very smart, very helpful, and quite a gracious individual. He truly provided *counsel* to our fledgling company.

Since that time, largely because my wife is an attorney, I've met dozens of attorneys. And you know what? There have been a very small number that have fit the stereotype of arrogant, annoying, asshole. However, most of them are smart, funny, and interesting people. Go figure. I really don't think it has anything to do with blogging or not. The attorney I mentioned above who is a great guy, I don't think he's ever heard of a "blog".

I've heard that airline pilots, many of whom are former military, are arrogant, too. I've never met any, so I guess I should assume that to be true.



I wholeheartedly disagree with the excerpt Evan quoted from Crime & Federalism. Is it now "arrogant" for lawyers to even admit that they are professionals? Is "lay person" a derogatory term? If so, someone please find a more politically correct term to define me when I am talking to a medical doctor, engineer, accountant or computer programmer. All such individuals are professionals, and when I'm talking to them about their areas of knowledge and skill, I am myself a "lay person" in that field and not afraid to admit it.

Most people without law degrees do not understand what lawyers mean when they refer to motions for summary judgment, res judicata, in rem, or rule 11 sanctions. Just like other professions, lawyers have their own language that usually needs to be translated into plain English for people-who-are-not-lawyers. On the whole, I think lawyers do a good job of doing that compared to other kinds of professionals, but I don't see how it's arrogant or somehow wrong to preface such a translation with, "In lay terms..."


It's what we bloggers call a "rant."

Federalist No. 84

but I don't see how it's arrogant or somehow wrong to preface such a translation with, "In lay terms..."

Because it sounds like you are talking down to the person. Just explain what a MSJ is without all the "we lawyers" or "in lay terms." It sounds very condescending. Notice I used doctors as an example. They do not say, "This is what WE DOCTORS call [insert medical term]." Computer geeks don't say, "This is what WE TECHIES call html." Math experts don't say, "This is what WE GENIUSES call a 'mathematical proof.'" Etc.

By saying, "In lay terms" or "we lawyers," you are putting up a barrier between you and the other person. You are saying, "I will talk down to you on your level," rather than just talking to the person in his own terms. You are breaking the Number 1 rule of good communication, namely, to show, don't tell.

The best trial lawyers never say such condescending crap. You should listen to Gerry Spence, Milton Grims, Rex Parris, Tom Girardi, Brown Green or some other top trial lawyer talk. With them, the dialog is horizonal, even when dealing with complex subjects.

But then again, maybe they have enough confidence to realize that there is no need for them to put up barriers between them and the "lay people."


I definitely think it is lack of exposure to lawyers "in real life".

Nope, it's the opposite. It's seeing enough lawyers in "real life" that caused me to form my opinion. I constantly hear people mispronounce words and use unnecessarily haughty language in motions and briefs. And let's not get started about lawyers' latin. Hey, if you can't prounce the words, fine. But don't try to correct someone who actually studied the subject!

Indeed, I've worked with some of the best lawyers in the country. (I attended two of Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College Regional Seminars, where Spence himself lectures). That's what gets my goose. If the best trial lawyers in the country drop such garbage, then why can't the hack doing insurance defense drop the arrogance (er, "confidence") down a level.


This would also explain why lawyer-bloggers seem to be the exception to the general rule: they’re lawyers who you can actually get to know, sort of.

Well, I suppose the problem is that underlying my statement is the supposition that I read the blogs. So, it's kind of like saying, "Lawyers who blog and whose blogs I find worthwhile" are cool. So I suppose I can't really exempt all lawyer-bloggers from my original arrogance post. After all, I like Evan. But for him there could be five other a-holes I wouldn't like.

For the record, I think doctors are arrogant, too. But it's the way that lawyers express themselves (as noted in the post above) that gets me going.

Hey, odds are my IQ is the higest in the room. But is that the kind of thing I want to advertise? Why? Am I so insecure that I need to say, "This is what those of us with X-IQ do on a Saturday night - we play logic puzzles." Or, "Well, I suppose I'll put it in language that someone with a 120 could understand." That's idiotic. And it would come off as horribly arrogant. Plus, it might make some people feel left out. Why would I want to do that to anyone?

So, at best, most lawyers are very insecure (hence, the need to place walls between themselves and the "lay people"); at worst, arrogant. I think it's the latter.

David Giacalone

It's exactly the feeling of insecurity -- that is, uncertainty about one's worth or status and -- that creates arrogance, with its need to assert superiority.

Similarly, it is the need to demonstrate that one's profession really does possess special knowledge or power that spurs the use of jargon.

