Friday, January 7, 2011

Did you know that I have no sense of humor? I didn't!!

Yes, I was actually told I have no sense of humor a couple of months ago. It all started with this letter to the editor which I wrote to the Utah State Bar Journal (yes, I know, I used the famous BYU Daily Universe editorial phrase, "I am disgusted..."--slight oversight).

Afterwards, I received the following letter in the mail. Names have been removed to protect the guilty (click on the letter pages to make them slightly bigger):
I have to admit, I was fairly peeved when I read this. I mean, aside from the personal attacks, this guy had the nerve to send me a book of lawyer jokes. Now, usually I'm pretty thick-skinned, but this just rubbed me the wrong way. I even checked with my boss before I wrote the letter, asking him if he'd seen the billboard and what he thought of it. It was pretty freakin' crass, in both of our opinions. So, I felt somewhat justified complaining, figuring others would feel the same way. But, turns out I'm just a humorless jerk. So, I wrote back to get my two cents' worth (note that comments in brackets are my own additions now, and would have changed the tone of my letter from the professional tone I tried to strike):

November 24, 2010

Mr. X, Esq.

X Law Firm

P.O. Box X


Dear Mr. X:

Thank you for your letter of November 15 and the gift that came with it. ["Gift" was a kind word on my part, methinks.] I appreciate your taking the time to write to me and explain your position regarding your billboard. Before I take up the content of your letter, I wish to make clear that in no way did I mean to cast aspersions upon you or your firm by way of the letter I submitted to the Utah Bar Journal. I tried to keep the letter somewhat vague about the identity of your firm in an attempt to minimize potential negative feedback to you. In addition, by writing to the Journal, which is arguably read by only other attorneys, I was hoping not to negatively affect any of your potential clientele. Your letter appeared somewhat defensive, and so I wanted to make my intentions known at the outset of my response. [Nice way to say, "What the 'H-E-double hell' are you so uptight about?"]

In regards to the billboard itself, I’ll admit: I did not get the joke. I’m well known for my sense of humor around my office [I think], but honestly, I did not catch the intent of the billboard. I even approached other attorneys in my office with the content of my letter to ensure I wasn’t out on a limb, and they had failed to see the humor in the billboard as well. My only defense in this regard was that my view of the advertisement was reasonable.

Now, you made some comments about me in your letter that I considered ignoring, but I’m not a big enough person to let them go without a response. [I'm actually the smallest 300 pound guy you'll ever meet.] First, just because I wanted you to reconsider your ad does not automatically mean I go about attempting to “silence unpopular voices” in contravention of the First Amendment. Please. I have just as much right to complain about your ad as you do to leave it up. [Although, I'd really wish you'd take it down. It makes you look like a jackass.]

Second, I don’t need to reconsider my attitude about my own profession. At various places in your letter, you accuse me of being “sensitive,” “threatened by the public’s view of our profession,” thin-skinned, and possessing weak feelings. [All true...check his letter.] If I was so sensitive, I wouldn’t have spent tens of thousands of dollars to become a lawyer. [Presumably more than he did to go to Lower Podunk Law School.] I happen to think being an attorney is a noble profession. [When practiced by noble people, of course...] And I have nothing to be ashamed of. What upsets me is the public attitude that prevails that because I’m an attorney, I’m automatically an ambulance-chaser and a weasel. I’m actually an incredibly bright corporate and patent lawyer who hardly ever steps into a courtroom. But rare is the layperson who can make the distinction upon hearing the word “lawyer” because of the actions and attitudes of some of our kind who care more about money than they do about people. [Ahem?] That’s what I find reprehensible. Nobody ever seems to remember that many, if not most, attorneys are upstanding and respectable people. I don’t know what’s thin-skinned about wishing people could make the distinction.

Finally, you tell me I’m obviously overwhelmed by how hard it is to be a lawyer. I can’t speak for your work, but my work is hard. I’ve spent many sleepless nights wondering if I’ve given reasonable counsel and wondering if I’d still have a job in the morning because I said something the corporate bigwigs didn’t like. And yes, believe it or not, I’ve done the kinds of work you so kindly suggest are harder than what I do. I don’t remember ever saying my work was the most difficult profession that could be practiced. I’m not looking for sympathy, though. Regardless of what you say about me, I can look in a mirror and be proud of what I do. [That might have been a little bit of a low blow. I tried to stay above board, but I can only take it so far when I'm ticked.]

I’m not sure why your letter dripped with such disdain for me when you’ve never even met me. If that was another attempt at humor, I guess I missed that one, too. My letter to the Journal didn’t make the personal attacks your response did [meaning, you're a big jerk.]; I can only guess that I obviously touched a nerve which was in no way my intention. You have my apologies for that, and even an offer to send an update letter to the Journal explaining that I have been notified that the billboard was a joke that I neglected to get. [Just what I want to do...publicly declare I have no sense of humor. Luckily, I was not taken up on this. Rest assured the letter would have been something to the effect of: "Dear Editor: The billboard I wrote about last issue was apparently a joke that was supposed to be funny. I am confused. Sincerely, Me."] Beyond that, though, I don’t apologize for anything I’ve said or intimated. You’ve got to be just as tough-skinned as I apparently need to be. And hopefully, the public perception of all lawyers will change, whether you want it to or not. Frankly, I think that would only be a benefit to us both.


/Casey B. Harris/

Casey B. Harris

Associate Corporate Counsel

About a week after sending this response, I got a call back from Mr. X, in which he said, and I quote, "I laughed because you finally got the joke." What joke? Did I miss another one? He also offered to take me out to lunch some day, which promise has yet to be fulfilled. Meanwhile, as I wait for his call, I'll just be sitting here, working on my sense of humor. And, if any of you post a lawyer joke as a comment, watch out. I might not get it.


At January 7, 2011 at 4:29 PM , Blogger Steve-o said...

No offense, but I like the billboard. I appreciate the way the message does what the majority of American advertising does not: it doesn't beat around the bush, and it doesn't sugarcoat the message. It's offbeat, cheeky, snarky, whatever you want to call it. It reminds me of the advertising I see in the UK. It's shocking to Americans, but funny at the same time. We need more of this stuff. I wish my employer would do some of it here like we do there. I can see the tagline now:

Come on over to **** ***, and we'll sell you more useless, overpriced stuff that you don't need.

Good to see you posting again, by the way.

At January 7, 2011 at 6:59 PM , Blogger Whiplash77 said...

Steve, actually, it's kind of instructive to know someone else thinks the billboard was funny. It validates "Mr. X's" opinion (a little bit), although I still don't necessarily think I'm being oversensitive.

Good to hear from you!! And, it's nice to blog again. I guess I just needed something interesting to write about...

At January 7, 2011 at 8:16 PM , Blogger Jaclyn said...

Wow! Good for you...gotta love these little exchanges though. I understand all the thoughts you had while writing your reply though. I have many similar thoughts when I respond to angry emails. ;)


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