[FOUNTAIN]Lawyer Joke Too True to Be FunnyThis is a fictional episode of an exchange between a renowned attorney and his prospective client.
"Can you tell me how much the fee is?"
"Sure. I normally charge $200 for three questions."
"Isn't that a bit too much?"
"Yes it is. What's the third question?"
Money-grubbing lawyers are a favorite butt of jokes in many a country. There are many joke books about lawyers in the United States. One goes like this: A medical doctor and a lawyer were together at a cocktail party. Another guest approached the doctor and inquired about the stomach ulcer he was suffering from. After the consultation, the doctor asked the lawyer, "What do you do about professional advice given out in a social setting?" The lawyer replied, "Of course I would bill for it."
The next day, after the doctor sent a bill for $50 to the man who asked about his stomach ulcer, he found a bill for $100 from the lawyer waiting for him on his desk.
In French, the fee received by doctors or lawyers for medical or legal services is termed honoraires. The word means compensation paid to a person who holds an honorable profession. There is an underlying respect expressed for the profession. It used to be customary that honoraires were given in gratitude, not as a fee for services.
In ancient Greece, the legal profession was an uncompensated honorary job. The defendant in court would simply show his respect for the court and entrust the job of verbal defense to his well-spoken neighbor. It was not until the Roman Empire that lawyering would become a lucrative job as it is now.
There is an English proverb that runs: A great lawyer makes a bad neighbor. An American joke says a hamlet that is too poor for a lawyer to make a living can easily support two ordinary adults.
It is a perfectly acceptable notion that a lawyer with professional legal knowledge and skills be paid according to the services he provides. That gives the legal professional legitimacy in enjoying both honor and wealth.
But a recent report closer to home that a lawyer who was previously the country's chief prosecutor and a minister of justice was paid 100 million won ($77,000) for making a single phone call to a former subordinate prosecutor is just simply black comedy. Perhaps that is nothing compared with ramphant bribery. But the report depicts another side of the legal profession that is not honorable. "There are two kinds of lawyers: those who know the law and those who know judges and prosecutors." That rings too true to be funny.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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