They are often appealing and pursuing sweetheart clauses. They work on briefs and search for corpus delicti. They are always trying to please the court, serve subpoenas and defend crimes of passion.

Yet, when it comes to romance, lawyers get a bad rap.

The latest knock comes from pop musician Jackson Browne in "Lawyers in Love," his new album and hit single of the same name:

I can't keep up with what's been going down

I think my heart must just keep slowing down

Among the human beings

In their designer jeans

Am I the only one who hears the screams

And the strangled cries of lawyers in love?

Who says Washington lawyers are dull, humorless and asexual?

They do.

In a city that probably has more lawyers per capita than any other, pin-stripe litigators around town are responding well to Browne's tweak. Pretty soon, they'll be dancing to the tune on 19th and M streets.

"I think it's a scurrilous attack on perhaps the most romantic of professions," said Dan Brenner, a Federal Communications Commission attorney and part-time stand-up comedian. "There is nothing like seducing someone in a three-piece suit. There are so many more buttons to undo."

"Lawyers in love is a contradiction in terms," said C.J. (Cherry Joy) Reysselance, clerk to senior Circuit Judge George MacKinnon of the D.C. Court of Appeals.

The album is the first Browne has put out since 1980. The cover features a man in a brown pin-stripe suit, sitting on top of a sinking Mercedes, paddling frantically. Peter Golden, Browne's manager, refused to comment on the origins or meaning of the song.

"The song is what it is . . . I don't know what it means," he said curtly from Kansas City, Mo. "I don't want to discuss it. It's up to you to determine what it means."

In a July interview with The New York Times, however, Browne said he got the idea from his brother-in-law "who came over from Los Angeles and was saying that all Los Angeles looked like it had been designed by lawyers in love. I usually work on a song over a period of months, but this one I found I had to stop apologizing for the title of the album before I could write a song that was good enough to justify it."

There are at least 22,000 lawyers in Washington. That does not include the Tulsa, Okla., tax lawyers or Hill aides from New Jersey who haven't registered with the D.C. bar.

Are they outraged? Are they incensed? Are they defensive?

They're . . . well, as a group they're pretty tickled about the whole thing.

"Oh, I thought it was just hilarious," said French Slaughter, special assistant to the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's tax division. "It reminded me of when I was in law school and we used to joke about lawyers marrying other lawyers. How could they have any romance? Lawyers are pretty dull anyway. The key is to not end up with another lawyer."

Caveat emptor.

God sends his spaceships to America, the beautiful

They land at 6 o'clock and there we are, the dutiful

Eating from TV trays, tuned in to "Happy Days"

Waiting for World War III while Jesus saves

To the mating calls of lawyers in love.

"It's perfectly merited," said Robert Peck, associate minority counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "When I was in law school, there was a dance and no one was dancing with a sense of rhythm. It suddenly occurred to me that all these people were soulless. There is a self-selection process in law school, and people who are emotional and passionate don't wind up in law school and those who stay have romance systematically driven out of them. Me? We're not talking about me?"

"Some of us have romance, some of us don't," said Abbot Kominers, a downtown lawyer who asked that his firm not be named. "I'm an insatiable romantic. Lawyers are human beings despite what people might think . . . If Jackson Browne wants to make fun of lawyers, that's fine. He's not going to affect my livelihood. Anyone who needs a good lawyer isn't going to be affected by his song."

"I think they try to be objective about love, and you just can't be objective about it. They try to be rational about it, and you can't be," said Claire Osborn, a clerk to Circuit Judge Abner Mikva of the D.C. Court of Appeals. "I, for one, have never met a 'reasonable man.' "

Last night I watched the news from Washington, the capital

The Russians escaped while we weren't watching them, like Russians will

Now we've got the room

We've even got the moon

And I hear the U.S.S.R. will be open soon

As vacation land for lawyers in love.

"I think they do have romance, but I also think they tend to associate too frequently with other lawyers so maybe they think they're romantic because they have nothing else to compare it with," said Eileen Dietrich, a lawyer with the Boston firm of Choate, Hall and Stewart.

"Only the bad lawyers don't have romance . . . I would never admit otherwise," said Jane Wishner, another Mikva clerk. "It reminds me of a line from a Woody Allen movie that goes something like, 'Some people are homosexuals, some heterosexuals, some people don't think about sex at all. They become lawyers.' "

"Lawyers in Love," words and music by Jackson Browne

Copyright (c) 1983 Night Kitchen Music (ASCAP)