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Be A Goldfish: Legal Professionalism Lessons from Ted Lasso

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Be A Goldfish: Legal Professionalism Lessons from Ted Lasso

In this program, Heath Cheek looks at the hit TV show, Ted Lasso, the
story of a Kansas college football coach who becomes a Premier League
“football” (soccer) coach in London. Heath will show how Ted’s lessons
can help litigators, in-house counsel, transactional lawyers, and others
improve their practice by using positivity, kindness, warmth, and humor
(attributes not always associated with lawyers). Viewers of this course
will learn how to improve their communication and relationships with
clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel, as well as how to recover
from mistakes with grace.

Transcript

- Hello. My name is Heath Cheek. I am a partner at Bell Nunnally in Dallas, Texas. I'm happy to be here before you today virtually presenting my CLE, titled, Be a Goldfish, Leadership and Ethics Lessons From the Show, Ted Lasso. I have presented this presentation about a dozen times across the state of Texas over the past couple years, and it's been a huge hit and I've got a lot of great response and a lot of great feedback from it. And so I'm happy to be presenting it to you today on behalf of Quimby. So a little bit about myself. I am a commercial litigator. I do complex commercial litigation, representing everybody from small businesses, high net worth individuals, startup businesses, all the way to fortune 500 companies. And as a litigator, I get to see some of the best and worst behavior of lawyers out there. And I'm at a firm called Bell Nunnally. We're 60 attorneys. We're one of the largest firms in Dallas, but we are a Dallas only firm. It's a full service firm with both business transactions and litigation practice groups. So a little bit about how I got involved with Ted Lasso and how I've become known as the Ted Lasso guy in the legal community here in Texas. So like a lot of you, I was watching a lot of television during the pandemic, my wife and I would, we have two young kids. During the pandemic they were four and one. They were a handful. We would work all day and have to keep the kids all day. And at the end of the day, all we wanted to do was just veg out and watch television. And so like a lot of you, we watched Queens Gambit, Tiger King, we re watched The Sopranos, re watched Friday Night Lights. And starting in September or October, we started running out of shows. You'll remember that there weren't a lot of new shows getting produced during that time period because of lockdowns. And so they started running outta television. And so there was this new show that had come out called Ted lasso, and I had heard about it and I just really didn't think it was my cup of tea. I'm from Texas, football is king here. We devote Friday nights to high school football, Saturdays to college football, and Sundays, of course, to the Dallas Cowboys. And so I didn't really have room in my life to fall in love with soccer. And I thought this show was a show about soccer. And so I didn't really have an interest in watching it. But over the last few months I started realizing, well, I don't have anymore new shows to watch. I started hearing great reviews about this show, and then it started getting nominated for all these awards. And at the time it got nominated for a bunch of Golden Globe awards. And so I decided to watch the show. And it was created by executive produced by a guy named Bill Lawrence who created one of my favorite shows in law school, a show called Scrubs. And we started watching the show and within the first couple of episodes, I turned to my wife and I said, "I think I could teach an ethics CLE "about all the lessons in this show." We were instantly hooked to the show. And by the end of the first night we had binged half the season, and the next night we ended up watching the rest of it. It instantly hooked us and we fell in love with the show, both me and my wife. It's a comedy and it's definitely funny, but the thing that hooked me was its heart. And it makes you feel good. And especially during that time, fall of 2020, when things were really, really dark, I mean, we had the pandemic, we had lockdowns, we had riots over the summer. We had a really nasty election. And then we had more riots after that. This show was just a shining light of positivity. I think that's why so many people connected with it. In the past, I have taught a lot of CLEs about ethics issues here in Texas. And most of what I teach on is about how to deal with people who are thorns in your side. And I had this belief that 10% of the people cause 90% of my stress. And if I can find a way of dealing with that small 10% of the people, then 90% of my stress will be gone. So what is this show about? So this show is, strangely enough, it's got a weird history. It started as a commercial on NBC Sports. So Ted Lasso is this character that Jason Sudeikis created for an ad campaign for the Premier League Soccer, which was coming to NBC sports back in 2013. And it was a cute commercial. It was funny. It was about this fish outta water, American football coach, who goes to England and becomes a British football coach, which we know as soccer. It's the proper term for it, because we're Americans and we get to define what the words are. And so it was a funny, funny concept, same concept that ends up being the show, but it was just a commercial and nobody thought anything else about this show and thought anything would happen with it, except for Jason Sudeikis, the star of Ted lasso. He was on Saturday Night Live at the time and so didn't really do anything with it. But this idea stuck with him that there was a character there that he liked playing and thought would being interesting. And so for the show, the television show, Ted Lasso is about this same concept. It's a first year college football coach. He's the coach of the Wichita State Shockers. And in their first year of him