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Shark comes from the German schurke, meaning greedy parasite. While no brave soul has gotten close enough to determine where lawyers come from, logic and common sense dictate a similar derivation.

Sharks, unlike most fish, have no bones; their skeletons are made entirely of cartilage. Lawyers, too, are spineless as willing to argue one side of a case as the other. For the right price.

Best known as scavengers of the dead and dying, sharks have well- honed sensors with which they can track the sounds of other injured and struggling beings. They are also equipped with fine sense of smell that allow them to detect minute dilutions of blood (one part blood to one million parts water) up to one-quarter mile away. Precisely the distance a hopeful personal injury lawyer will run behind an ambulance to toss a business card.

From the moment of birth, shark skin is tough and rough covered with thousands of tiny hard teeth call denticles that abrade any passerby made of softer stuff. Lawyers are also thick-skinned. Easily identified by their humorlessness and abrasive personalities, they are the bane of many social gatherings.

A shark will swallow anything up to half its own size in one gulp. Several hundred years ago, a naturalist wrote that the headless body of a knight in armor was found in a white sharks stomach. Inside another was more recently found a sea lion, a horse and the body of another seven-foot-long shark. Lawyers, too, will swallow anything even their pride as increasing numbers of lawyer hopefuls trudge to law school each year for three years of browbeating in the hopes of financing their Porsches.

Some sharks even prey on their own kind. The smell and taste of blood in the water can trigger them into an obsessed feeding frenzy, in which they often eat their own bodies while twisting and turning to get more food. This is not unlike the litigation frenzy, where lawyers are pitted against other lawyers, and ultimately themselves, to waste reams of paper while losing sight of a fair resolution for their clients.

Ichthyologists scientists who study fish contend that sharks, dreaded carnivores of the deep, have simply been given a bad rap. They may stalk, snap at and swallow their prey alive, but, after all, they have to eat. So far, no one has successfully defended lawyers for preying on an unwitting public. Beyond that, the similarities between the two species make them well-nigh indistinguishable.

For many years, tiger sharks were the only animals known to harm each other while still in the womb; the first two sharks to hatch eat all the other egg capsules. It was then discovered that while budding lawyers are somewhat more subtle, they are just as deadly. Entire families have been found, bored to death, by the constant pronouncements of precocious lawyers-to-be.

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