Titles Matter: What Young Lawyers Shouldn’t Call Themselves

Alright my little baby lawyers who have recently gotten their bar results and decided that makes them big boys now, it’s time for the regular edition of Boozy telling you how little you know about the generalities of being an attorney, nevermind how little you know about the practice of law itself! See, law school and the bar exam may teach you a lot of stuff about your ability to retain and regurgitate useless knowledge on command and the minimal competence needed to enter the practice of law, but what it doesn’t teach you is how to avoid looking like the world’s biggest asshole while doing it. There are plenty of young attorneys out there that make the rest of us shake our heads and wonder how many brain cells you destroyed during pledge week in undergrad, because by and large you’re all fucking morons with none of the skills needed to discern between a good idea and an amazingly bad idea.

Like what you should call yourself.  Don’t lawyers get cool professional titles and shit that you can append to the end of your name in a desperate bid to validate the horrible life choices you’ve made and prove to your family that you’re important? Sure. Sure we do. Now let’s talk about why you shouldn’t be fucking using them, you pompous self-righteous prick.

You’re not a fucking doctor.

Technically you have a doctorate, but technically I’m not an alcoholic. That’s just not fucking okay to walk around calling yourself “Doctor Asshole, Attorney at Law,” and it isn’t just me saying that shit. Historically, and in some places ethically, attorneys are flat-out forbidden from referring to themselves as “Doctors” because it can be considered misleading. When a client sees “Doctor,” they think you’re more highly educated than a J.D. from the three year day-camp from hell that is law school. Now some states reversed this shit back in like 1979, but the fact of the matter is in other states you’re specifically forbidden from using the term “Doctor”  so you can feel all warm and goddamn fuzzy all the way to the ethics reprimand.

Besides, you probably lack the basic common sense to realize these titles are meant to impress the fuckin’ muggles, not other lawyers or the court. I don’t give a flying fuck if you call yourself the King of Denmark, to me you’re another recently minted moron who decided they want to be special, and I’ll take every opportunity to lay your ass low simply because you’ve immediately presented yourself with a term like fucking Doctor. Nobody in the profession is impressed with your argument that it’s technically correct, we all just think you’re an asshole.

So unless you’re “Doctor Love,” stop that shit right the fuck now.

Esquire: Just fucking don’t.

The second choice for lawyers is the dreaded word “Esquire,” which you’ve seen on television and movies as denoting some dreadfully serious big firm partner.  But how the fuck did that whole term come into being?

Alright, fun fact, it’s a social title. It was created to identify people who were officially “above the rank of gentlemen” but were not “knights” in the English system. Typically land-owning rich fuckers with a coat of arms but not enough unique accomplishments to deserve to have the Queen or King clumsily attempt to chop off their fucking ear. This class was specifically defined, but the definition changed over time and came to encompass “Ministers of the King’s Court” and anybody who sat in a formal position but wasn’t a noble or a knight. In 1830, or thereabouts, the term came to include barristers (the British trial lawyers), but not solicitors (the British transactional attorneys) — because fuck non-litigation attorneys — as a general rule.  In other words, lawyers snuck into the use of the term Esquire because, like today, not all of them come from noble background or have vast holdings of land…right Baby Lawyer in your one-bedroom apartment with a non-working toilet?

How did us assholes in America come to use it? Because, in the great American tradition of goddamn everything we do, we straight up stole that shit from the Brits with a hey-nonny-nonny and a Tommy Fuck Off. But we decided we couldn’t let any prick who wanted to feel important use it, so we limited it by tradition to a specific class of pricks, namely lawyers. Now, I should be really clear: There’s literally no law or code saying that only lawyers can use the term “Esquire,” but because we’ve appropriated it as an identifier of our profession, as much as over-drinking and dying of heart attacks at our desks, it’s become one of those words you can’t really fucking use unless you’re a lawyer. In a lot of states, holding yourself out as an “Esquire” is a heavy goddamn indicator that you’re engaging in the unlicensed practice of law.

Lawyers: So protectionist we’ll scrutinize your goddamn self-identity if it threatens our paycheck.

Why shouldn’t you use the term specifically referring to lawyers?

Because we fucking hate the assholes that refer to themselves as esquires.

Absolutely nobody uses the word “esquire” to refer to themselves because it’s viewed as a pretentious title that adds nothing to your credibility and in fact takes it away in the eyes of other attorneys. We’re all goddamn lawyers, and the use of the word “esquire” amongst ourselves isn’t impressive. You have the same worthless-without-training degree and knowledge that I do for the most part, stop acting like you’re fucking better than everyone else.

When you send a communication out to another lawyer and you refer to yourself as an Esquire, even in the signature line, we fucking notice that shit and we decide that you’re an asshole in need of special goddamn treatment. And we’re not talking about  jus primae noctis here. The only one getting bent over in this scenario is you, Baby Barry, Esq.

In short, we’re fucking lawyers and like half of our goddamn profession is noticing appearances. We’ll certainly notice yours. Don’t be that asshole who presents yourself as a holier-than-thou prick by using the word “Esquire” to identify yourself.

Maybe you’ve seen lawyers use Esquire…

Yep, some lawyers do Baby Barry, J.D.  See the above statement: they’re pricks. Well, pricks, or actually the sort of elite lawyer that can use the word “Esquire” without fear because they’ve regularly destroyed all opponents and we don’t speak their names at bar meetings for fear they may appear. But we all know those guys names already, and you’re not fucking one of them.

Plus, different areas have some different rules, and the whole thing is determined simply by regional tradition. Where I grew up, anyone who referred to themselves as “esquire” in any communication was an elitist prick who got roundly derided or, in the alternative, considered a baby lawyer with no knowledge of how this shit actually worked. In either case, it was a motivator for opposing counsel to put the motherfucker right back into place toot-fucking-suite. As my dad used to say, “The word ‘Esquire’ is short-hand for ‘Don’t know shit.'”

In other areas, though, it’s completely appropriate for a lawyer to append the word “Esquire” or “Esq.” to their name in a pleading or in a communication with a muggle, but not amongst other attorneys. That’s the case here, and we use it to identify ourselves as the attorney very clearly with others.  Other areas, you use it in the first communication, but not in any other communication after that, because we once again use it as a way to put the folks on notice they’re dealing with a real goddamn lawyer and not some fucking pleb.

But keep in mind, these goddamn exceptions are specific to the area/region you’re practicing in. If I opened up an office back home and started calling myself Esquire even in the situations where it’s appropriate to do it in my current area, I’d become the goddamn laughing stock of the local bar pretty goddamn quick.  You’ll only learn these exceptions and the proper time to use it by 1) watching other lawyers in your area OR 2) getting a mentor who’ll tell you that it makes you come off as a pretentious prick and make other lawyers want to fuck you. Hard.

How about “Counselor at Law” or “Counselor”

Seriously, you understand being called “Counselor” here means you’ve pissed someone off, right? Like, are you willingly stating that you’re too goddamn fancy for us and giving the court and other attorneys a good reason to sound disdainful?  Literally, the “Law to English” Dictionary defines Counselor as follows:

(n) A word used when the formal setting of the matter doesn’t allow the judge or another lawyer to directly call you an Asshole.

What titles are acceptable?

“Attorney at Law” or “Attorney” are always safe

Just that?

Yep, that’s it.

Anything else today?

Nope. Don’t be a prick and think you’re better than the rest of us, and don’t go using goddamn titles that make you look like a prick. That just about covers it…