I have to give a talk at a seminar in a few weeks’ time. The audience will consist mostly of solicitors. I’ll be giving a brief introduction into various actuarial aspects of long tail insurance classes such as workers’ compensation and public liability.
In one section of the talk I am intending to discuss the delayed long term claims development pattern that these insurance classes typically exhibit. One factor that contributes to this delayed development pattern is the propensity for long, drawn-out legal battles. I had intended to make a humorous reference to lawsuits like Jarndyce v Jarndyce from Bleak House, thinking that most of the audience would recognise it as a byword for lengthy, costly litigation. However a lawyer colleage has suggested that I take the reference out because it would be too confusing.
It’s not really vital and I’m happy to drop it. But I was interested to know whether others thought the *Jarndyce v Jarndyce * reference too obscure, particularly for a mainly legal audience.
It would be too obscure for me. I think the only Dickens I’ve read is A Christmas Carol.
Having said that, you could still include the reference as long as you explain it. In other words, instead of a throwaway reference, include some context: some of you may recall that in Bleak House, Charles Dickens told the tale of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a case that blah blah blah.
Yes, it loses much of its punch that way, but if it makes you happy to include the reference, go for it.
Personally, I would think it a shame that a reasonably literate person could have a career in law and not catch the reference. Hell, you don’t even have to read, as it was just a 6 part miniseries on the local public TV here. I always bristle about supposedly educated folks maintaining that they ought not to be expected to know something my kids knew while in grade school (while watching the recent mini-series, the kids recalled a previous showing maybe 10 years earlier.)
However, I am regularly impressed with the abject ignorance my fellow attorneys exhibit on various subjects.
I tend to expect some familiarity with Dickens from most reasonably educated people - and I would expect most lawyers to at least have a fleeting familiarity with BH. I hesitate to dumb down my language or references in anticipation of my audience’s ignorance. But presenting at a seminar is somewhat akin to sales - you don’t want to engender an unfavorable impression.
So it it were me, it would come down to how I felt about the audience, and what I had riding on the relationship. If I respected the audience and didn’t have to cater to them overmuch, I’d use the reference unadorned (presuming, of course, that it is apt to your discussion and the reference is not tortured). If the “kiss ass” factor were higher, I might casually attribute it to the author or book. But if I needed to be too explicit, I’d trash the reference altogether.
Yes, that was my feeling too. I’m a fifth year law student and I’ve lost count of the number of references that have been made to *Jarndyce v Jarndyce * since I’ve been at uni. And not just in lectures. It appears in texts, newspaper articles, journals etc.
I think I’ll keep the reference in my talk, but in a more generalised way.
jsut another vote for “Jarndyce and Jarndyce” not being too obscure for law types. personally, it was one of the first references i heard in my first year civ pro class, as a fictional example of the worst excesses of common law procedure prior to the Victorian reforms.
Campion, it might be a Commonwealth thing, since those Victorian reforms tended to get duplicated in the colonies, and therefore the Dickens reference related to our legal histories as well - Y(American)MMV.
I’m a lawyer who was an articles editor on the law review, and did two years of hardcore academic trivia competition in undergrad (although admittedly I wasn’t that good at it). I would not catch the reference. I’m aware of the never-ending court case in Bleak House, but did not know it by name. I’d say 99% of your audience will miss this. Way too obscure.
atty here with undergrad degree in English–vague recollection of it, but would not get the reference with just the case name–then again also would not hold it against you for using a refernce that I didn’t get
I’m not a legal type, but I’m reasonably literate, and have read a lot of Dickens. But not “Bleak House”. I certainly wouldn’t get the reference.
I once made up a sweatshirt for Halloween with The Witch of Agnesi Project on it, done in deliberate imitation of the logo of The Blair Witch Project. I even made the diagram for constructing the Witch look like the “Hanged Man” rune they used as a symbol in TBWP. Not one person understood. Nobody got the joke. I made a point of wearing the shirt to science fiction cons, at MIT, at parties run by people who make that kind of joke. No reaction. Nada. Zip.
So don’t count on people getting obscure references.
I just gave the talk. I merely made a reference to “endless litigation in the manner of nineteenth century novels”. About five of the solicitors in the group of fifteen immediately raised Jarndyce v Jarndyce. So they certainly would have got the reference. Some of the others vaguely recalled that they’d heard about it too once the name was raised. The rest didn’t though. So a direct reference certainly wouldn’t have been 100% successful. However it did give us a pleasant break from the actuarial stuff while we discussed Jarndyce v Jarndyce.