A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 17, 2014
Lawyer’s Billable Hours (lawyer joke)

A popular lawyer joke about billable hours dates in print to at least the early 1980s. A lawyer died at a young age and complained to St. Peter in heaven that he was taken from the earth too soon. St. Peter responded that the lawyer surely was quite old—St. Peter had been looking at the billing records.


Google Books
January 1984, American Bar Association Journal, pp. 84-85:
I heard about a certain lawyer who died at age 66. On his entrance at the gates of heaven he was met by St. Peter, who said, “You were long overdue. We have you as 169 years old.” The lawyer exclaimed, “Oh, no. I was just 66.” Whereupon St. Peter advised the lawyer, “Up here we figure age by your time records!”
MAURICE W. GOLDSTEIN

Google Books
Kill All the Lawyers?:
A Client’s Guide to Hiring, Firing, Using, and Suing Lawyers

By Sloan Bashinsky
New York, NY: Prentice Hall
1986
Pg. 58:
A lawyer died and was met by St. Peter at the pearly gates.
“There must be some mistake,” the lawyer complained.
“Why is that?” asked St. Peter.
“Because I’m only forty-two years old!” exclaimed the lawyer.
“Oh? According to your billed hours, you are eighty-seven!

Google Books
The Ultimate Lawyers Joke Book
By Larry Wilde
New York, NY: Bantam Books
1987
Pg. 158:
“I think you’re a little mixed up there, St. Peter. I’m only 46.”
“But, you see, we don’t go by chronological age. We count your years by the number of hours you’ve billed your clients.”

Orlando (FL) Sentinel
Lawyer-bashing Is Now A Favorite Pastime, But The Joke Is On Us
May 5, 1991|By Charley Reese of The Sentinel Staff
(...)
Attorney-bashing now rivals Japan-bashing as a favorite pastime in America. Everybody, it seems, has their own horror story. My favorite is the lady who discovered that the longtime family lawyer had billed them for attending her mother’s funeral while probating the estate.

Then there’s the one about the 22-year-old attorney who found himself standing before the Pearly Gates and protested that he was too young to die. ‘’Oh, no,’’ St. Peter replied. ‘’We checked your hourly billing records, and you have to be 97 years old.’’

New Hampshire Bar Association
Calculation of Fees When Multiple Clients are Represented
By the NHBA Ethics Committee
Practical Ethics Article: August 14, 1991
(...)
Does this billing practice comport with the Rules of Professional Conduct? The discussion in this regard recalls one of the endless lawyer jokes with which our non-lawyer friends love to regale us. A lawyer dies and is inevitably presented to St. Peter. The lawyer complains to St. Peter that 35 years of life was inadequate. Upon reviewing the heavenly records, St. Peter notes with some satisfaction that according to that attorney’s own billing records that attorney was at least 80 years of age at the time of death and thus had no cause to complain.

Google Groups: va.general
What is appropriate discussion for this group?
Greg Fife
11/23/94
(...)
Frequently Told Jokes List for alt.virginia.bashing.lawyers:
(...)
A lawyer died and arrived at the pearly gates.  To his dismay, there were thousands of people ahead of him in line to see St. Peter.  To his surprise, St. Peter left his desk at the gate and came down the long line to where the laywer was, and greeted him warmly.  Then St. Peter and one of his assistants took the lawyer by the hands and guided him up to the front of the line, and into a comfortable chair by his desk.  The lawyer said, “I don’t mind all this attention, but what makes me so special?”

St. Peter replied, “Well, I’ve added up all the hours for which you billed your clients, and by my calculation you must be about 193 years old!

Google Groups: misc.legal.moderated
Lawyer Jokes Wanted
Nancy Rothschild
9/30/95
Other recipients:

better joke: a lawyer dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter says"This is your reward for 70 years of wholesome living” The attorney says “But I died before my fiftieth birthday” to which St. Peter replied, “Well we looked at your billing records...”

Google Groups: soc.sexuality.spanking
Lawyer Jokes
Pap...@aol.com
6/10/98
(...)
A very successful young lawyer died suddenly in his sleep and was very disturbed as he entered the Pearly Gates.

“I am too young to die, that way,” he protested.  “I am only 35 years old.”

St Peter rechecked the books and said.  “Well - we cross-referenced your billing records and according to the number of hours of work you have billed to your clients - you must be at least 117 years old.”

Google Books
The Legal Profession and Public Service
By Stephen G. Breyer
Washington, DC: National Legal Center for the Public Interest
2001
Pg. 12:
Remember the story of the young lawyer, felled by a heart attack, who complained to St. Peter, “How could you take me? I’m only thirty.” “Well,” St. Peter replied, “I looked at your billing records and thought you must be 95.”

Google Groups: alt.fifty-plus.friends
Johnny Cochran
pijoe
3/30/05
Johnny Cochran gets to St. Peter--Pete looks up from his book and says Johnny gets the special award for longgevitey. “What you mean?” St Peter replies, “Well according to your billing records, you’re 300 years old.”

Verdict
November 17, 2014
RONALD D. ROTUNDA
The Problem of Inflating Billable Hours
There is the old joke about a lawyer who dies and goes to the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says to him, “you only look about 45 years old.” “Yes,” says the lawyer, “I just turned 45.” “But our records say that you are 94 years old.” “Oh,” responded the lawyer, “you must have been looking at my billing records.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, November 17, 2014 • Permalink