Cristobal Rigoberto (“Minnie”) Mendoza played for the Minnesota Twins in 1970 and hit .188 for the year. That threshold of futility has come to be known in baseball as the “Mendoza Line.” If you start the season in a slump and begin to pull out of it, crossing the Mendoza Line and getting above .200 is the first step back to respectability. If it’s mid-season and you cross the Mendoza Line going in the opposite direction, expect to find a ticket to the minors in your locker.
When it comes to public perception of business and industry segments, lawyers probably set the Mendoza Line. For whatever reason, most people don’t like lawyers. In the media, lawyers are often depicted as conniving, duplicitous, arrogant, money-grubbing, and unscrupulous, which are not exactly endearing characteristics. As a lawyer myself, I think the common characterizations of lawyers are profoundly inaccurate, and I regret that the general reaction to my profession is so negative — but there is no denying the statistics.
I therefore found it interesting that, in a recent Gallup Poll, the federal government crossed the lawyer Mendoza Line and ranked the worst in terms of public perception of 25 different business and industry sectors. Lawyers were viewed positively by 29 percent of respondents and negatively by 45 percent, for a net score of -16. The federal government, in contrast, was ranked positively by only 17 percent and negatively by 63 percent, for a net score of -46.
If I were in the federal government right now, I’d be looking for that ticket to the minors.