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LAF-OFF Proves it…Lawyers Are Funny!

Group of guysAre lawyers funny?
While funny isn’t necessarily a word often used to describe those in the legal profession, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program has proved that, in fact, lawyers truly are funny…and has raised a lot of money in the process. LAF-Off (Lawyers Are Funny) is SDVLP’s spring signature fundraising event that features the comedic talents of local lawyers. This year’s affair, held in March, featured LAF-Off ”all stars,” crowd pleasers from past LAF-Off competitions.

“SDVLP has a unique mission, and we want to host a fundraiser that is also different and fun,” says Amy Fitzpatrick, SDVLP’s executive director. And LAF-Off definitely hits the mark. Each year the event draws over 400 attendees and raises significant funds for the organization.

The LAF-Off premise is simple: invite local attorneys, law professors and law students to give a five-minute comedy routine and have ‘judges’ grade them on a scale of one to ten. The attorney with the highest score wins. Unlike in the courtroom, LAF-Off judges are former contestants or attorneys known for their sense of humor and sometimes the judges are just as funny as those competing.

Over the seven years that LAF-Off has been held, more than 40 attorneys have performed.

“This is SDVLP’s 30th anniversary, and we wanted to do something special, so we invited back some of the funniest attorneys from years past, billing it as our All Star LAF-Off event,” says Fitzpatrick.

SDVLP was founded in 1983 to provide pro bono civil legal services for those residents in San Diego County who would otherwise not have access to representation. Each year the nonprofit organization assists over 5,000 individuals, mainly women and children. SDVLP’s services range from guardianship and family law issues to HIV/AIDS related services and assistance to foster children.

Girl with micThe 2013 LAF-Off competition started off with Mistress of Ceremonies Patti Zlaket—a former LAF-Off winner— lamenting about her love life and other topics, while prepping the crowd for the evening of fun.

Zlaket, an attorney with Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, also introduced the competition’s esteemed judges—Judy Copeland of Copeland and Tierman; Dan Link with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office; and John Little, Callahan  of  Little  &  Sullivan.  Copeland  and  Link  served as LAF-Off judges in the past, while Little has been both a performer and a judge in prior years.

First up was contender, and former winner, Junichi Semitsu, a University of San Diego School of Law professor whose routine harangued a gamut of topics from diapers to the Sound of Music—and yes, it made sense and was quite humorous.

Next to take the stage was funny man Dan Lawton of the Lawton Law Firm, dressed in an American flag pants and shirt ensemble. With the help of LAF-Off Co-Chair Scott Carr dressed as a Canadian Mountie, Lawton presented a musical comedy spoof debating which is better—the United States or Canada.

Carr’s wife, attorney Heather Rosing, also served as co-chair of the event.

John Gomez of Gomez Iagman was next on stage doing comedic gangster rap about his profession, fellow lawyers and a wide range of other topics, to the delight of the audience.

Mike Battin of Navigato & Battin told the crowd during his routine that he “practices more golf than law” and that he is getting into shape, reflecting that “oval is a shape.”

The sole woman competitor Ruth Hargrove, a professor at California Western School of Law, took on marriage: “I have a mixed marriage—with a man.” She also advised on her husband’s view of her that “no situation is so bad that you can’t make it worse.”

Dan Stanford, of Stanford & Associates, came on stage sporting a plastic dog cone around his neck and sharing the details of his (supposed) recent vasectomy.

Professor KJ Greene of Thomas Jefferson School of Law drew laughs by telling the crowd the only prep he did for LAF-Off was Preparation H and adding that he’d rather be on a Carnival Cruise than at the competition.

The best came last when the final competitor, Ken Turek, of Endeman Lincoln Turek and Heater, took the stage and brought the crowd to its feet with his spoof on lawyer advertising and creative ways to make jury instructions more interesting. Turek received the first ever perfect 10 score from all three judges and walked away with the LAF-Off winner’s title. This is the second time Turek won the competition, with his first victory occurring in 2009. Turek has been doing amateur stand-up comedy for years and once again proved to be a LAF-Off fan favorite.

House of blues guy

“The response that LAF-Off receives from the legal community and beyond is always enthusiastic and wonderful,” says Fitzpatrick. “The awareness it brings to SDVLP and the funds raised are the most important by-products of the event. Plus it is a great opportunity for the legal community and our other friends to come together, let their hair down and have a lot of fun on a work night.” This year’s event raised over $65,000.

LAF-Off will be going on hiatus, however. Fitzpatrick says, “This year’s event will be hard to top, so we would rather take a year off, spend the time to put together another fantastic show, and create even more interest when LAF-Off returns.”

In the meantime, SDVLP will continue to provide its much needed services to the San Diego community. In addition to its staff of 25, SDVLP has the support of hundreds of local attorneys and law students who provide pro bono services through the organization each year. Attorneys interested in volunteering can get more information at www.sdvlp.org.  

Teresa Warren

Teresa Warren, President of TW2 Marketing, Inc.

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About the Author: Teresa Warren, President of TW2 Marketing, Inc.

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