Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Is There Restitution for "Loss of Humor"?

I've been meaning to post on this for awhile, and Russ's post on how bad Seinfeld would be if a lawyer was involved reminded me... but one of the things "they" don't tell you about law school is that you lose some of your sense of humor. How many of my fellow law students have experienced something similar to the following:

[Scene: A man and a woman are watching TV. The woman looks perky and happy. The man looks drawn and tired. Care to guess which one is the law student and which one isn't? They are watching a sitcom where something zany has happened. The woman laughs heartily. The man merely chuckles, but also looks disturbed].
Woman: That was SO funny!
Man: It was alright... But that could never happen. In [insert class name here] we learned that the doctrine of [insert boring legal term here... bonus points for a pretentious latin phrase like res ipsa loquitur] precludes a person from asserting a defense for [blah blah blah]
Woman: Dude, what the heck are you talking about?! We're watching TV, and you're ruining it!
Man I'm just saying its totally unrealistic.
Woman: Of course its totally unrealistic. It has Neil Patrick Harris in it. He was a frickin' doctor at 16, and now you expect realism!
[End Scene]

Even if that scene doesn't happen, and the law student "holds it in," what was once very funny has still become less so for the law student because our minds are still cycling through causes of action and possible defenses. Torts in particular is a great class for this... what was once a funny Three Stooges bit becomes "Well that was clearly battery, or at the very least negligence."

The effect is exponentially amplified when multiple law students are involved. That same Three Stooges clip becomes:
Student 1: Well, Moe clearly performed a battery there.
Student 2: No, that was merely negligence. True, Moe did intentially punch out with his fist, but Curly moved into the space where the fist eventually landed. While Moe may be liable for Curly's injuries, he is not liable for battery and all the additional emotional damages that may arise.
Student 3: I disagree. No matter which tort Moe might have been liable for, Curly clear consented to the contact. From their previous actions in earlier Stooges movies, Curly knew, or can be presumed to have known because the reasonable prudent person would have known, that such fighting occurs regularly, and yet he still hung around with Moe and Larry. At the very least, he assumed the risk.
Student 1: Yes, but Curly clearly (law students love to say "clearly") has subpar intelligence, so can we truly assume that his bald, pea brain would know that past violence meant future violence
Student 3: That doesn't matter. The reasonable person standard cannot be dumbed down merely because this particular person is stupid. Otherwise, the law would create a "race to the bottom," lowering standards for everyone

See how unfunny that is. But I know I witnessed similar discussions after a Torts class, and I'm sure some of you have as well.

Even when we are funny, it is slanted heavily in favor of "law related humor," that while very funny, is still not funny to the general public. Mike at Wings & Vodka is a great example of this. (My personal favorite of his to date is his "Motion to Transfer Venue" from one conference room to another). Law School musicals are another good example. I laughed harder at Walter Wanka and the Lawyer Factory then I had laughed in years. And this year's musical was also quite good. But, many of the funniest jokes are inside jokes that only law students would get (and for some, that only U of MN law students would get).1

I don't really know where I'm going with this... hmmm. But the point is, law school is great for a lot of things; but humor ain't one of 'em.

1 That's not a bad thing as far as the musical goes, as it is a law school musical... but that doesn't change the fact that we are less funny now, at least to the outside world, than when we started law school.


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