14 January 2005

I Am Not an Animal a Specialist!

<WinkWinkNudgeNudgeSayNoMore> I must gently correct a misimpression that may have been left by Mr Gaiman's post that I didn't even notice the first time around, primarily because I'm so tired of dealing with the issue. I was referred to as a "specialist in law for writers" in that post. I am not. My practice concentrates on representing and advising writers on legal issues; but I am not a specialist. The Bar says so. </WinkWinkNudgeNudgeSayNoMore>

And some lawyers wonder why the legal profession has such a poor reputation for splitting hairs. It's ok for me to say "I'm a copyright attorney," or "I practice copyright law;" but it's not ok for me to say "I specialize in copyright law." (Not true, but used for the sake of illustration.) On the other hand, the much deeper divide involving "I'm a litigator", which actually expresses a real distinction, gets no attention whatsoever.

As I see things, intellectual honesty compels bar regulators to do one of two things. Option one is to embrace the medical profession's idea of "specialization," including specialty exams and certifications—hopefully at the expense of the bar exam, which really tests almost nothing of value to practicing (or teaching) attorneys. Option two is to continue denying the reality of shifting meaning in language and maintain the status quo. I almost cringed last weekend at one football broadcast that properly referred to kickers, punters, and kick returners as "specialist positions" because these are "professional athletes" who don't have any particular additional certification.

Care to take a guess which way I think the profession will lumber?