Monday, August 28, 2006
I watched the Emmy Awards last night, hoping that the PBS Masterpiece Theater showing of "Bleak House," my favorite television event of the year, would win the award for best movie or miniseries. It didn't. But I, along with many viewers I'm sure, was shocked by the opening sequence, which showed Conan O'Brien bouncing around in an airplane before it crashed on an island, spoofing the show "Lost," which happens to take place on the same island we send aging partners once they don't bring enough revenue into the firm. The fake plane crash followed a day's worth of news coverage about the real plane crash in Kentucky, and was clearly in poor taste. It surprised me that someone at NBC didn't notice the parallels and replace it with some stock footage of Hurricane Katrina, or something less timely. But, actually, I feel bad for NBC and the heat they've been taking today for the screwup. It reminds me of a similar incident at the firm a decade ago. It was back in 1992, and one of the new associates had just been caught leaving the office at around 4:00 for some sort of doctor's appointment. Which he hadn't gotten permission for, and his colleagues were naturally sore about the fact he'd left early and they'd been stuck in the office until midnight. So a few of them, on their own, dragged him into one of the open conference rooms and starting beating him up, in full view of anyone who walked past. Normally this would have been seen as somewhat extreme, but understandable given the circumstances, people get a little too worked up sometimes over how many hours their colleagues work, and sometimes want to take matters into their own hands. But, anyway, it was only a week or two after the Rodney King incident, and people started to draw parallels, and it was a pretty big public relations mess that we had to pay some people quite a bit of money to keep quiet about. At least I'd been stuck doing document review that entire quarter and so I was locked in a conference room and had nothing to do with any of it. Of course there was also the incident in 1994 when I was on the associate life committee and we printed up some shirts for the first-years to wear that said "It's all my fault," with a picture of an earthquake fault on it (silly pun, I know), right after the Northridge Earthquake, and then three months later we found out one of our paralegals had died in the earthquake (we just thought she was in the records room) and people felt kind of awkward wearing the shirts, but that wasn't as big an issue as the 1992 incident. So I know how Conan O'Brien must feel about it all. The show also gave me an idea for how we can speed up settlement negotiations. They locked Bob Newhart in a chamber filled with only enough air for three hours, and said if the show ran long, he would die. We should do the same thing with associates when clients are negotiating. Not that they have any control over how long negotiations go, but it starts to get boring sitting in the room after a while, and if I knew that I was going to get to watch an associate die after four hours, it would give me something to look forward to.