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A Curmudgeon Considers Law Day

As regular readers of this blog know, Carolyn Elefant and I co-author this blog, each posting on alternate days. Today was supposed to be Carolyn's day, but when she found herself facing a tight filing deadline, I offered to swap with her for another day. No sooner did she take me up on my offer than I realized to my horror that today is May 1, a/k/a Law Day.

That makes this my fourth straight year with Law Day duty here at Legal Blog Watch. Some lawyers would relish that opportunity. But as I note every year, I can't help but have mixed feelings about Law Day. The day originated, after all, at least in part as a direct rebuke of the worldwide May 1 Labor Day celebration of organized labor. Frankly, I like organized labor and I see no need to issue it a rebuke. In fact, I rather resent the association of my chosen profession with anything intended to be a rebuke of labor.

Water under the bridge, perhaps, given that President Eisenhower's declaration of Law Day was 51 years ago and the day's meaning has evolved over the years since. Nowadays, Law Day sometimes seems to have become something like a Mothers' Day for lawyers. This year, due to his sabbatical from blogging, David Giacalone is not around to remind us that Law Day is not meant to be a national lawyer-appreciation day. As David wrote in 2004: "Far too many bar groups and lawyers think of May 1st as Lawyers’ Day, rather than Law Day -- and, it is just this twisting of a noble cause into a moment for self-congratulation and public relations that makes Americans suspicious of lawyers."

Of course, if some see this as a day to celebrate lawyers, others will inevitably see it as a day to trash us. One example of that comes from the folks at My Pet Lawyer. In observance of Law Day, they have unveiled their first-ever My Pet Lawyer cartoon, which you can see on their Web site. It features My Pet Lawyer given a second chance at life by Abraham Lincoln, only to spill hot coffee on one woman and steal an elderly man's walker, handing each his business card as he does his dastardly deeds. Says a press release announcing the cartoon, "Can you imagine a world without lawyers anymore than a world without lawyer jokes."

All of this provides ample fuel for a curmudgeon to gripe about Law Day. But then this morning I read President Obama's 2009 Law Day proclamation, in which he urges Americans to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and to use this day to reflect on Lincoln's words: "The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot do so well for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities." And then I read of the many ways in which lawyers use this day to educate people in their communities about the importance of law in their day-to-day lives. And I feel less the curmudgeon and proud to be part of a profession whose primary purpose is to ensure justice and fairness for everyone.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 1, 2009 at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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