No Joke: Any Lawyer Who Calls Himself ‘Doctor’ Should Be Punched in the Mouth

No Joke: Any Lawyer Who Calls Himself 'Doctor' Should Be Punched in the Mouth

If you’re like me, when you hear the word doctor, you think of someone who has gone through years of school to receive their Ph.D., MD, or another advanced degree in medicine or science. If someone calls himself a doctor without these credentials, he should get punched in the mouth. I’ll tell you why…

What’s wrong with lawyers who call themselves doctors?

Let’s start with why this practice is annoying. When someone goes to school and earns a law degree, they earn their JD, not Ph.D. The distinction is important because JDs are lawyers and PhDs are doctors.

By incorrectly describing themselves as a doctor, they imply they have additional expertise when they don’t.

Moreover, it’s disrespectful to medical professionals because many lawyers like to compare themselves to medical doctors despite how radically different the two professions are (and no matter how loudly those of us who know better yell about it).

That brings me to my next point – that of course, the motivation for these titular misrepresentations is ego-driven by their wish to be seen as more highly qualified than others who do similar work.

How do you know if someone is lying about their education?

The easiest way to determine if someone is lying about their education is by checking out their LinkedIn. Unfortunately, as with anything on the internet, it’s easy to make a fake account. If they say they’re a lawyer and they have no other degree listed on their profile besides law school,

then you know something isn’t right. It doesn’t stop there though; if you ask them for documentation proving their credentials, then they should be able to provide that easily!

The law goes back further than we think

It’s been around for a lot longer than you think. The modern conception of what it means to be an attorney began with an idea first proposed by Plutarch and pursued by legal scholars at medieval universities during the high Middle Ages. It made its way to England from France and was defined,

refined, and defended during tumultuous times leading up to and through the 18th century. When Thomas Jefferson became Secretary of State in 1790, he found time for private study, research, and reflection. In 1810 Jefferson’s publication Notes on Virginia helped formulate America’s creed that all men are created equal, with unalienable rights that they possess from their Creator.

Lawyers are bad people

Ever met a lawyer who calls himself a doctor? It’s not because he has a Ph.D. – he probably just wants to remind you that his high school teachers called him a doctor and it never bothered him.

Doctors, lawyers, hedge-fund managers – these guys have created this culture where they’re all kind of expected to call themselves doctors when they speak at events or give their credit card to a bartender. I think they forget what the word means, though, because doctors do work and those guys don’t do shit.

Where did this practice come from?

It’s unlikely that you’ve ever heard of a lawyer calling himself a doctor. To be fair, the practice has been going on for decades and its originator is hard to pinpoint. A few references to Dr. Lawyers show up at least as far back as 1926.

John Houseman, an actor who also became famous for his work as a professor of theater arts at Stanford University, attributed this tendency toward pseudo-doctorates to ambitious young lawyers. In an interview published by The New York Times on September 20, 1971, Houseman said that this behavior was motivated by the sudden awareness that

Are there exceptions?

There are plenty of lawyers who don’t abuse their titles like this, and it’s important not to lump them all together. For example, there are those lawyers who earned their Ph.D. before becoming a lawyer and go by Dr. rather than Mr. or Ms. Those who have published books on the side that address legal matters can also be called doctors with no problem.

In both cases, it’s because they use the title as part of their name rather than as an ego boost. So if you’re a doctor-lawyer-of-whatever and you want to add that to your name, cool…but just make sure you’re not using it too much because people might mistake you for a blowhard jerk.

I’ll punch any lawyer who calls himself a doctor in the mouth!

If you’re a lawyer and you call yourself a doctor like a Ph.D., I’ll punch you right in the mouth. I’m dead serious about this, too. There are no ifs, and, or buts about it. It should be punishable by law for lawyers to call themselves doctors as if they have some advanced degree that sets them apart from everyone else.

When someone tells me that they have a doctorate of law (or JD), my initial response is to ask them what their highest academic achievement was, because anyone can use the title of doctor.

Don’t believe me?

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