head coaching this team, he wins the division two championship and there's this viral video of Ted Lasso dancing with his team. It's very joyful. Everybody's happy. It goes viral. And that's how everybody gets to know Ted Lasso, including over in England, it comes the attention of the team owner of this British Premier League Team, Richmond FC. The owner of that team is Rebecca and she has ax to grind, because she has inherited this team from her ex-husband. She obtained it through a divorce settlement. And she has decided that the only thing that her ex-husband ever loved in this world was this football team. And so she's decided she is going to destroy it. Now, if this plot sounds familiar, it's basically similar to the plot of the 1980s movie Major League, where a team owner is trying to destroy the team and using a misfit band of people to do it. And so that's essentially what's happening here is Ted Lasso is brought in to help her destroy the team, unbeknownst to him. She assumes that hiring this inexperienced college football coach from America will help her destroy this team. So this is a middling team. It's been mediocre it's whole history. It is dwelling at the bottom and Ted Lasso is brought in. And so throughout the course of the show, Ted Lasso takes this team and helps each of the individuals it's comprised of, from the water boy, to the star players, to the owners, unlock their potential and turn them into a powerful team. Now there's some interesting trivia, as silly as this scenario sounds, it's happened once before. Terry Smith, he played for the new England Patriots in 1982, and he was a college football coach in America before moving to the United Kingdom to play and coach American football in England. They were trying to get American football to catch fire in England. And after a few years of that, that didn't work out. The British public loved their soccer, their version of football, not ours. And so he stopped that and he somehow stumbled his way into being the owner of Chester City, which is this lower tier soccer club. Then he appointed himself the head coach of the team despite having absolutely no experience coaching or even playing soccer. And so as outlandish as this premise sounds, something like this happened before, albeit in the eighties. The reception to the show was incredible. It was a huge hit for both critics and audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, it is a 91% critic rating, 97% audience rating. You rarely see both critics and audiences loving a show as much as they do here. The most recent example of it would be Top Gun Maverick, which both critics and audiences have loved and now it's one of the biggest movies in box office history. Same thing with Ted Lasso. It has become this water cooler hit, which is very rare nowadays, to have a show that has crossed over as a water cooler hit, compared to in the '80s or '90s where you had Cheers, or Seinfeld, or Friends, these shows where you had to watch them on Thursday night at 8:00 PM, and Friday morning, you would go in and talk about them at work because everybody watched the same show. There was no way of recording it. Here we've got a much different media environment where you've got a hundred different cable channels, all producing their own content, and now a half dozen or dozen streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney+, who are all doing their own shows. And so you've got this splintering of the media environment. And then you have the ability to watch the show anytime you want, rather than a specific day. And so it's very rare for a show to catch fire like that, except for this show has. One of the other things about it, was that it was an award winner. So Ted Lasso swept the Emmy Awards last year. It won best comedy, best actor for Jason Sudeikis who plays Ted Lasso, best supporting actor for Brett Goldstein who plays Roy Kent, and best supporting actress for Hannah Waddingham who plays the team owner, Rebecca. It has also entered into pop culture as far as a lot of people have a lot of commentary about this show, and what it means, and why people have adopted it so much. So two of the headlines, which I love are, one from The Ringer, it says, How On Earth is Ted Lasso Actually Good? This Apple TV+ series, which is based on a character from an old NBC Premier League ad campaign is somehow one of the most touching shows of 2020. Another article I like is this one from Politico, The Strange Bipartisan Appeal of Ted Lasso. It's an apolitical show, so why do politicians keep talking about it? And what you see is you see people on both sides of political aisle, Republicans and Democrats, with both claiming Ted Lasso as their own, because they see their own values in him. They see, Republicans say, well, this is a Midwestern guy with Midwestern values. He must be a Republican. Democrats say, well, he's a kindhearted guy and he's empathetic. Therefore he must be a Democrat. And the truth is that neither side is right. He is not demonstrating Republican values, or Democrat values, or liberal, or conservative. He's just demonstrating basic human values that most people adhere to regardless of political party. And that's why I think everybody, both Republicans and Democrats, love Ted Lasso. Now what is the show about and what are some of the key takeaways we can take from the show? First lesson, which I talk about is this notion of being a happy warrior. And that breaks down into three components, leading with empathy, dealing with difficulties with a smile, and being relentlessly optimistic. So in this show, back up and say, I understand that teaching lawyers about kindness is kind of a risky business. It's not something we're naturally known for, but that's the key lesson from this show is the key thing when you talk about Ted Lasso is people say, oh, it's this show about kindness, and that's not really the case. Really what Ted Lasso is about is empathy and leading with empathy. And so it's very difficult to broach the subject with attorneys. Like, hey, you need to