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Vol 23 No 5 May/June 2018

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Drafting Commercial Agreements

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Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture

ISBN13: 9780299213541
ISBN: 0299213544
Published: October 2006
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Paperback
Price: £33.50

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What do you call 600 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? Marc Galanter calls it an opportunity to investigate the meanings of a rich and time-honored genre of American humor. Lowering the Bar analyzes hundreds of jokes from Mark Twain classics to contemporary anecdotes about Dan Quayle, Johnnie Cochran, and Kenneth Starr.

Drawing on representations of law and lawyers in the mass media, political discourse, and public opinion surveys, Galanter finds that the increasing reliance on law coexists uneasily with anxiety about the "legalization" of society. Always entertaining, his book explores the tensions between Americans' deep-seated belief in the law and their ambivalence about lawyers.


  • Two lawyers are sitting at a bar drinking when a stunning blonde in a skin-tight, low-cut dress slinks by. One of them stares for a minute, then turns to his buddy and says, 'Boy, would I like to screw her!' The other lawyer asks, 'Out of what?'
  • An ancient, nearly blind old woman retained the local lawyer to draft her last will and testament, for which he charged her two hundred dollars. As she rose to leave, she took the money out of her purse and handed it to him, enclosing a third hundred dollar bill by mistake. Immediately the attorney realised he was faced with a crushing ethical question: Should he tell his partner?
  • Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb? A: How many can you afford?
excerpts from Lowering the Bar