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Friday, June 22, 2007

Lawyer jokes -- colonial style

Not to get too mired in the 18th Century (how often has that sentence been said?), but my previous post on the Founding Fathers puts me in mind of an excellent lawyer story from the life of Alexander Hamilton. More precisely, the source of this tale for me was Ron Chernow's excellent biography "Alexander Hamilton."

Chernow relates how Hamilton flatly refused the legal business of a certain Mr. Governeur. And just what was Mr. Gouverneur's offense? Hamilton had heard that he had made a disparaging remark about the "attorney-like way" someone had padded his bill.

In a caustic letter, Hamilton told Gouverneur that such behavior "cannot be pleasing to any man in the profession and [that it] must oblige anyone that has proper delicacy to decline the business of person who professedly entertains such an idea of the conduct of this profession."

When was the last time any of us defended the legal profession so vigorously from a quip or a joke? I find myself not quite sure whether what Hamilton did was noble, or whether he just needed to lighten up ...

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