be kinder to each other. Because that's not our profession. That's not who we are or not how we are perceived and we don't wanna be perceived as weak. And so the question is, what would you, a lawyer, learn from a show like Ted Lasso? Well, this can be a cutthroat profession. We have type A personalities. Sometimes it's a zero sum business where there is a winner and there's a loser. It's deeply competitive. But all these things are the same as soccer where you also in soccer, you have type A personalities. There's a zero sum game where there is a winner and loser. It is deeply competitive. These people trained for their whole lives to reach the pinnacle of this profession, just like we do. And so there are some things we can learn from soccer, even if it is just wrapped in this message of kindness. So first one of these, leading, being a happy you warrior, lessons I wanna talk about, is leading with empathy. Now I wanna be very clear here. And if you take nothing else away from this presentation, I hope it is this. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Sympathy means taking someone's side, and that's not something we normally can do as an attorney. I mean, we want to take our client's side. Well, we can't take the other side's side. I mean, that would be against our ethical duties to our clients, but empathy is something different. Empathy is just the ability to understand. And that is something that we do every day, having to take ourselves out of our own shoes and seeing people from their point of view. It's really just about listening. And for those of you listening that may be making your ears burn, because that is a huge part of our job. It's listening, even though we don't like to think about it. And we're also known as people who always have opinions and are talking all the time, a huge part of our job is listening and understanding. For me as a litigator, sometimes I have to take myself out of my role as advocate and look at myself, looking at the case from how would the opposing side see this? What is the opposing law you're seeing that I'm not seeing? What is the opposing client seeing? What is motivating them? How can I get a resolution if they are locked in in a certain way? I have to put myself in the position of a judge or jury at times and see what arguments is gonna make the most sense to this judge who only has a limited amount of time to hear the case, or to a jury who may not understand the legal and factual underpinnings of the case. What's the facts and what's the law that's going to reach out to them to help them understand? For Ted Lasso, Ted uses this empathy on all the major characters in the show. The four main ones, which you can see here, are the team owner, Rebecca, the team captain, Roy Kent, and two of the other players on the team, Jamie Tartt and Sam. Ted is trying to use empathy on each of these players to understand what makes them tick, so he can get the most out of them. Rebecca is the owner who's trying to destroy the team. Roy Kent is the captain, but he's aging past his prime star. Jamie Tartt is this young hotshot who's 23 years old, but selfish. He's not a team player. And Sam is this Nigerian immigrant who's immensely talented, but hasn't realized his potential yet. And Ted tries to use empathy on each of them to help understand what they're doing. And one of the best examples of this is what he does with Rebecca. He institutes this program called Biscuits With The Boss. He literally takes her these box of biscuits every day, which in our American parlance, we call cookies, these little shortbread cookies in a pink box. He'll take them to her every morning and sit down and talk to her and use this excuse to get to know her, ask her questions about her life, what she's working on, what she likes, what she dislikes, and not even talking about work per se, talking about her favorite band or her favorite color. I mean, just random things. And so the cynical view of this is that Ted Las is just sucking up. He's a yes man. But that's not what Ted's doing. He's not a yes man. If you watch what he does in the show, he's not doing whatever she asks. He's pushing back. He's offering his own ideas. He's making suggestions. And he's genuinely trying to get to know her and have her get to know him. And that's the core of empathy, having both sides, understanding each other and what makes them tick and what they need. Other examples that Ted uses, with Roy Kent, he spends time with him and his niece, Roy's niece at his niece's school for career day. Seeing Roy Kent outside of his soccer element, trying to understand him there. With Jamie Tartt, he can't get through to Jamie Tartt, this young hotshot who clams up anytime he tries to talk to him. So Ted goes around Jamie's back, talks to Jamie's girlfriend and asks her what makes Jamie tick. He finds out that Jamie has had this rough childhood. His father didn't offer a lot of compliments whenever he was younger. And so Ted has decided that he's going to offer him compliments and try to unlock the relationship that way. With Sam, it's as simple as just understanding that he was homesick. He's been away from home, first time he's ever been away from home in his life. And so he has the team throw a birthday party for him to help him feel like he's part of a family and connected. Now empathy has a power to it. There's a huge element of power to it that you could exploit if you were using empathy in the wrong way. There is a negative power in empathy where you would learn something about someone and using that to get leverage over that person, because you understand deep dark secrets about that person. That's the wrong use of empathy. There's also the positive side of empathy, which is just understanding what makes someone tick, understanding why they're gonna take actions in certain ways and listening to what they need instead of telling them what you think. That's a key part of what Ted Lasso does in this show is he very rarely is offering direct advice to these players and telling them here's what I