Press kit for Lowering the Bar

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Contact: 608-263-0734 Publication Date: October 10, 2006 ISBN: 0-299-21350-1, $26.96 Paper


Lawyer Jokes Reveal Frustration with "Legalization of Life"

Legal Jokes and Legal Culture

By Marc Galanter


"Hilarious and philosophical at the same time, a nifty probe of the
genre, regularly guilty of wise humor."
-Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Anyone who finds lawyer jokes humorous (including most lawyers)
or has always wondered about how and why they became so popular
will very much enjoy this 'lowering of the bar.'"
-Alan J. Couture,
ForeWord Magazine

How many lawyer jokes are there? Only three. All the rest are documented case histories.
How can you tell if a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.
Why are lawyers buried thirty feet under ground? Cause down deep they're really nice people.

Why are there so many jokes that denigrate lawyers? More interestingly, why has there been an upsurge in such jokes over the last twenty-five years, and why has the tone of jokes about lawyers changed from gentle mockery to mean-spirited scorn and loathing-moving away from what lawyers do (speak in doubletalk and charge excessive fees) to what lawyers are (sharks and rats)?

In LOWERING THE BAR: Legal Jokes and Legal Culture, legal scholar and jokemeister Marc Galanter investigates the rich and time-honored animosity and contempt for the profession that lawyers have sparked in American culture. Galanter knows all the jokes about lawyers—and explains why these jokes are revealing. From Mark Twain classics to contemporary jokes about Johnnie Cochran and Kenneth Starr, Galanter reveals what struck people as funny and worth retelling, and explains how new jokes provide a good indicator of the public's perceptions of society and its lawyers.

Drawing on representations of law and lawyers in the mass media, political discourse, and public opinion surveys, Galanter also explains why lawyer jokes became nastier in the 1980s, coinciding with and reflecting Americans' unease and anxiety about the "legalization" of our society, which they perceive as plagued by too much law and too many lawyers.

Galanter—who developed a joke-book—collecting habit throughout the course of researching this book—demonstrates that the lawyer joke is very distinctive, quite different in scale and intensity from reaction to any other professional or ethnic group. Informative and always entertaining, his book is an exploratory romp through the tensions between Americans' deep-seated belief in the law and their ambivalence about lawyers.

"I never realized how funny and serious lawyer jokes could be. Galanter does to lawyer jokes what Freud did to Jewish jokes in his classic Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, but sometimes a good joke is just a good joke."—Alan Dershowitz, author of Rights from Wrongs

# # #


Marc Galanter
, an oft-quoted observer of the American legal system, is the John and Rylla Bosshard Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Centennial Professor in the Department of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Essays in the Theory and Practice of Lex Non Scripta
Edited by Alison Dundes Renteln and Alan Dundes

"A prodigious effort. The editors, one a specialist in jurisprudence and the other a folklorist, have collected fifty-eight essays previously published in a wide range of places. . . . Their product is must reading for students of law, particularly those interested in comparative politics and law."

Reflections on Food and the Law
Barry M. Levenson

From the McDonald's hot coffee case to the cattle ranchers' beef with Oprah Winfrey, from the old English "Assize of Bread" to current nutrition labeling laws, what we eat and how we eat are shaped as much by legal regulations as by personal taste. Barry M. Levenson, the curator of the world-famous (really!) Mount Horeb Mustard Museum and a self-proclaimed "recovering lawyer," offers in Habeas Codfish an entertaining and expert overview of the frustrating, frightening, and funny intersections of food and the law.

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