When Shakespeare said, "Let's kill all the lawyers," he never thought they would do it to themselves. It used to be that during dark periods law firms fired associates and people who had climbed only halfway up the ladder. But lately the lawyers are firing their own partners.

How does a law office make the decision to force one of its own to walk the plank? Like this:

The Sudden Death Committee of Dubah, Doodah & Dipthong met secretly in one of the paneled conference rooms to decide whose heads to chop off for that week.

Grumbach said, "I say that in order to bring some financial order to the firm we push O'Toole out the window."

Sincere responded, "But O'Toole has been a partner with DD&D for 40 years. He was a founder of the firm."

"Exactly. For 40 years he's worn the same tie to court. The man has no sense of fashion."

Bogley interrupted, "I have nothing against dumping O'Toole. He's always losing his men's room key. But I think if we're going for savings we ought to put the ax to Ladeeda. He entertains clients at the Downtown Topless Cafeteria."

Sincere added, "What I don't like about him is that he never once has put a quarter into the canister for his share of coffee. When I mentioned it one day, he told me to take it to the Supreme Court."

Comstock spoke up: "We can't fire people for personal reasons. It must be for the good of the firm. Zeigfried is my candidate. The man lost his last ambulance case to an insurance company, and he took it on contingency. It cost us $30 million."

Bogley retorted, "Zeigfried may be lousy in court but he's one helluva golfer. The partnership needs good golfers more than it needs good litigators."

Grumbach came back, "Then it follows that if you are a lousy golfer, you should be fired before a good lawyer."

"Without question. Most of our business is picked up on the golf course. Judges uphold lawyers who shoot under 90."

Comstock said, "This is a sad day. Firing one of your partners is like kicking your brother down the stairs. It hurts all of us because it could be any one of us."

Bogley replied, "That's why we're all on the Sudden Death Committee -- so it doesn't happen to us. And the responsibility is so great. It's no fun going to the office of a man that you've worked with for 20 years and saying, 'You can have one cigarette before emptying the drawers in your desk.' "

Comstock was irritated. "Enough of the hearts and flowers. The sooner we make our friends walk the plank, the less rent the rest of us will have to pay in '91."

Bogley agreed. "We'll be doing the fired partners a favor. Most of them are burned out anyway. Let's get the pink slips and hand them out."

"Why don't we make them into paper planes so we can toss them into their offices? There is no reason why people have to lose their sense of humor just because they're being dismissed," Comstock said.

"Are we canning Riverhaven or not?" Sincere asked.

"Why?" Bogley wanted to know.

"Because he has the best view from his office, and he promised me I could have it if anything ever happened to him."