Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner told the New Yorker he is like his cat, Dinah: "playful, but with a streak of cruelty."

It’s hard to find someone to love who also loves you. It’s a lot easier to find an animal with which to establish a loving relationship. Just make sure it’s not too loving.

Many lawyers are proud pet owners, bringing cats, dogs, small wolves, iguanas, and/or flying squirrels into their apartments and homes. Your ATL editors hold mixed feelings about the four-legged set. Elie and Kash are all in favor of bringing furry things into your bed, though he likes dogs and she likes cats. Meanwhile, Lat dissents.

This brings us to the question for today’s Above the Law roundtable:

What’s the best pet for lawyers?

Your ATL editors debate, after the jump.

Elie's dog, Isabel.

ELIE: You’re going to hear some negative things about dogs from Kash and Lat. Really negative things. They’re going to talk about drool and poo, about noise and money.

I’m going to tell you about love. Pure, unconditional, tail-wagging love — sized to whatever specifications can fit into your life.

Now, I imagine that the Michael Vicks below would argue that if you are looking for “real” love, you should find a spouse. But that’s the thing — as the only ATL editor who is married — I can tell you that “real love” is an arduous and complicated alignment of never-ending compromise. Any married person will attest to the fact that most days your spouse just barely tolerates you. Some days your spouse actively hates you and plots your death. Human-on-human love is best expressed in that moment when you look at your beautiful spouse sleeping in the bed and think, “Dear God, I really want to kill this person. And I could totally get away with it. But I’m going to put the knife down because I love him/her so much.”

Not so with dogs. Dogs don’t hate, dogs don’t judge, dogs aren’t horrified when they walk in on you masturbating. Do you know why? Because we’ve genetically engineered them to be that way. Since nearly the dawn of human history, we have carefully selected for big eyes and panting tongues and all the other little things dogs do to make us feel accepted. Why wouldn’t you avail yourself of this oldest and greatest achievement in human-directed eugenics?

Sure, when a dog “loves” you, it’s really thinking something like, “I hope he has some chicken. Do I smell chicken? Chickenchickenbaconwithchicken … oh look I can pee on that.” But what the dog is actually thinking doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the animal has been designed to make you feel good about yourself.

Not so with the cat. No, the cat is a tiny predator that has been shrunk to fit into our homes. It doesn’t need you, it doesn’t really want to be there, and it would just as soon kill you as look at you. Cats are sneaky and deceptive. To them, you’re just a monkey to be scavenged from. While you’re sleeping, your cat is thinking of ways to end you. As I said, you can get a wife if you like sleeping with one eye open.

Now, tell me what lawyers need more? Another malefactor looking to destroy them, or the unconditional love they’ll never get from work? It seems obvious to me. Lawyers have enough enemies and saboteurs in their life. And they’re lonely. What they need is a best friend.


Kash is a cat person.

KASH: When I was a kid, my family had fish, cats, tropical parrots, minnows that turned into frogs, and, for a mercifully brief period, a dog — a Dalmatian, due to my sister’s obsession with the Disney movie. She named him Shadow; I called him “Little Humper” (because of what he liked to do with some urgency and great frequency to my and everyone else’s legs). My sister’s love of Shadow faded after just a week, and we gave him to another family with infinitely more patience for the creature.

My favorite pet was our first cat. “The Dude” was black and white and wonderful. My sisters and I got the Dude for Christmas. “Santa” put him in a box, and wrapped it with a bow. In my not-totally-reliable childhood memory, the box was jumping around — though it did not make meowing noises, so we were very surprised by what we found inside. (Perhaps we weren’t very smart children.)

This is one big reason I prefer cats to dogs. They make less noise. They are chill creatures. They do not bark like crazy people on the subway who are convinced that you are someone they desperately hate and want to claw and slobber on. A dog will bark, lick and jump on you like a hungry 3L with no prospects who thinks you’re holding a bag of Biglaw-flavored Purina. I like a cat’s cool demeanor. It loves you, but calmly. It will curl in your lap, or thread itself around your legs, but with the confidence of a law grad with an AmLaw-10 law firm offer in hand.

Cats can entertain themselves, which is important when you work lawyer’s hours, as you’re likely to be away for a good chunk of the day. Dogs need to be walked regularly (unless you use those disgusting doggie pads), and that’s tough if you’re a lawyer unless you live near your office. When you do walk them, you have to pick up their poo. I do not like picking up poo. Cats do not subject you to such indignities. Yes, you do occasionally have to subject their litter boxes to a sifting, but by the time you do, their little cow patties are petrified. It’s like throwing out fossilized dinosaur poo — an artifact — not the warm, gooey, recently-inside-the-creature’s-body mess that I see dog owners diving into with their plastic-bagged hands.

Some say pets resemble their owners. If true, cats are the right match for lawyers: emotionally-detached, well-groomed, and confident creatures.


LAT: Just say no -- to pets.

LAT: What’s the best pet for lawyers? My answer: none.

(Disclosure: I realize this makes me A Bad Person, but I do not like animals. In fact, I don’t like any living, moving thing that isn’t human. Animals creep me out.)

So, the case against pets. Although I don’t practice full-time — I handle the occasional matter here and there for Breaking Media, ATL’s parent company — my schedule is a lot like a lawyer’s. I work long hours and I travel frequently, so I’m rarely home. I have one (1) houseplant, which hovers constantly near death. Would I really want to have responsibility for another living thing (other than myself)? I might not like animals, but I wouldn’t want one to die because of me.

Let’s say that you have a dog, like Elie. Since billing 2000+ hours doesn’t permit you to lounge about at home all day, you might have to hire a dog walker (depending on your dog’s size, breed, etc.). That’s money out of your pocket. If you go away for a few weeks for a trial, you might have to hire a dog sitter or put the dog in a “doggie hotel” / kennel — still more money out of your pocket. In this day and age of law firm pay cuts and shrinking bonuses — and layoffs, which are still happening at some places — do you really want to be blowing hard-earned cash on a creature with four legs?

I also agree with a wise law school classmate of mine who once said: “There are at least ten good reasons not to have a dog. Reasons one through nine are canine fecal matter.” Your day job already involves picking up other people’s s**t; do you want to do that after hours too? And this doo-doo duty doesn’t pay $160K.

Cats might be slightly better, but they still require some upkeep — i.e., expenditure of your (very valuable) time. I know this firsthand, having been asked by a friend to check in on her cats, change the water, and replenish the food (but thankfully not the litter box). Cat food, kitty litter, the occasional cat sitter — this also all costs money.

Finally, cat hair sticks to everything. Whenever I go over to my cat-loving friend’s place for dinner, she has to clean me up with a lint brush at the end of the evening.

I’m just getting warmed up; there are still more downsides to having a pet. Animals can kill. See, e.g., Tilikum, the serial killer whale.

Depending on where you live, having a pet may limit your housing options. If you live in Texas, where you enjoy a freestanding, 3500 square foot house (and a Lexus), you can have whatever pet you like (and maybe even some guns). But if you live in an apartment building in a big city like New York or Chicago or Boston, you’re limited to buildings that allow pets. I’ve had several friends lose out on great housing opportunities because they couldn’t bear to part with their animal pals.

And God forbid that your pet gets sick. One friend of mine blew thousands of dollars on surgeries for her beloved pooch, only to have the bitch wind up in doggy heaven shortly thereafter. Sorry, but Obamacare doesn’t exist for pets (yet)….


We’ve given you our perspectives. ATL readers, what do you think? Debate in the comments, and take our poll:

Earlier: A Whale of a Lawsuit?


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