Cheap at Half the Price

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. 

19 thoughts on “Cheap at Half the Price

  1. Aaron Street

    Seems like a fair assessment to me, Scott.

    When this all falls apart and Sam and I move on to used car sales, I hope you’ll let us get you a sweet deal on a late-model Jag. (Or are you more of a classic American muscle-car guy?)

  2. David Sugerman

    All good as far as it goes, but part of the problem is the breakdown in the econmics of law that make entry-level law jobs rare. Iknow from mutual friends that you give freely of your time to help guide younger CDLs who seek your advice.
    Still, I think those of us with experience need to do more to improvise new means of training new lawyers.

    They need to hear the message that this is hard work. But they also need hands-on guidance from real lawyers who are not selling craptastic dreams. I’ve worked on this problem in my small part of the world. I wish I had better ideas than the eight-part pro bono class taught to 10-12 at a time. Your voice in the blog world is good. But we need more, lest we become scattered Dutch boys holding back many dikes with very few fingers. Any thoughts on better, more effective approaches appreciated.

  3. SHG

    If you get a series 1 E-type, I would be interested (for the right price).  Right now, this is my ride.

  4. SHG

    I’m in complete agreement with you, younger lawyers (and not just CDLs) are in desperate need of mentoring.  There’s nothing wrong with learning from the internet, but much of it is crap and even the best of it isn’t sufficient. 

    At the moment, Hull and I are working on an article on this subject for the ABA Journal (the hard copy magazine), so stay tuned.

  5. thenambypamby

    I think the error your analysis comes from the fact that you think the joke was a one shot wonder. The practice of law is rife with humor and BLawyer was great at bringing a wide array of the humor that is ever present.

    I agree that younger lawyers tend to look to blogs and the internet more than those of older generations. In an era where lawyer jobs are hard to come by, when pay is bad, the hours are worse and hope for the future is scarce, it is an essential outlet to be able to laugh at what we do.

    I blog to make myself laugh, to make others laugh, because laughter is a hell of a lot better than crying at the hardship a lot of us younger lawyers face on a daily basis. I hope that BL, when it relaunches, will carry on this noble endeavor.

  6. Keith Lee

    What’s a magazine?

    Being on the Blogroll is nice, but I’ll know I’ve succeeded when I manage to get you to follow me on Twitter. I’m only 100 short of 300 followers, looking forward to getting the secret prize when I get there. I’ll know I’ve made it then.

  7. Max Kennerly

    I don’t mean to be snarky, but few lawyers below the age of 40 regularly read the hard copy ABA Journal. You need to get the article posted on AboveTheLaw and on Lawyerist where they’ll see it. Sad, but true.

  8. Sam Glover

    Just to clarify, the reason I did not budget for legal research in my $3,000 law practice post was because there are a number of ways to do legal research for free or cheap, including law libraries (remember books and WestLaw terminals?) and free Fastcase through the bar association (often free for first-year lawyers).

  9. SHG

    And you can steal pens from the local Holiday Inn, provided you run fast.  I can’t tell you the level of comfort your clarification has provided.

  10. Anita

    And you pay taxes and dues to the local Holiday Inn? Some of my most productive research has come from being in the local law library, which has far better resources than did my former big law firm employer. I rather think you are missing the point of research; why does it matter so much where you read the law?

  11. SHG

    Yes, your honor. I know you told me to have a memo this morning on the point I raised at the end of argument yesterday afternoon, the critical point that spells victory or defeat for my client, but you see I don’t actually have any capacity to do research because I only had $3000 to spend on my office, and the library wasn’t opened last night.  So please, judge, just take my word for it.  Don’t rule against my client.  Pretty please?

    I’m praying you aren’t really a lawyer and just a 12 year old troll.

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