Galanter says lawyer jokes seem to be oddly American and he traces some of the animus that people have for attorneys to the expansion of the law in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, changes that afforded new protections for citizens.
"Law was seen as a liberating thing that gave more remedies to individuals ranging from school children to minorities to prisoners who were now able to use the law," Galanter says. "Suddenly, the managers of society were held to account by lawyers."...
By the 1980s, Galanter says, there was a rise in more aggressive humor that shifted from mockery to outright hostility. Galanter traced some of their roots to jokes about Communists and Jews that were often decades old, but changed to accommodate lawyers.
One old saw goes like this:
What do you call 6,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start.
Galanter says that after the joke appeared in the early 1980s and was directed at feminists, blacks, Iranians and Jews, the version featuring lawyers gained widespread traction.
"A lot of lawyer jokes were about Jews. A lot of lawyer jokes were about politicians," he says. "They are indicators of these currents of underlying sentiment - outcroppings that show what the social trends were when the jokes were in fashion."
I'm expecting the comments section on this post to fill up with lawyer jokes, but I'm expecially interested in the cultural/political analysis Galanter provides. What do you think of that?
Bonus nostalgia link to an old post: I object to that bottom-of-the-sea joke.
IN THE COMMENTS: Several commenters trace lawyer jokes to the problems of what is perceived as a litigation explosion in this country, and I point out that Galanter has written extensively debunking this as a myth. You can get his articles on the subject here.