The title of this post sounds like the start of a joke. A monk and a lawyer walk into a bar… It’s almost a given that the joke will be based around the godliness of the monk, and the parasitic or predatory nature of lawyers. This hostility to lawyers isn’t even a recent phenomenon, in Shakespeare’s Henry the Sixth, Dick the butcher says “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
One day, while at Angkor Wat, I see a Buddhist monk in traditional orange robes taking a photo of his son. Great moment so I also take a pic. A few minutes later we bump into each other inside the temple and begin chatting. His name is Nheam, and the boy is his adopted son. He has been a monk for many years, and the boy was an orphan and needed a parent. As you might have guessed, he’s a lovely, lovely man.
I ask what he does everyday, and he says he’s studying at the local university to be a lawyer. Being an ignoramus, filled with lazy stereotypes, this doesn’t seems logical to me. I ask why a monk would want to be lawyer. He looks across at me and says that where there is poverty and corruption, they need lawyers to protect the poor and needy.
Nheam, a monk and a lawyer, and a wiser man than me.