Just after I started law school in 1982 a lawyer named Daniel White published a short, satirical book called The Official Lawyers Handbook. It masqueraded as “the ultimate guide to surviving a legal career,” and somehow provided useful advice. Most of all, it was funny. Among the book’s chapters were these gems:
- The Bar Exam – Thousands of morons have passed – so can you
- Partnership – you can make it, if you know what to kiss, and whose
- Understanding what lawyers do – and how to stop them doing it to you
I also remember this passage: “there are no funny lawyers; only funny people who made the wrong career choice.” Perhaps, Mr. White was talking about himself. He was definitely not talking about the nice fellow who writes a “humor column” for my state bar journal.
The fellow who writes the column is probably a great lawyer, and definitely did not make the wrong career choice. His column is written for a certain group of lawyers: weary ones full of smug assurance, trundling into the twilight of their careers. Topics that disgruntle veteran lawyers are a staple.
In the last edition he wrote about text messaging. It was entitled TMMAO, which he never defined. The point was to grumble about the crazy new text messaging culture.
His set up was that he had compiled a list of “officially sanctioned TM messages” that were supposedly prepared by the “Text Messaging Subcommittee” of the state bar. And here are some of the “funny” messages that he translated for us:
- WTF – where is the file?
- IBFC – I’m begging for a continuance
- WWTCLEEE – When will this CLE ever end?
So, like I said, he didn’t make the wrong career choice.
They say you shouldn’t try to dissect humor. But that’s only if you want the humor to remain funny. Since this stuff isn’t funny, let’s carve away.
First of all, the only group of lawyers who MIGHT find this funny are the wizened trundlers we talked about earlier. “Ha, ha ha,” they’re laughing their asses off at these ‘common lawyer scenarios.’ Common scenarios for lawyers include:
- they never know where their files are
- they’re never prepared for trial, and
- they hate CLE programs and only attend because they have to
I guess old legal guffers find it funny that these things are still commonplace, and unlikely to change. Their clients probably don’t. And, I’m guessing, neither do new recruits to the profession—you know, the ones who know a lot about text messaging and its many arcane shortcuts.
Still, younger lawyers are probably the only ones who get the “joke” hidden in the title of the article. TMMAO is based on LMAO. So it clearly means “text messaging my ass off.” Young lawyers who haven’t become cynical aren’t going to find it funny. And older lawyers who don’t text message much won’t even get it.
Some non-lawyers will get it, but not find it funny. They’ll be clients of dusty old lawyers, folks who crave the day our profession will finally embrace change instead of smugly shrugging it off.