I attended a local comedy show called “That Time of the Month,” which featured regular people (not professional speakers or comedians) reading stories they’d prepared. The stories were funny anecdotes from their lives, read by people who may have never been on stage before in their lives. The people had typed up their stories, and, generally, read them verbatim from their text on stage.
They were introduced as “readers” to the audience, and the first two were terrified. The microphone stand was at the wrong height, the stool was awkwardly placed, and their written pages shook in their trembling hands.
It was then, watching that, that I realized how impressive a typical lawyer is at public speaking. Even a mediocre lawyer has stumbled through articulating some complex argument in front of an audience of impatient lawyers and a cranky judge. It’s not long before a skilled lawyer learns the value of a 3 second pause, a glance up at the Judge, and some well timed vocal inflection.
I remember my first ever hearing. It was in Bankruptcy Court in 1999. It was also the Bankruptcy Judge’s first hearing. It was awful. But, now, 5,000 court appearances later, it’s second nature. I make jokes. I exude confidence. Sometimes, I hope that my case is called first so that I can dazzle the lawyers stuck behind me on the docket. When I watch Saul Goodman stare into the courthouse mirror and say “It’s Showtime!” before a hearing, I see a little bit of that in my colleagues.
So, yes, being a lawyer can be fun. Of course, 99% of the time, it’s paperwork, e-mails, deadlines, and anxiety. Lawyers get made fun of a lot, and people love lawyer jokes for a reason.
But, at this comedy show, watching people who never speak in public, I realized that, yes, lawyers really are a special breed, with a special gift.