If I ever had the misfortune to be an after-dinner speaker for a group of lawyers (or patent attorneys for that matter), I would begin by plagiarising this statement:
“Lawyers are a tough crowd. There might be more intimidating professionals – snipers, bar bouncers – but they didn’t want to hear from me.”(J Shapiro, Lawyers, Liars and the Art of Storytelling)
Lawyers are not just a tough crowd. We are a terrible crowd. We are cynical, judgmental, egotistical, contrary, and rude. We think we know better, and we don’t mind telling you so. Especially if there is a mob of us. Especially if we have an audience. And especially after a few drinks.
Why is this? Who the hell do we think we are? Did our parents and teachers forget to tell us that sometimes it is better to be kind than right? Or that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason?
The odd thing is that, individually, in the cold light of day, most lawyers are amazing humans. They are intelligent, sensitive, empathic, and sensible. They are usually quick to understand the nuances of a given situation, to grasp instinctively the real drivers behind a dispute, and to navigate the fault-lines of human interactions with courage and grace.
I have no idea what happens to this surfeit of EQ at 9.30pm after an awards ceremony or at the end of a conference.
One day, though it is hard to imagine right now, we will once again congregate in loud, sociable groups. After dinner speakers will become a thing again. I would like to think – hope – that perhaps we can do better by them in round two?