May 8, 1998

The 1997-98 Clarence Award

I don't think that you can make a lawyer honest by an act of legislature. You've got to work on his conscience. And his lack of conscience is what makes him a lawyer.

Will Rogers, 1927

Chairman: The annual awards meeting of the Society for the Support of the Legal Profession(SSLP) will please come to order. The business of this meeting is to decide who is to receive the Clarence. This award, and a statuette of Clarence Darrow, will be presented to that person who, in the past year, has done the most for for the advancement of the legal profession. Nominations are in order.

Vernon Jordan: I nominate President William Jefferson Clinton. During his presidency he has clearly done more to increase the employment of more lawyers than any person in history. Not only have lawyers been employed for all people accused in the so-called Whitewater affair, but virtually every witness has had his or her personal attorney. Because of her brief association with the then governor of Arkansas, Paula Jones has employed a number of lawyers, as have other witnesses who testified in that case. There have been attorneys employed by every White House intern or employee who testified as well as attorneys for the Secret Service men. All of this employment of attorneys has been encouraged by The President. Since there is no obvious reason why so many attorneys were needed, I can only conclude that he did what he did to advance the employment of lawyers, even though some of them had to paid out of his personal funds. His conduct in not asking any of the lawyers to accept cases on a pro bono publico(for the public good i.e.for no fee) basis is especially laudable.

Lawyer 1: I noticed, Mr. Jordan, that when you testified before the grand jury, that you did not employ an attorney.

Jordan: I am an attorney.

Lawyer 1: The President is also an attorney, yet he employed several lawyers.

Jordan: I doubt that he really needed them.

Lawyer 1: You know the saying that a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client.

Jordan: I know the saying well. Still, having a fool for a client is better than having a fool for a lawyer. Besides, when I appeared in court, I wasn't defending myself, I was just a witness.

Lawyer 1: Monica Lewinski's mother had a lawyer and she was only a witness.

Jordan: She needed to show the world that she could afford a high-priced attorney.

Chairman: Are there other nominations?

Lawyer 2: I nominate Kenneth Starr. It should be obvious that without Starr, none of those lawyers referred to in the Clinton nomination would have been necessary. Besides, Starr has employed a very large staff of lawyers to investigate all of the people connected to the president.

Lawyer 3: Then there is the matter of justice. Is it just to try to nail someone simply because of his political party?

Chairman: (Sharply) You are out of order! Are there any more nominations?

Lawyer 4: I nominate Ralph Nader.

Jordan: While it is true that Nader has encouraged the employment of lawyers, you really don't consider Nader in the same league with Clinton and Starr?

Lawyer 4: You're right. I withdraw my nomination. How about O.J.Simpson?

Chairman: He won the award a couple of years ago. If there are no more nominations, I will declare nominations as closed. If the two people who made the nominations will write up their briefs, we will submit them to the membership.

Jordan: Should we submit a bill for writing up the brief, or will it be pro bono?

Chairman: Nothing that we do here is pro bono. We have an endowment that pays for this work. We are proud to be lawyers and our pride will prevent us from doing anything without receiving adequate compensation.

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