Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. . . unless you’re a lawyer

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I used to have an employee who laughed after nearly everything he said. He might have asked me something completely innocuous like, “Should we open a file?” and follow that with an awkward smile and a pinched little laugh.

He was incredibly lacking in self-confidence and this was his way of coping with life.

He could get away with it with clients and others who didn’t listen to him all day long. I tuned it out, mostly, but I have to admit it bothered me. Sometimes, I would ask, “Why are you laughing?” or “Why is that funny?” Yes, I was a prick. And no, it didn’t help.

Maybe you’ve had someone like this work for you. Or maybe you’ve had an office clown. You know, the ones who are always telling jokes and making comments that aren’t in the least funny. And yet they persist, because they think they are God’s gift to humor.

Even if they are funny, too much yucking it up in a law office isn’t a good thing. A little humor is great for lightening the mood. And laughter is contagious. One or two people start laughing, it won’t be long before the entire office is enjoying themselves.

Just make sure there aren’t any clients around. You can’t let them think that what we do is fun and games, or that we’re insensitive to their problems.

But this is probably not a problem in most law offices. Just the opposite. There are too many lawyers who never crack a smile and never find humor in anything.

That’s not good, either.

You need a balance. Not too much humor, not too little.

How much is too much or too little? We must use the reasonable man standard. What is appropriate? What would a reasonable man do in the same or similar circumstances?

Wait, I guess that should be the reasonable person standard. We don’t want to be sexist.

Wait, if we say person, are we not insulting the rest of the animal kingdom? Guess we need to say, “reasonable being” standard.

Hold on, that doesn’t work. What about robots and drones and AI? They may not have feelings, but that doesn’t mean we can insult them. That’s just rude. And unfair. Probably racist, too.

Okay, someone just read this and thinks I’m a jerk for making fun of an out-of-control politically correct narrative. They don’t think this is at all funny.

But hey, calling me a jerk is hate speech. Lawyers have feelings, too. Said no one, ever.

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