Some truly wise humans have noticed that we tend to be most offended by the characteristics we fear or dislike in ourselves.


I'm still not buying it, and the "it" I'm referring to is Fed's broad generalization. He says "most" lawyers are at best "very insecure" and "at worst, arrogant". I think that generalization is itself extremely arrogant, as generalizations generally (hehe) tend to be. Do I know arrogant lawyers? Yes. Do I know lawyers who over-use useless legal jargon? Yes. But as a matter of logic, these facts don't amount to a conclusion that most lawyers are insecure or arrogant. Most lawyers I deal with (and I deal with a broad variety) are bright, interesting, talented, likeable people.


Is Ted Frank, the blog Head at Overlawyered DOT Com a nice guy who is not arrogant ?
Well, you might read his insane attacks on another lawyer Cyrus Sania, who exposed the 9th Circuit judge's porno Chamber stash.(the Kozinski challenge, and other displays of the dorkey judge who likes to be wired in on the latest donkey smut) Frank acts like he is the foremost defender of smut in L A.
Seems some blogging lawyers want the courts not to be places for ordinary citizens(access to courts), and thus the notion of Overlawyered DOT COM.( the Federalist Society Sector of the Bar)
I believe if there is some so called exception to blogging lawyers being super nice(Ha Ha so self serving), then Ted Frank is an exception to the exception.
He is a arrogant fool, and a total arse, unusally ignorant despite being some Clerk.
Ted Frank thinks Gerry Spence is a big ranter, and a narrastic show off, as he notes in his irrational bloggings, which are bodering on some lunatic fringe, pased off as some jurisprudence.( something akin to a DOC of JUDAS Prudence)
Then, others attack Spence, such as Norm Pattis, who writes for the blog "Crime and Federalism", all in a big huff over Spence's Trial College, and the fact as he knows it, that Spence is "wealthy", and made a donation of land , no less.
Now, Spence has a blog, and is at it.( he wrote on his friend Argus, who he calls "insane".)
Overlawered DOT Com is sponsored by the Manhattan Insitute, & lawyer hater(Walt), who rants with Ted Frank. He(Walt) is not a lawyer, and flouts his ignornace, not exactly practicing law without a license, but making a fool of himself without a law degree. Utter ignorance. That would be like blogging on a medical blog on heart surgery by Joe the Plumber.
But, blogs allow some to be Bar types(pretend fantasy world), even if they never went to law school, or stood up in a court room for some citizen. And, the blogger subset call them the nice ones.. Oh, such new marketing ploys, it is beyond the pale, it is really a new form of how some vent at the bordem of their grind of some practice, which is largely pushing paper.(motion this , motion that, and motion ad naseum)
Most cases filed never go to court, for a civil jury trail, something like only 2 % of civil cases, or a verly low percentage, matters are bogged down in motion world, the reality of civil practice in the USA--these days.


I wholeheartedly disagree with the excerpt Evan quoted from Crime & Federalism. Is it now "arrogant" for lawyers to even admit that they are professionals? Is "lay person" a derogatory term? If so, someone please find a more politically correct term to define me when I am talking to a medical doctor, engineer, accountant or computer programmer.

I'm still not buying it, and the "it" I'm referring to is Fed's broad generalization. He says "most" lawyers are at best "very insecure" and "at worst, arrogant". I think that generalization is itself extremely arrogant, as generalizations generally (hehe) tend to be. Do I know arrogant lawyers? Yes. Do I know lawyers who over-use useless legal jargon? Yes. But as a matter of logic, these facts don't amount to a conclusion that most lawyers are insecure or arrogant
that guy too

That guy is probably an attorney or a law student. His demeanor is not as caustic or arrogant as the archetypal attorney you have in your head; however his entire monologue is annoying and stressful, he's berating you on how you shouldn't berate in self-righteous hypocritical hubris. It's people like him that make me not want to be an attorney.
I can personally attest that the attorney I work with; although deceptive(it's the nature of the job) is a very kind and modest person. I also befriended another attorney who is kind and normal as well. Another attorney I befriended was socipathic in a funny way; he talked about shooting a gov't offical if they attempted to use eminemt domain on his house. So I've only met 3 out of the hundreds of thousands of attorneys which practice in the usa.
However I can say that almost every single law student is exactly what you fear.


