Tag Archives: law

Ambulance Chasers

Main Piece

Informant: “We [corporate lawyers] call personal injury attorneys “ambulance chasers.” We mean this as a joke, obviously, but sometimes we … don’t. There’s this stereotype that personal injury attorneys chase around ambulances in order to add the injured persons to their clientele. It’s… it’s a real thing that people do. I know it’s unbelievable but people do it out of desperation. But this is actually illegal and it goes against Rule 7.3 of the ABA (American Bar Association), because you’re basically seeking out people who are in a time of severe distress and are unable to properly think about what they’re doing and who they’re hiring.”


My informant is a General Litigation Lawyer at a major corporate law firm based in Century City, California. He has been working in his field for over five years. My informant admits to using this term a few times when describing unethical practices by personal injury lawyers.


This phrase is used often in a professional environment, but not professionally and in private from one lawyer to another. This phrase can be used in the office, courtrooms, and depositions, but it would not be told in front of others. One lawyer might use this term when speaking to another fellow lawyer, but it would not be said “on record.” This kind of language would be considered unprofessional, so it is told in private. This term is almost always used as a degrading term pertaining to all personal injury lawyers.

My Thoughts

Since I am planning to pursue a career in law, I was familiar with this phrase. The first time I heard this phrase was from one of my political science professors. I believe, like all other stereotypes, that this phrase is not an accurate representation of all those that it pertains to. But, like some stereotypes, it may hold some truths to it. Since ambulance-chasing goes against American Bar Association ethics codes, using this phrase helps to discourage unethical behavior on behalf of the personal injury lawyers. Therefore, the use of this stereotype may be a helpful one as it shames unethical behavior. 

This is a term that neither I nor my informant have ever heard used outside of legal occupations. Therefore, this phrase is a good example of occupational folklore, or folklore that is better understood or widely used within a particular folk group. This is not to say that those outside of the lawyer folk group are not allowed to use it; they will just not be able to extract the full meaning of the word without working in that occupation.

The use of this phrase suggests that there is an unwritten hierarchy in the field of law. Corporate lawers, like my informant, tend to see themselves as higher-ranking and better lawyers than personal injury lawyers. This can give us insight into lawyer culture because we can see that higher-paid lawyers will look down upon lower-paid lawyers and fail to realize that both positions in the field of law are honorable.

For further reading about occupational folklore, see Robert McCarl’s chapter in Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups And Folklore Genres: An Introduction titled “Occupational Folklore.”

Splitting the Baby

Main Piece

Informant: “So there’s an old Jewish thing where two women go up to King Solomon and both of them claim that a child is theirs. So King Solomon says “let’s split this baby in half and give half to each claiming mother.” The first woman agrees, but the second woman would rather give up the whole child than have it split in half. King Solomon realizes that the second woman is the real mother of the child. The idea is that you use something crazy to bring out the truth. You use this crazy scenario to bring out the truth. So that’s the real story. But attorneys use it as a way to say the judge was not well versed on the topic and came up with a compromise that he believed was fair, but in reality hurts the actual “good person” in the case. Basically we use it as a way to say the judge came up with an unfair compromise. So we actually use that phrase incorrectly, but that’s just how we say it.”


My informant is a General Litigation Lawyer at a major corporate law firm based in Century City, California. He has been working in his field for over five years. My informant uses this phrase often, and only to other lawyers.


This phrase is used in a professional context, but not professionally. One lawyer may say this to another as a way to refer to a court ruling as unfair. The phrase is used in settlement or mediation and it is something either the lawyer tells his client or to another lawyer. This phrase is not used in written official statements, as it is considered unprofessional.

My Thoughts 

I had never heard this saying before, but I found it interesting that lawyers knowingly use this phrase wrong. They are fully aware of how the phrase is supposed to be used, but they still modify it and use it in a way that suits their needs. This is a good example of how the meaning of a piece of folklore can change to accommodate certain groups of people, and in this case, lawyers. Originally, this phrase was used to express an outrageous method that yielded accurate results, but lawyers use it as a way to express an unfair compromise on the part of the judge. Lawyers have adopted this phrase into their occupational folk group and modified it to fit their needs. This suggests that, if someone outside of this folk group were to hear lawyers use this phrase, one would misunderstand what is being communicated with the phrase because it is being used incorrectly. Thus, one would not understand the use of the phrase from the outside looking in.

