The Lawyer that Ate New York

The Lawyer that Ate New York
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

I used to know a guy who, quite literally, didn't get hyperbole. He didn't understand exaggeration. As a result, he missed most jokes that came his way.

If you said, "I've told you a million times not to exaggerate," he would argue that it wasn't a million, then pull out a ledger sheet that showed how times you had said it.

I once made a joke about a nearby city only having one stoplight because it was so small. He said, "That's not true. It's a pretty big town. They've got a bunch of stoplights."

"That was hyperbole," I said. He stared blankly at me.

"I exaggerated," I explained.

"I know, that's why I was concerned. I've been to that city, and they've got several stoplights."

"No, I mean it was a joke," I explained further.

"Oh." He gave a half-smile, as if he got it, but he didn't. I think he was mentally counting the number of stoplights.

I wonder if his brother works for the New York Attorney General's office. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the Attorney General's office has gotten its collective panties in a bunch over a couple TV ads that Syracuse, New York attorney James Alexander ran.

One of the offending spots showed some of Alexander's attorneys giving legal advice to space aliens that had crash-landed in upstate New York. Another one featured attorneys as big as giants, looming over Syracuse like Japanese movie monsters.

The office says the ads are misleading because they contain "patent falsities." So they filed a suit to put a stop to the ads, apparently worried that people might think 50 foot lawyers are thundering around Syracuse, providing legal counsel to aliens injured on the job. (You can find more information about the suit here.)

Assistant Attorney General Patrick McRae wrote in the filing, "It cannot be denied that there is little likelihood that (the lawyers) were retained by aliens, have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or have stomped around downtown Syracuse, Godzilla-style."

It also cannot be denied that McRae doesn't understand poetic license. Or why people don't invite him to parties.

On the other hand, I'll bet this is the first time a lawsuit has ever debated whether lawyers can leap tall buildings in a single bound, or used the phrase "Godzilla-style."

I don't see why ads about giant lawyers are such a problem. It's not like there will be a glut of giant lawyer ads. No ads from competing law firms that boast 60 foot lawyers, or ones with two whiny corporate types arguing that "my giant lawyer can beat up your giant lawyer."

But this type of unimaginative behavior isn't limited to New York. According to the article, the Florida Bar Association is just as tightly clenched as the New York Attorney General's office. They also ban slogans, "manipulative" visual depictions, ambient noise, and jingles.

Jingles? What does a lawyer's jingle sound like?

"When your car is smashed,
And your legs are crushed,
Get what you're owed,
By calling us."

Apparently Florida's Bar hates animals too. They don't allow images of pit bulls, lions, tigers, or sharks.

One attorney, Marc Andrew Chandler, was prevented from using a pit bull image in his ad, so he argued his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. They sided with the hyperbolically-challenged Bar, and wrote in their decision, "were we to approve, images of sharks, wolves, crocodiles, and piranhas could follow."

Something tells me they've heard all the lawyer jokes before.

At least the Florida Supreme Court understands its profession's image, unlike the boss of a lawyer friend of mine. My friend was reprimanded for referring to the legal department where she worked as "the shark tank." This upset her boss, who thought it was unprofessional and disrespectful to the department. (Speaking of lawyer jokes. . .)

Florida's Bar doesn't allow background noise either. In the past, the Bar has barred sounds of a computer turning off, a light switch turning off, and footsteps in TV ads. I get the impression that Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer is running the place.

"This magic television box frightens and confuses me. These magic pictures and strange sounds make me want to flee to the safety of my condo's hot tub with a glass of Chardonnay."

But the Florida Bar might join the 20th century, if not the 21st, by considering amending its rules to allow some ambient sound. Still, you have to wonder about how successful the move will be, since they still refer to TV commercials as "them newfangled talking pictures."

They'd better hurry though. The giant lawyers are lumbering their way to Florida, and they sound silly without giant footsteps.

(Hat tip to Anthony Juliano for this story.)

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