I am a law student and I guess I can say I know a lot of future lawyers. Lawyers are arrogant, full of BS and that's because in law school, they're taught that they're the cream of the society. What's funny is that they know squat about society, real life; they live in their little, comfy bubble and look down on each others and on non-lawyers. I've met a very, very. very few humble practising lawyers among my professors. What was the common denominator? Called to the bar a zillion years ago. The young ones? Bunch of pricks who confuse self-confidence or self-esteem with arrogance.

Mustang Sally

I agree it has to do with the grooming they get in college: they are "taught" there to BE arrogant. NEXT, when they go to their first associate position, they are given a mentor or two (attorneys who have been practicing awhile). The mentors then REINFORCE the misguided notion that they have a "right" to be arrogant.

I think one of the main reasons different people have had different experiences has to do with what precipitated their introduction to the attorney. It ALL has to do with the SETTING in which one contacts the lawyer. IOW, was it because they met them at an upscale party where they were accompanied by a spouse who is also an attorney (in which case they will be treated as somewhat of an equal socially -- at least until the social function ends). Or, were they introduced to the attorney because they were a PAYING client? Likewise, the attorney will treat them with feigned humility, and an abundance of charm and wit, in order to extract the requisite monetary remuneration (fee) during the pendency of their legal case. However, no doubt the attorney may likely still make fun of the client in the client's absence to fellow attorneys for any reason they can think of that might sound witty. Lawyer bloggers do so because it is a MARKETING TOOL for their practice and/or their firm. Therefore, their tone will be humble and witty. When they are NOT blogging, one would have to be a "fly on the wall" to see what they are REALLY like to their staff, their spouses, their children, their waiters, and anyone else they consider "less than" themselves in terms of social or professional stature.

Or, were they introduced to the attorney because they began working for them as a staff worker (secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, document runner, etc.)? In THAT case, it is very likely that the staffer will observe and experience the fullness of the arrogance of the attorney (at least following their 90 day probationary employment period). The exception might be if you are a secretary who is SLEEPING WITH the attorney. In that case, expect job security, insulation from office politics, bonuses, raises, perks, time off with pay and perhaps even free plastic surgery. On the other end of the spectrum, should you be unfortunate enough to be an honest staffer working for lawyers who happens to have morals and be a Christian -- God help you...

What is clear is that attorneys are able to "turn it off and turn it on" at will based on the situation and based upon what the attorney finds expedient (for their own benefit), kind of like a psychopath might do. Therefore, most lawyers are not REAL toward most people they come into contact with. They meticulously calculate how they should act in each situation, so it's all an act when they are being nice. That part that is NOT an act is the arrogance.

Additionally, they are usually quite intelligent, and intelligence is often given wide berth in terms of the display of arrogance and other undesireable character traits in most societies. Also, it is a known fact that most attorneys earn substantial money and that, as well, gives them what they consider to be an excuse to be jerks.

There are VERY FEW exceptions to the above scenarios and this comes from 20+ years of exposure to all types of lawyers involved in multiple areas of law and everything from solo practitionerships, to small, medium and large law firms: senior partners, young fresh-faced associates and long in the tooth attorneys on the verge of retirement. Lawyers who are TRULY NICE rarely survive the field regardless of their intelligence or ability, having been eaten alive by their crooked colleagues. Lawyers who are truly nice may find they can survive the practice of law easier if they hang their own shingle, or work for a corporation as their on site counsel, but there are no guarantees.

Sona Sambou

There is little doubt that most lawyers are arrogant, not because they are so by nature, but because they have been taught to be arrogant in law school, to prove they are lawyers worth the salt. I work with a lady who joined law school some two years ago, and all of a sudden she started asking if i found lawyers to be generally arrogant. And once she started becoming pompous and condescending to everyone around and people complained, her only response was that others are becoming jealous because she would soon be a lawyer. So any sensible person can figure out the causal connection between her enrolment at law school, consciousness about arrogance among lawyers and ultimate change in behaviour towards others. I know of another senior lawyer who by nature is very simple and humble. But occasionally, he cannot help feigning arrogance especially when dealing with non-lawyers at a professional level. Interestingly, when there is money or revenue at stake in their dealings with anyone, they are for that moment extra ordinarily professional, modest and kind. Once the stakes are over, they are back to their world. I've met and worked with too many lawyers and there's none who in my observation wouldn't fit into one of the above categories. The problem though may be with legal teaching or tutoring, where it is valued norm to teach aspiring lawyers that they ought to be arrogant because they are more intelligent and talented than the rest of society. This is a nasty, self-serving idea and absurd presumption that should have no place in conventional educational circles. Otherwise, the legal profession will over time be a bona fide province of jerks, idiots and fools.

