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1963: The Year When Everything Changed.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | November 25, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

SUMMARY:  Lawyers and other calculating people can learn a lot from the Madmen.

We’ve just finished experiencing the year of 1963 (Season 3) through the glass darkly of the TV series about an archetypal Madison Avenue ad agency, “Madmen”. Of course, that was the year when John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22. Early in the season we learn the ominous news that Roger Sterling’s daughter will be married on Saturday, November 23.  Storm clouds quickly began to gather over the Draper marriage, while the avuncular Duck Phillips  (who arranged the firm’s merger with the Brits in Season 2, but was thrown out because Don Draper threatened to quit if Duck stayed) surfaces in the employ of a competitor and makes a play to steal Peggy Olson and Pete Campbell, the firm’s two rising stars.

A key event in Season 2 was that big power play when Pete Campbell tests his metal against the old pro, Don Draper, and loses. Very educational. But these were not the only enemies made within the firm that year.  Draper refuses to talk to Sterling for forcing him to sign a contract. Olson has legitimate reasons to harbor grudges against everyone.  The Brits aggravate the situation with high-handed moves typical of trans-oceanic management. Nobody seems to have loyalty to the firm or anyone else — except themselves.

But, in the crowning event of Season 3, the Sterling Cooper heroes set aside their differences and join forces against their Brittanic overlords to pull off the coup de gras of their lives.  Upon learning that they were about to be merged once again (this time into a mega-agency), Sterling, Cooper and Draper engineer a way out of their contracts and take along Campbell, Olson and the incomparable Joan Holloway (the tall redhead in the red dress) plus a few other key players. They roll a big chunk of the firm’s accounts out the door in the middle of the night on dollies piled high.  How they did it should be mesmerizing to all young turks working for biglaw — firms that resemble Sterling Cooper in many critical ways.

So next year it will be the new firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Campbell against their old colleagues. Will the Brits shake off the loss of all that talent?  Will the palace revolution kill the mega-merger?.  I smell lawsuit.  I smell blood.

My colleague, Adrian Baron, the Nutmeg Lawyer, draws a series of morals for lawyers from these stories, mostly the negative kind.  [Eg., don’t smoke, drink or over-sex yourself to death like Draper and Sterling do.] However, I believe there is more for lawyers to learn, much more.

Lawyers should observe the inscrutable Draper carefully. He is rarely drawn into revealing himself through small talk.  He doesn’t tell stories.  He doesn’t talk about clients. As a matter of fact, he never talks much at all until all the cards are down — whereupon he springs something brilliant.  He never wastes an idea by expressing it prematurely.  And he is very, very cagey. “Who knows why people do what they do?” he asks, while deftly avoiding explaining his own motivation. He manages to remain mysterious and unpredictable to everyone, even his wife. Forget co-workers — he has no friends among them, let alone a closest friend.

Pete Campbell is a Draper wannabee.    Alienation is the chief among these traits. Campbell tries to ignore his father’s death, refusing to grieve or mention it to anyone.  Neither can get truly close to their wives.  As a strange compensation for this fear of intimacy, they engage in sexual predations.

So don’t go too far in modeling yourself after Don Draper. This particular madman is dead inside. When he learns that Kennedy has been shot, he doesn’t seem to care. At least he has found the perfect job for his talents: he enchants and seduces.

Then again, he might have made a pretty good lawyer, too.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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