think you should do or telling them commandments of what he would like to see them do. He's letting them reach their own conclusions. He's listening to them and trying to understand what they need to help unlock their potential. I think about my own wife, my relationship with my wife. It is so much more effective for me if I do something on my own rather than have her tell me to do it. So for example, we've been married for 11 years, and those 11 years, we have our division of labor in the household chores. And one of my chores is taking out the trash every Sunday night, because the trash men come early Monday morning. And so every Sunday night for 11 years, I've taken out the trash like clockwork. I mean, if I'm home, I'm taking out the trash. But every now and then, I don't know if my wife does this intentionally or not, but every now and then she will remind me to take out the trash. And I've never needed a reminder in the past 11 years to take out the trash. But because this one time she will tell me, don't forget to take out the trash, even though I've never forgotten to take out the trash, it bothers me, because I don't like to be told what to do, but I have no problem doing the actual act. And I suspect that you have the same issue with people that you work with. If they come to a conclusion on their own, they're much likely to do it, rather than if they are ordered to do it or told to do it. It's a huge part of our interpersonal relationships is that people want independence. They don't wanna be micromanaged. They want to be able to do things because they thought of it, rather than someone has told them to do it. And so empathy helps us understand people and understand, maybe you shouldn't micromanage someone. Maybe you shouldn't tell that associate, hey do this, this, and this. Instead, let them figure it out. But if they don't do it, obviously you're gonna be over their shoulder with some edits and red lines to correct the issue. But sometimes it's better to not say something and let someone figure it out on their own rather than just doing it. Now where is empathy helpful for us as attorneys? Well, obviously it is useful in just about every interpersonal relationship you have, whether you're a litigator or a transactional attorney or whatever your role might be. So think about how you're dealing with the opposing party. You can't just demand that they accept everything that you have on the table and not expect something in return. You gotta know what their needs are, what they have to get out of this case. If you're dealing with an insurance adjuster, you may be understanding that they have a settlement value of this case that they've reported to their bosses and they're not going to go beyond that. If you have an opposing party who's a large company, they probably have a risk tolerance that they are allowed to settle a case within or a range that they're able to settle a case within, and they're not gonna deviate from that. And so you have to understand that. Or if it's a solution that multi parts, like a transaction, a merger or a buyout agreement, you have to understand what people are willing to take and what are the points that are going to cause them to walk away from the table. For litigators, we have to understand what judges want. And every judge is different. There is no cookie cutter judge really. Some judges need everything spoon fed to them. They need to understand. They may have not have read everything before you walked in the room. Other judges have read everything. They know exactly where the weak point of the case is. And they want to talk about just that one thing. You have to know what the judge is wanting from you and that's involves listening and being empathetic towards the judge and respectful towards his or her time. This also applies to dealing with colleagues. You have associates that work underneath you. You may have partners that work above you. You have paralegals or assistance that work for you. Understanding their needs, what they are trying to get outta this job what they need to do their job, is very, very important for you. And same if you are an in house counsel and you're dealing with the business people at your company. You have to understand what they're trying to get out of it. You might have a salesman who's trying to enter into a risky agreement. You may need to, instead of just saying no, ask, why is he trying to get into this agreement? What is so important? And is there a way we can structure it that avoids the risk, but still gives him the benefit of this agreement? You might have a transaction that has bad due diligence, but the people are pressing for it to go forward. Your job is not to let it go forward and endanger of the company. Your job as in-house counsel is to say, here's the problems with it. We need to come up with a solution for it. I had an example of a case last year, a case had been going on for three or four years, got delayed because of COVID, where we just could not get close to settlement at all. We just kept talking past each other and nobody could get connected. We mediated the case. Nobody could get a mediation. Nobody in mediation could get real offers on the table. And finally, we got about a month out from trial and this was a case that needed to settle. Neither side really needed to try this case, but neither side was making a movement on settlement. And so I picked up the phone and I called opposing counsel and I laid some cards on the table and I asked him to lay his cards on the table and it allowed us to be empathetic with each other and to understand what the problem was. And what I found out through this discussion with opposing counsel was that his client had this tax issue where she couldn't settle this case unless she would've incurred this massive tax liability. And that was a big problem for them. And I had no idea. And after about 10 minutes of discussing it, we realized we could structure the settlement in a way that avoided this tax issue for her, that would minimize this tax issue for her. And