Lupe G.

Lots of professionals are arrogant. There are even some who refuse to speak to the "underlings" who work in their office. Tell me how to have a realistic working relationship with people that one refuses to speak to. The arrogance is ultimately harmful, not helpful. I know one lawyer who says he won't talk to non-lawyers, because he is tired of being asked for free legal advice. I can imagine that gets very old. Many lawyers I know insist that I, too, should go to law school. So I'm getting the message that unless I become a lawyer, like them, I can't fully join their social circle. However, I can't imagine why they encourage others to go into law, when they themselves hate their jobs, and feel they have little job security and low incomes. Hey, if you don't like it, I wouldn't like it either.

Also, you should see how professional women treat women in other occupations - its ugly. They assume we are just stupid little tramps who couldn't get a better career going, especially if we work in one of those professions they loathe, such as childcare.


O!M!G! Yes lawyers are arrogant. Does the question even need to be asked. I am the legal secretary to a male attorney who believes that I am beneath him in work and in the world and he treats me as such. In my 25 years experience, he is the first I've ever come across like this but he makes life horrible. And in this day and age where the economy stinks and firms have gone through many rounds of cutbacks, the jobs just aren't out there right now. It seems like there is no respect for staff as just a human being and no respect for staff as for the job they provide. Staff did not get raises for 3 years but partners got their $100,000+ bonuses at the end of the year. We don't get profit sharing any longer, we don't bonuses and we get vacation time taken away. Tell me, how does taking away benefits - specifically vacation time -- save the firm money. If the attorneys think that by breaking their staff's morale is going to bring out the best in staff, they are so wrong. But what am I thinking, attorneys are only thinking about themselves and no one else.


As a long-time Paralegal,I have seen the full range of personalities. But let me say, before I get started, "I am arrogant." I do not know the origin of my arrogance as I have always been that way, even in high school, so it has nothing to do with my social standing, my level of education, nor my profession. It just is part of me.

But having worked with many attorneys over the years I have found that there are, largely, more nice and considerate attorneys than there are a-holes. I have reason to believe that what is perceived as arrogance, a lot of times, is just pure impatience. However, as with everything there are exceptions. I do recall one young man who had just finished law school and was a new-hire at the firm. The day that he received news that he had passed the bar, he became the biggest "jerk" that one could imagine.

I believe that real arrogance can be perceived from any level of IQ, education, current financial or social status. So it is not relegated just to the legal profession, or even just to professionals. Arrogance lives even among non-professionals.


I couldn't disagree more on this claim. That's totally a stereotype most people have for lawyers. Well, we cannot blame them for thinking that way. Maybe what they are seeing is that most lawyers have strong personalities in defending their clients which are undeniably necessary for their work.


I think it's largely down to the fact that too many lawyers use legal language rather than plain english. Lawyers tend to be defensive by nature and appearing pompous and knowledgeable for some, justifies their fee. Things are changing though and this approach is short sighted. Clients pay lawyers for advice based on experience, not telling them what the law is. A plain english approach inspires confidence and shows the lawyer is self assured.

Michael Ehline

Many lawyers have never had real jobs or served in the military. Instead they are brainwashed by radical commie teachers. So by the time they pass the bar they believe they know what's best for all of us racists, bigots and homophobes.

Robert Reeves

I think we have all come across arrogant lawyers, but to me that's the exception not the rule. When people generalize or stereotype people into one group they are wrong. Plain and simple. Most of my lawyer friends have good heads on their shoulders and treat people with respect.


"He who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."


I've worked as a paralegal for 15 years. It's true that lawyers are for the most part arrogant assholes, but they're also under a lot of pressure - worrying about looking competent all the time, satisfying clients, keeping up billing, etc. That being said, the profession attracts people who must have the last word; who must control their environment; and who must win or be right all the time. (Although their job is to be objective, they jump to conclusions faster than anyone I've ever met.)

According to me and my peers, the worst type of lawyer is the short male. They're arrogance correlates directly to being small and unthreatening throughout life. I would've slapped a short male lawyer at least once by now if I could've gotten away with it. They're definitely harder to work for than tall men.

Most of the time my attorneys behave, especially when they find out my husband's a doctor. They feign indifference before asking, what type? When I say "neurosurgeon" they're faces drop. Theory - lawyers are so arrogant that when they discover my husband's profession, it deflates their egos. Enough said.

Jared Malan

I am not sure that I recognize the analogy between a doctor and an aorta being compared to an attorney and a brief. Maybe the blogger can elaborate?

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