For further reading about occupational folklore, see Robert McCarl’s chapter in Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups And Folklore Genres: An Introduction titled “Occupational Folklore.”


McCarl, Robert. “Chapter 4: Occupational Folklore.” Folk Groups And Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by Elliott Oring, Utah State UP, 1986, pp. 71-90.

Sorority Apartments


Sorority Apartments

“A lot of Sorority girls at CSUCI have fought over who gets to live in a Sorority apartment building like most sorority girls at other schools would fight over living in the Sorority house.  To call something a Sorority apartment came from a stupid law in Camarillo from the olden days that prohibits more than ten unrelated women to live in the same house, so sororities have gone around the issue by leasing specific buildings in apartment complexes around the school.   That’s how the term came to be!”


SM is from Camarillo, California and has grown up in the area since he was born.  He says he knows this from his sister who went to CSUCI and was in a sorority that had to do this.   He remembers specifically being confused about why her friends would always call it the Sorority apartments cause on TV, people would always talk  about sorority houses,  but never apartments.


SM is an old high school friend of mine.  I invited him to a  Discord server and I watched him play The Witcher.   He was open to talk about folklore of the area we grew up in during cutscenes he said he had already watched when he had played the entirety of the game before.


Folklore acting as a sort of counteraction against a law is nothing new, but the fact that it has stuck around as long as it has is impressive.  The saying of this word must come out of a unique sense of being and is probably not just specific to CSUCI sorority girls, but CSUCI students as a whole.  It must be somewhat nice for this folk group to know they get to say something that would seem a bit odd to the average person, but completely relatable and even political to those who knew the issue.

Lawyer joke

My friend and classmate Pauline told me the following joke, which she learned from her dad, who is a lawyer:

“It was so cold outside today that earlier, I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.”

This joke relies upon the stereotype that lawyers are greedy and corrupt, and the metonymic use of the phrase “having one’s hands in someone’s pockets” to refer to squeezing money out of someone, like a legal client. The humor of the joke may be based in a genuine belief in this stereotype for people resentful of lawyers, but in this case its humor comes from a self-aware and ironic acknowledgement of the stereotype by a lawyer who presumably does not believe in it.

Pauline says that her dad has a number of lawyer jokes in his repertoire, which he tells “any time we’re with, like, any other lawyers, or if someone’s giving him a hard time about being a lawyer.” Such jokes are pieces of occupational folklore, which may serve to bond lawyers over their common identity, or may function as self-deprecating humor performed for the entertainment of non-lawyers. Lawyer jokes are a common staple of mainstream American humor, indicating a distrust of or misanthropic feeling toward lawyers from the general public outside of the profession. Their embrace by lawyers themselves is somewhat surprising, but is representative of the ways folklore may shift meaning depending on context.

Lawyer Joke

Q: What don’t you want, but when you have it, you don’t want to lose it?
A: A lawsuit.

My informant learned this riddle on a tour bus in Europe while she was on vacation.  Since she loves riddles and puzzles, she looks forward to hearing new ones to think about and solve.  Each time she learns a new riddle, she tells them to her friends to see if they can figure it out.  Her friends know that they can go to her if they want to hear a riddle.  Lauren also tells this riddle, and other riddles that she has collectively learned, when she or other people are bored.  She believes that saying riddles is a good source of entertainment.  It takes the way the silence or boredom that is present within a group of people.
Lauren really likes this riddle because it’s good.  It makes people think a little without needing to think too hard.  It doesn’t take a long time to tell, so it’s an easy way to amuse people.  Lauren especially likes this joke because she couldn’t figure it out for a long time.  Because Lauren has heard so many riddles, she can usually figure them out pretty quickly.  This one caught Lauren off guard, so she liked pondering over the riddle.
This riddle is actually a very clever one.  When my informant told it to me, I could not get the answer.  After she told me the answer, the entire riddle made sense to me.  I like these riddles because it gives me a chance to think.  Riddles are so easy once you know them, but they’re so hard.  Sometimes I end up thinking too hard when the answer is right there in front of me.  With riddles, people can discover their thinking patterns.  I think that riddles are a great way to educate children because they force children to think outside the box.

“Don’t Lose It.” Braingle. 6 April 2007     <http://www.braingle.com/brainteasers/teaser.php?op=2;id=1927;comm=0>.
Q:You do not want to have it, 
But when you do have it, 
You do not want to lose it? 
What is it?
A: A Lawsuit.