Lawyerland: What Lawyers Talk about When They Talk about Law

Overview

"We expect law to get to the bottom of things. But if you ask lawyers, 'Does law get to the bottom of things'? they'll laugh. Lawyers watch other lawyers steal, lawyers watch other lawyers lie all the time." This exchange between lawyers in Lawyerland is true. Names have been changed, but as the author says, his book remains truthful rather than factual, filled with flagrant remarks and unsettling confessions of aberrant behavior and compromised morals. In America's crime-obsessed, law-obsessed society, this ...

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Overview

"We expect law to get to the bottom of things. But if you ask lawyers, 'Does law get to the bottom of things'? they'll laugh. Lawyers watch other lawyers steal, lawyers watch other lawyers lie all the time." This exchange between lawyers in Lawyerland is true. Names have been changed, but as the author says, his book remains truthful rather than factual, filled with flagrant remarks and unsettling confessions of aberrant behavior and compromised morals. In America's crime-obsessed, law-obsessed society, this series of brilliant, searing, probing dialogues delivers a seldom-seen side of the law-the lawyers? perspectives. The conversations recounted in Lawyerland represent the whole spectrum of law-criminal, medical malpractice, employee relations, corporate finance, real-estate-and a range of ethnicities and genders. These lawyers are literate, articulate, and self-aware. They are masters of contradiction and rebuttal who have learned to navigate in an increasingly chaotic justice system. Lawyerland is sure to engross lawyers and non-lawyers alike-in fact, all who are fascinated by the complexities of our legal system.

  • Rave reviews and extensive press coverage for the hardcover edition.
  • Should appeal to a large audience of lawyers and would-be lawyers.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Joseph, a poet and law professor at St. John's University in New York, sat down (mostly at meals) with several lawyers of his acquaintance and distilled their conversations into stories that read like radio mini-plays. Indeed, the frank, high-pitched language verges on Mamet. "Reasonable doubt? They go fucking bananas!" declares a weary criminal lawyer of the law-fascinated juries he encounters. A corporate lawyer offers some grim truth: "What we do is determined by who pays us." A loquacious judge, after damning lawyers as liars, finally tells her interviewer of a mind-boggling attempted-murder case involving a husband and wife that resonates with painful clarity. A torts lawyer explicates the world of medical malpractice, where transactional costs trump other considerations: "The public believes in fairness. Well, what's fair for me isn't fair for you." A black lawyer tells a hilarious story about a black law partner who, exasperated by a condescending white client, finally "[g]oes and violates Negro Rule Number One," i.e., never act crazy: act smart. The noirish world that Joseph creates should serve as a tart reminder to practicing lawyers and as a cautionary tale for the aspiring; others may wish for stories with a larger dose of narrative and epiphany. (May)
Library Journal
In this quirky but oddly appealing look at the attitudes and perceptions of a variety of New York lawyers, chapters read like the dialog in a good legal novel. Law professor Joseph (St. John's Univ.) describes his work as "truthful" rather than "factual"; the candor requires that names, places, and incidents be masked. The chapters consist of dialogs with a variety of lawyerscriminal, personal injury, labor, and corporateas well as judges. The style is free-form; the interviewer fades away as the lawyer's voice takes over in a near stream-of-consciousness monolog about law and lawyering. Readers of John Grisham novels may balk at the book's starkness and lack of movement, but those who enjoy Scott Turow may wish to give this work a try.Patrick Petit, Catholic Univ. Law Lib., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Downtown New York attorneys muse, dish, and kvetch about practicing law in the '90s, in this dead-serious, mordantly funny collection of interviews.

Joseph (Law/St. John's Univ.; Common Sense, 1993) converses with 15 lawyers of various stripes, including a female federal judge, a medical malpractice solo practitioner, a criminal defense lawyer, a black partner in a municipal bond firm, a female labor lawyer, and several disaffected associates. The paychecks vary, but the lawyers share a deep disillusionment with the law: Says the criminal lawyer, "Every lawyer [should] tell his or her client that becoming involved with the legal system is like three years of experimental chemotherapy, 100% guaranteed not to work." The lawyers concur that justice is just what money can buy; that the work is maddeningly complex, too specialized to delegate to associates; that the role of attorneys as counsel has deteriorated, as clients now feel free to "tell you—in no uncertain terms—what they want"; and that the highest rewards, such as partnerships and judgeships, "aren't worth shit." The depressing tales of mental and physical breakdowns, firings and demotions, are leavened by gabby, self-aggrandizing anecdotes with deferred punchlines and plenty of cusswords. (Despite the frequent vulgarities, only a confrontation between two labor lawyers actually gets ugly.) Joseph has altered the "names, circumstances, and characteristics of persons and places portrayed," but it's fun to try to pierce the veil. (For example, tabloid readers will recognize the partner "murdered up in the Bronx by a male prostitute at one of those fifteen-dollar motels" as a leading partner at white-shoe Cravath, Swaine & Moore.)

Oliver Wendell Holmes meets David Mamet in this collective portrait of lawyers' love-hate relationship with their profession.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452279933
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Robinson's Metamorphosis
Something Split
All Great Problems Come from the Streets
Transactional
Cerriere's Answer
The Melting Pot
Ta Tung
MacKnight Was Murdered

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