Two lawyers walk into a bar …

Only kidding, our jokes are never that predictable. But if two lawyers did walk into a bar, chances are they would drink too much. That’s because lawyers are miserable. Seriously, the mental health statistics in the legal industry are staggering. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than people in other jobs. Research by the American Bar Association and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found that 28% of licenced, employed lawyers suffer from depression. The study also showed that 19% have symptoms of anxiety and 21% meet the description of ‘problem drinkers’.

Mental health is a serious issue, with serious solutions like therapy and medication, but there is also a trend towards being more playful. Whimsical even.


What do Netflix, a fish and cease and desist letters have in common?

#Funlaw comes in many guises. Remember that time Netflix sent a funny cease and desist letter to a bar named Stranger Things? Our favourite part? Signing off with “We love our fans more than anything, but you should know that the Demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don’t make us call your mom.” The Bar desisted, and there were no hard feelings. The cease and desist fun doesn’t stop there. When a big chicken brand told restaurant South Philly Cheesesteaks to stop calling their chicken sandwich ‘Chick Philly’, they renamed it ‘Cease and Desist’ and wrapped the sandwich in snippets of the original cease and desist letter.

The #funlaw movement has also reached contracts. Even ‘serious’ brands like Amazon and Tumblr have some funny terms hidden deep, deep in their user agreements. And wait until you meet Fernando, the funny fish that takes you on a privacy (notice) adventure. We wouldn’t have thought it possible to enjoy reading a privacy notice (it would reportedly take 76 working days for the average internet user to read the ones that apply to them in a year), but such is the power of #funlaw.

We’ve played our part in the #funlaw revolution too. We got funky with our service level agreements, wrote a ‘fun’ academic textbook about data privacy and have used self-deprecating humour like this drinks menu for a fictional bar for lawyers called Objection! to spice things up on April Fool’s Day. We even got levity included as an official contract design pattern in the World Commerce and Contracting Contract Design Pattern Library (a mouthful!).

But #funlaw isn’t just about making light of serious topics. Sometimes it is some language or images that make you smile, or the delight you feel when you  read a clear, short contract (serotonin really is the best drug). Sometimes, it’s the excitement that lawyers feel when they solve a stubborn problem for a client or colleague or the warm feeling a client will get when their lawyer demonstrates empathy with them. And it culminates in those wonderful moments when people tell you that “you are not like other lawyers”.


Have you heard the one about how fun makes good business sense?

#Funlaw isn’t about having fun for fun’s sake. It’s backed up by some serious research:

  • Humour boosts retention. When used in a contract, it can help contracting parties remember essential phrases or sentences. Even just clenching a pencil between your teeth to trigger the muscles you use to smile will ease the cognitive load caused by ‘the fine print’.
  • Laughing together builds trust. It helps legal teams bond and can bring parties to a contract (and even disputes) closer together.
  • Laughter can make terrible things less terrible. It works like a natural opiate that can make people tolerate stressful situations better.
  • Humour boosts creativity. Watching comedy before you or your team starts brainstorming boosts problem-solving skills.
  • Funny people are more successful. Who doesn’t want more success? Telling a relevant joke during negotiations projects professional confidence and competence.


What did the one lawyer say to the other one?

Anybody can be a #funlawyer, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Here are some tips on getting started:

  • Take a formal business course on humour in the workplace.
  • Beg, borrow and steal. John Cleese says you can start by putting a spin on other people’s jokes. Hopefully, some of the examples we have provided spark some ideas!
  • Spend some time reconnecting with your sense of humour by doing a humor typology quiz. Yes, it is a thing.
  • Read Humor, Seriously by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas. Or The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again by Catherine Price.

And lastly: play, play, play! The writer Ursula K. Le Guin said, “the creative adult is the child that has survived.” We reconnect with our inner child by riding skateboards, playing with lego and reading a lot of Winnie the Pooh. He was describing the #funlawyer when he said “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”‘

Let the #funlaw begin!

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