So there you are, doing your thing, striving to make a living by lawyering, perhaps enjoying a cocktail with some fellow lawyers, when someone nearby lets fly with:

What’s the difference between a lawyer and an onion?
You cry when you cut up an onion.

Laughter ensues, usually followed by more lawyer jokes.

So there you are, drink in hand, listening. How do you feel? And what do you do or say?

Everybody’s a comedian

Lawyer jokes are ubiquitous. In sharp contrast with, for example, jokes about ethnic or racial groups, people tell lawyer jokes and and pass them around without any apparent fear of offending anyone. There are other professions, like government employment, that draw barbed humor as well, but lawyer jokes seem to me to be more common, and meaner.

Some lawyers get very upset when they hear lawyer jokes, or are troubled by what the popularity of lawyer jokes says about the public’s view of our profession. Law professors even write books about them.

It’s all about you

But what do your individual feelings about lawyer jokes say about you?

Here’s my take:

I think I’m a competetent and honest lawyer with a sense of humor.
I don’t mind lawyer jokes. I collect the best ones I hear and read.
I am glad that lawyers do work that is seen as important enough to take up a significant part of the vox populi’s bandwidth. People tell lawyer jokes because lawyers do work that directly affects people in significant and long-term ways.

While I don’t think a lawyer who is upset by laywer jokes is a bad lawyer, I do think that lawyer is probably:

A bit too “into” the whole “prestige” thing in having a law license. In other words, has a self-esteem problem.
One who finds it very difficult to deal with the by-its-very-nature ethically ticklish work of lawyering, especially getting paid.
Not a lawyer I want to hang out with at happy hour, and would probably prefer not to have to deal with professionally, either, if I can avoid it.

What do you think? Straighten me out (or share your favorite lawyer joke) in the comments.

(photo: A young man on stage from Shutterstock)


  1. Avatar Joseph Bahgat says:

    I love a good lawyer joke, probably because I feel confident that my clients don’t feel that way about me. You hit the nail on the head with your ethnic joke analogy. Ethnic jokes are now considered taboo, and those who repeat them in public settings are oftentimes shunned. Lawyer jokes play off the same types of stereotypes, but don’t attack a so-called protected class, which make them a safer bet, while equally as funny.

  2. Avatar Ian Hudson says:

    Ethnic jokes are still taboo and more serious because no one chooses to be an ethnicity, while people choose to become attorneys. The fact that we are in a position to compare a profession with an ethnicity in that regard is pretty interesting in my opinion.

    My go-to lawyer joke is always “98% of lawyers give the other 2 a bad name.”

  3. Avatar David McDonough says:

    Garrison Keillor, host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” on his annual Joke Show one year, put it very nicely when he said:

    “Lawyers have been an object of ridicule for a long time, and if you think about it, it’s not fair. Of course, there are some unethical lawyers, and there are too many lawyers. But there are too many talk shows as well, and there are too many journalists in Washington, but nobody makes jokes about them. And at least with lawyers, you have to pass a test to get in.

    “Lawyers are the main group defending the Bill of Rights in this country, and without them government and big corporations would be running roughshod over all of us.

    “So, we don’t feel good about doing these jokes, but……”

  4. Avatar AwkwardLawFirmPhotos says:

    I’d rather stop making fun of dentists :)

    My favorite joke or quote is “What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer?
    A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.”

  5. Avatar shg says:

    As deeply offended as I am for your hurtful and insensitive jokes, I’ve always like this one:

    Client hands a lawyer a wad of $100 bills. After he leaves, the lawyer counts them, and finds two bills were stuck together, such that the client paid an extra $100.

    Ethics question: Must the lawyer tell his partner?

  6. Here’s my latest favorite:

    What happens when you give Viagra to a lawyer?

    He gets taller.

  7. Avatar Lee says:

    Lawyer jokes don’t generally faze me, but I have always believed that a person who can’t laugh at himself is a a poor person. And I note that, in Texas, the biggest targets for humor are the graduates of Texas A&M University – the Aggies. And who buys most of the Aggie humor books? Aggies, of course! :)

    Aggie joke: “What do you call an Aggie 10 years after graduation?”


    And I’m stealing this one:

    “98% of lawyers give the other 2 a bad name.”

  8. I hate “lawyer jokes”. I’ve never seen them as funny because most, by their very essence, portrays lawyers as liars and thieves. Who laughs when called a thief? A liar? Also, I think that since I happen to be a member of other groups that get a hard time with not so funny jokes, (race and gender) I am triple sensitive. My saying is that I had no idea becoming a lawyer would create yet another fight against stereotypes.

  9. Avatar Dave S says:

    Having to deal with other lawyers daily, we all probably know lawyers who fit the ‘profile’ of many of the lawyer jokes. I know I do. But, as one of the first replies said, I am not bothered by the jokes because I don’t feel my clients and the people who deal with me believe I am in that category. I certainly try hard not to be. I figure, it’s all the better for the rest of us who show our clients and others we are not within the perceived negative lawyer image.

    I always liked the Jerry Seinfeld joke about lawyers- it’s like when playing the board game “Life”, the lawyer is like the guy out of the group playing who knows all the rules when the others don’t.

  10. Avatar Christoffer Eldrich says:

    Everybody likes lawyer jokes. I don’t think there is any reason why any lawyer should be offended with lawyer jokes. That’s why it is called a joke in the first place. And besides, if you are doing your job right, why should you be offended?

  11. Avatar Esteban Umerez says:

    Great post, the opening joke was hilarious. Here’s another one I’ll try to translate from Spanish:

    -Good morning, Mr. Attorney, how much are your fees?
    -I charge $100 for every three questions.
    -Don’t you think it’s too expensive?
    -I do. Now, you’d better think your following question through.

    Regards from a lawyer in the basque country.

    PS: feel free to correct my text, trying to write in English and having my mistakes corrected is a good way to learn for me.

  12. Avatar David K. Hiscock says:

    It’s never worked for me to get all huffy and protest that “I’m not one of those lawyers”, and seems to be better to just roll w/ it and show a little humor/humanity/humility.
    After the folks have gone through their jokes – including some of the ones above, I usually do a fast Q&A that lets them know I’m not leaving in a huff.
    Best delivered deadpan.
    Q: How many lawyers does it take to roof an average home?
    A: Depends on how thin you slice ’em.
    Followed by “A hot dog walks into a bar – and the bartender says ‘sorry, we don’t serve food’. ”
    Then quietly move on & refill your drink.
    All respect – David K. Hiscock
    Ballard Law Office 206-789-9551
    Out in Ballard/Straight Talk

  13. Avatar Katthew Melly says:

    Lawyers really aren’t so bad, it’s just ninety-nine percent of lawyers that make the rest look bad.

  14. Avatar Bernie Brewer says:

    Q: How does an attorney sleep?
    A: First he lies on one side, then he lies on the other!

  15. Avatar Bucky Badger says:

    Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a vulture?
    A: The lawyer gets frequent flier miles.

  16. Avatar Roane says:

    Just remember: every time someone tells a lawyer joke, a lawyer raises his rates.

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