Lawyers’ Snark Sandwich, Served Fresh Daily

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Update: April 30, 2013
Warning: This is a “long, boring, and not even funny” rant about snark. You win some, you lose some. Maybe I’ll follow up at a later date with something else about snark. Probably I won’t. Read at your own peril.

Of all the law blogs in this world, there’s only one ingredient found in the best of them—the kind of blawg that elevates lawyers and the legal profession the way we all want it to be elevated—that is, the ingredient of snark. (Did you see what I did there? Italic emphasis on the word “snark” really made it pop.) When it comes to snark, no one does it better than lawyers.

As a young lawyer who considers himself primarily a writer—an occasional lawyer when I’m not writing marketing copy or blogging, to be precise—I eat lots of snark. Sometimes I serve it up myself. But mostly I eat it. Snark, in my opinion (if I may voice my opinion on this matter), is what makes superstars out of blawgs. If you’re thinking of getting into the snark game yourself, use caution. You might be a lawyer, which makes you predisposed, but that doesn’t mean you can pull it off.

Here’s what it takes to inject snark into your blawg.

Establish Your Authority

You can’t just be anyone and think you can throw some snark around. There’s a pecking order. Young lawyers serve snark to law students, like I did last week with my law school do-over post. Older lawyers serve snark to young lawyers, like Mr. Greenfield did with his take on Sam’s presentation at Lawyernomics (“awesome video update!!!”). And lawyers at the same level of age, weight and experience throw snark at each other, though it’s a jovial kind of snark, a kind of player’s club snark, where inside jokes abound.

(Gunner law students serve up snark all over, but that’s a different story. Or not.)

The end goal, at any rate, is to serve the best snark, that real fine snark. But you can only do that once you’ve graduated from baby lawyerdom, once you’ve teethed and had your many dirty diapers changed, once you’ve suffered both scold and praise from your mommy.

Then you’re ready to serve up some solid snark.

Use Only Choice Ingredients

Now authority don’t mean a thing unless the snark tastes good, which requires these three ingredients:

  1. Writing chops
  2. Bravado
  3. Condescension

First, you need the writing chops to pull it off. That goes without saying. Snark and good writing generally go hand-in-hand. My first post here was this gem—legal writing to win a Pulitzer—and you can see a hint of snark in the short and sweet “read, write, read” advice offered to those who want to improve their writing. The post is probably a bit too cute for its own good, but at least the level of snark in my posts has generally increased with time. But I’m just a baby. I’ve got a long way to go.

Second, know-it-all bravado is crucial. Bravado, by the way, is a relative thing. If you think you’ve got it as a young lawyer, take a look at the snark served up by the older lawyers. That’s real bravado right there. My point is, you’ve got to have confidence if you’re going to serve snark—the kind of confidence that tells you there’s no other way to do anything but the way you have done it, no other experience that matters except yours.

And third, sprinkle a healthy dose of condescension on top. That’s what gives it the taste of “advice,” or tough love, with all the vitamins and minerals that help make baby lawyers grow big and strong.

Don’t Forget to Craft Your Snark Strategy

Finally, it’s best to remember the purpose of snark in the first place. Snark can only exist in relation to ideas and opinions already written, be they good, bad, or mediocre. Remember: to serve up great snark, all you have to do is take something someone else has written and add writing chops, bravado, and condescension.

Make sure to do so outside of the context in which the post was written.

Use your new post to separate yourself from the herd of other lawyers who lack the sense and good judgment and experience that you have.

So there is a place for snark on blawgs. I’m all for it. I’m honestly not sure blawgs would be better off without it. In my opinion, it could be one of those things that help make blawgs “not suck.” But I can’t help but think that even high-end, gourmet snark is still just snark. There’s very little nutrition, very little substance, even if wrapped in clever lines and turns-of-phrase.

In that sense, snark is nothing more than a clever marketing tool.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinsteinhardt/2431321266/)

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  • http://FishtownLaw.com Leo

    I’m confused. Is this parody? Or meta-snark?

  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

    Chris, I think you’re a nice guy, well intentioned, and a good writer. I do.

    But there is no such thing as “an occasional lawyer”. You are either a lawyer, or you are not. You can’t “play” lawyer here and there when you feel like it. That’s the point, and it’s a point you seem to keep missing.

    And if you’re bitching about Greenfield’s post on Simple Justice, which it sounds like you are, I have news for you. When you practice law for 30 years, yeah, you learn some stuff. Greenfield has spent a lifetime developing what is now well deserved credibility. Often I will ask Leo a question, and he will give me an answer. I will then call Greenfield, who may or may not give me the same answer. You know whose advice I rely on? The old guy’s.

    This post would have been better if you had simply written “I am butthurt about something Scott Greenfield wrote.” Instead, it comes off as thinly veiled butthurt that is way too long, boring, and not even funny.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/chrisbradley/ Chris Bradley

      I’m sorta butthurt, but that’s not really the issue. I’ve actually just wanted to write about lawyer snark for some time now.

      • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

        Snark usually means the author had the balls to take a position on something. Even if it was uncomfortably true or hurt someone’s feelings.

        Belly rubs and balloons are for children.

        Since we are all adults here, we can deal with a little adversity. Even if it’s mean. That’s part of growing up.

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/chrisbradley/ Chris Bradley

          Which I certainly respect, but at the risk of you no longer thinking of me as a “nice guy,” I find it ironic that you’re trotting out the belly rubs and balloons. Did I go too far with my post?

          • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan Rushie

            In the direction of stupid? Yes.

            But I doubt you hurt Scott’s feelings.