Every once in a while, someone in the blogosphere makes a move that must inexplicably seem like a stroke of genius until someone else, usually either the young, old or infirm, tells them they’re nuts. Just such a move was announced by the Lawyerist, Aaron Street’s attempt to pretend he has something to offer new lawyers who know less than he does.
This week, Lawyerist acquired Bitter Lawyer. We are excited to revive a great humor website, and we have big plans for its future.
In case this isn’t clear, the Lawyerist “acquired” a dead website. You wouldn’t know it from the Alexa blog rankings on Avvo, which put Bitter Lawyer in fourth place as I type (showing yet again why Alexa is goofy and a meaningless metric), but it’s been defunct since September, 2010 (as far as I can tell).
If you never bothered with Bitter Lawyer before, it was a humor blog based on the world view of young unemployed lawyers who hate and blame the world for their personal misery. From that point of view, it was very funny at first. And then, like most attempts at humor, it grew strained and forced and unfunny. The problem with one trick pony humor is that once the joke is told, it’s told.
In the past, I’ve described content on the Lawyerist as a mile wide and a millimeter deep. I’m not just being kind when I say that. No reader leaves the Lawyerist without being diminished as a sentient being. Still, Aaron and his pal Sam Glover have tried to create something to pay for their Cheetos habit, and I give them credit for trying.
But the purchase of a dead website is a novel approach in the search for the nadir of the blawgosphere. Bitter lawyer petered out because the joke got boring. Other attempts at legal humor have similarly proven that it’s hard to be funny, and harder still to maintain it. Not everybody can be Kevin Underhill, whose Lowering the Bar has taken legal humor seriously for years, and is fresh and funny with every new post. There hasn’t been another blawg capable of maintaining legal humor for more than a few posts.
The price for the acquisition was not disclosed, but confidential sources tell me it was nine dollars (US), six peanut M&Ms, three marbles (including one aggie) and a coupon for a half price latte at Starbucks. If Aaron was a better negotiator, he could have kept four of the M&Ms for himself.
What will the Lawyerist gang do with Bitter Lawyer now that it owns the place? Being funny isn’t something one buys. Even if you can’t help but laugh at the Lawyerist content now, the humor is in the fact that it’s offered as serious advice for the rookie lawyer, with such gems as “never walk into court with your fly open or shirt tucked into your underpants, as it makes you look unprofessional.” And it’s adoring fans find this advice critical in their mission to become filthy rich, successful lawyers. Okay, maybe I exaggerate. A bit. But I didn’t make this up, Sam Glover’s how to start a law firm for under $3000, because new lawyers don’t need to waste money on legal research.
So why should anyone care that some vapid blog has purchased a defunct blog? Because Kevin O’Keefe posited that the blawgosphere is the new mentor for young lawyers. Keith Lee at An Associate’s Mind explains why this doesn’t work (and I plan to add his blog to my blogroll as soon as I can remember my new password). And if you’ve read any of the small law columns at Above the Law recently, where the latest proposition is that lawyers don’t need business cards anymore, as they’ve been replaced by giving out twitter names, there will be no doubt that Keith is right.
And yet there are far more new lawyers who take comfort in the simplistic drivel at the Lawyerist than at the substantive blawgs about which Kevin speaks. They also wrap themselves up in the dark humor of blaming everyone but themselves for their ill-conceived choice of becoming lawyers, the crux of Bitter Lawyer’s humor.
As absurd as this acquisition may seem on its surface, it reflects a far more sinister problem confronting the legal profession, that the next generation of lawyers prefers easy answers, someone to blame and nothing to interfere with happy hour. Aaron Street is betting his M&Ms on it, and I’m betting that Aaron has a better feel for what new lawyers want than I do.
Many readers here take issues like the criminal justice system very seriously, appreciating that we hold people’s lives in our hands and have a duty to handle them with the utmost care and zeal. The reason you should care about these collateral issues, the ones that don’t describe the latest outrage or show a video of another cop beating another person for breathing wrong, is that these are the next generation of hands into which lives are commended. If you don’t connect the dots, we’re doomed to suffer young lawyers who think Bitter Lawyer is funny and everyone is to blame for their misery but themselves.
I would like to wish Aaron and Sam the best with their new acquisition. I would like to, but I really hope it dies a quick and painful death, and that they put their efforts into a decent used car lot the next time they feel compelled to find a business venture.