The dictionaries define it as "practising law", which is not the case in these examples. I guess its an up-and-coming "new" word which is instantly familiar. What does it mean?

Language issues. Combine English as a very second language + spec-lawyering + late-night meetings, and you have an ongoing headache.


How should I handle an 8 year old lawyering and quibbling?

  • The meaning may be litteral - following law → taking everything in the very first meaning / having hard time with more figurative sense
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:15
  • There's also 'lawyering up' which means to start a legal battle by getting some good lawyers. Is that the kind of thing you're thinking of?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:15
  • @Edwin: I think the second example could mean "arguing like a lawyer". Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:55
  • 3
    It means "behaving like a lawyer" and may imply any activity stereotypically attributed to lawyers, such as quibbling over petty details, exploiting innocent turns of phrase, chasing ambulances, employing the law courts as an instrument of bullying, and making the worse cause appear the best. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 12:56
  • Shouldn't the second example put in this order? How should I handle an lawyering and quibbling 8 year old? Otherwise I would understand the treatment to be lawyering and quibbling. Would that make any sense?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


An important part of a professional lawyer's job is looking for inconsistencies and loopholes. This may be preemptive, such as determining the exact wording of a contract, or it may be reactive ("You didn't actually say that it was required."). In the context of practicing law, this is both expected and laudable. Well, mostly laudable. See the case of Dickens' Jarndyce v Jarndyce https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarndyce_and_Jarndyce, which serves as a classic literary example of the process run amok.

Outside of the law, however, the same process can produce endless discussion of the most minute details and questioning of phrasing ("spec-lawyering" clearly refers to the process of making a specification over-precise or over-broad). It is this situation in which lawyering takes on a universally negative connotation.

A classic (although not legal) example of this focusing on minutiae at the expense of the larger issue is George Tyrell's line: "if the Jesuits were accused of killing three men and a dog, they would invariably produce the dog alive."

  • Ya talk like ya know sumpin, Rough Beast. Expected and laudable ... and Jesuit jokes ... very amusing. Keep it up.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 6:09

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