A new client had just come in to see a famous lawyer.
“Can you tell me how much you charge?” said the client.
“Of course”, the lawyer replied, “I charge $200 to answer three questions!”
“Well that’s a bit steep, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is”, said the lawyer, “And what’s your third question?”
Phil was a lawyer who practiced for thirty years before retiring. In the course of his practice he was told and sent many different lawyer jokes. He said he chose this one because it captured two of the main themes used in lawyer jokes, tricky wording and over charging. He heard jokes from many different people including clients and other lawyers.
This is a piece of occupational folklore. It serves to stereotype people as well as identify them. Obviously it is stereotyping lawyers. It also helps to identify lawyers because they are the ones who have heard most of these jokes. It also requires some sort of knowledge about the law business and its stereotype in order to understand the joke.
The first stereotype the joke plays on is that lawyers over charge. The lawyer states a very large price for asking just three questions, and the client points out that this is the case. The second stereotype involves the trickery of lawyers. The client believes that he is simply trying to find out how much it would cost to use him. In the end, he finds out that he is already using his services and being charged $200.
I had never heard this joke before my dad told it to me. But, as he was telling it I knew what the ending was going to be. This is because I grew up with a lawyer as a father and he often had trouble setting apart work from family. So, I learned how to spot many lawyer tricks growing up. This shows how stereotypes are not always wrong, and can often be enforced by the person who is being stereotyped.