Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?

After graduating law school, not all is lost ...

By Dave Grossi  |   Sep 26, 2016
Not one of these three is a lawyer.

There’s a folk song written by Pete Seeger and recorded by The Kingston Trio that hit it big in 1964. It’s called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The first verse ends with “young girls picked them, every one.”

A little known factoid of your humble author is his hidden talent as a musician. Every now and then, I’ll dust off my old Martin acoustic and strum a few bars of my favorite tunes. I was thinking about that old Kingston Trio hit recently. And being the odd duck that I am, I twisted the lyrics into “Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?” It seems that lately I’ve run into more than my share of former lawyers, or as one of my attorney buddies refers to himself, “a recovering attorney.”

My friend, Joe, a former Navy JAG Corps lawyer who cut his chops trying cases down at Gitmo, quit practicing law and is now doing Real Estate investing. Originally from NYC and a graduate of Fordham Law, he spends his time putting clients together with some of the biggest malls in the U.S.

My niece, Jackie, a Crime Scene Analyst with a large sheriff’s office, completed law school about two years ago. She got the law school bug after spending hours testifying in major cases. After passing the Florida Bar, she tried it out; first in private practice and later with the State Attorney’s Office. She’s presently back working full time doing CSI stuff.

A few readers know that my lovely wife and I own a therapy dog, “Bob,” a chocolate Labradoodle. Two of Bob’s trainers are former lawyers. One’s from N.Y. and the other from Maryland. Both gave up their law practices to pursue what were formerly hobbies. Now, both are professional dog trainers.

Our financial planner has more initials after his name than a NASA engineer: CFP, CPA, ChFC, CLU, and, of course, the requisite JD. But I don’t think he’s ever seen the inside of a courtroom. Likewise, the Executive V.P. of our local bank boasts five letters after his name: MBA and JD. And one of my early expert cases saw renowned pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht as a plaintiff’s expert. His CV proudly lists JD after MD.     

Let’s not forget the over two dozen talking heads in the cable TV industry. Yup, I counted them. I stopped at 27, mostly non-practicing attorneys providing commentary on the hot topics of the day. One recently added his two cents to the police response on the riots in Charlotte, N.C., opining that the response was sub-standard, an opinion gleaned from his years of not working the street or having spent exactly zero hours in a police academy, but no doubt based on the JD after his name.

There are several deputies down here in Paradise who sport JDs after their names. A couple of them work as legal advisors, either in IA or for the sheriff. But more than a few still work the street.

One of the more famous quotes regarding lawyers comes from Shakespeare’s Henry VI. It begins: “first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” In a strange twist of irony, Seeger’s song contains a line “gone to graveyards every one.” While that line actually follows “where have all the soldiers gone,” I can’t help think that Pete might have been channeling ol’ Bill Shakespeare when he authored that line. 

The origin of the phrase comes from one of Henry VI’s characters, Dick the Butcher, who used it as a slam against corrupt and unethical attorneys. Actually, the Bard meant it as a compliment to those attorneys and judges who instill justice in society. But it has come to be a common line among those who believe we simply have too many lawyers walking around lousing things up. And I know a few cops who wear T-shirts with the “kill all the lawyers” quote on the front, no doubt having been victimized by a few Alan Dershowitz wannabes.

Now I’m not advocating putting out contract hits on lawyers. I’d never do that, despite old Butcher Dick’s plea. But I’m guessing there’s more than a few folks out there with JDs after their names who either can’t find work in the field of law, don’t like hanging around with practicing attorneys, or use the credential to venture on to more honorable work—like dog training.

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Dave Grossi
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He was the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press, Inc. Street Survival Seminars from 1988 through 2000.