once we cleared that roadblock, we were able to hammer out a settlement within about 30, 45 minutes. But it took us letting our guard down, showing some cards that we did not want to in normal circumstances and figuring out how we could help each other get this case resolved. I use this empathy a lot in my practice at all, in a lot of my practice. One of the quotes from the show is from Ted Lasso. He says, "You know what to do with tough cookies? "You dip them in milk." That's not new wisdom by any means. I mean, we've all heard the phrase, you catch more flights with honey than vinegar. But I have to use dip a lot of people in milk every now and then to help me do my job better. So for example, last year I had a corporate representative that I needed to take a deposition of. I walked in, it was one of the few depositions that we did in person back in 2020. We were in a conference room and the guy walked in and this guy was tense. I could just tell that he had been spent the past two days in the woodshed with his attorneys. He had been trained to look at me as the enemy and to be on guard about everything I said. And this is a guy that I needed to open up. If this guy was just going to stonewall and give one or two word answers to everything, it was not gonna be a successful deposition for me. So what I did was I decided to dip this tough cookie in milk. And so instead of spending the first 15, 20 minutes there before the de deposition started reviewing my notes or getting my exhibits in order, I just put everything down and I just talked to the guy, talked to the guy about anything other than the case. I asked him about where he's from, kids, kid sports, where he went to school. Turns out he went to Texas Tech, which is where I also went to school. So we talked about Texas Tech football and how bad our football coach was. And we started just talking about anything we could over the next 15 minutes to small talk. And over the course of that 15 minutes, I saw his body language relax. I saw his shoulders drop. I saw him smile a few times and I knew that he was ready for the deposition. He was gonna be a lot more amenable witness in the deposition than he would've been if I hadn't done that. And I also, during the deposition, I also was very nice to him. Like if I asked a question, I could see that his body language shifted to going on the defensive, I would stop myself, say, "Whoa, whoa, hold on, hold on. "That was a bad question. "Let me restate it." And I would stated in a more friendly manner. And over the course of this deposition, this guy gave me some very great answers on some my core defenses in this lawsuit. And I was actually able to take one of those answers and get about two thirds of the damages in the case dismissed on summary judgment, just because this guy had relaxed enough to give the answer that I wanted and admitted something he probably wouldn't have if he was on guard. And it was all because I dipped that tough cookie in milk and used a little bit of empathy on him. Now, another thing I wanna talk about, and I see this more and more in our profession, is these attorneys who are trained to beat their chest over things. And it just drives me nuts. As an attorney, you know the strong, you should, if you're a good attorney, you know the strengths of your case or your transaction. You know what the strong points are, you know what the weak points are. If opposing counsel calls you on the phone and all he does is spend 20 minutes telling you about why you're gonna lose the case, how often does it work on you? How often after that 20 minute haranguing by opposing counsel telling you all the things that are wrong with your case, do you actually say, oh no, I'll, you know, you're right? I probably should just drop this case entirely? Never, never happens. And so it just baffles me that attorneys keep doing this. We don't see this on the show with Ted Lasso. You don't see Ted Lasso taunting people and telling them how he's gonna beat them. That's just not in his nature. And so I would just ask you, next time you are engaged in some chest beating, maybe just say, hey look, we're gonna disagree on the facts, we're gonna disagree on some of the arguments, but what's the best thing for our clients is to get this resolved. And here's how we get it resolved in my mind. Rather than, oh man, you're gonna lose. Here's all the awful things about your case. You don't know how dirty your client is. That just isn't gonna work. So in Texas, we have something called the Texas Lawyers Creed. So a lot of these things that I've talked about so far, the show, these lessons, are things that in Texas we're at least in our model rules of our behavior, these are all guidelines, essentially, for behavior, we're required to do anyways. One of them in Texas is with Texas Lawyers Creed article three, number nine. I can disagree without being disagreeable. I recognize that effective representation does not require antagonistic or obnoxious behavior. And I love that line, because that's a big part of our profession is disagreeing without being disagreeable. It doesn't mean we have to be assholes. When we are assholes, then people notice and people don't like it and people don't like dealing with you again. You get a reputation. It goes around. Another one is in article three, number one, I will be courteous, civil, and prompt in oral and written communications. This is becoming a real problem in our profession, especially with how short we have become with each other in our written communications. Think about emails or text messages. The running joke among young lawyers now is the please fix emails that you get. And all it says is just, please fix. Yep. They mock that because it's just so short, it provides no guidance, it provides no feedback. Another of my favorite is when someone says, per my last email, quote, end quote. Per my last email is just a coded words saying, you idiot, you didn't read my last email. And there's lots of other examples like that, that we've just developed as a shorthand, which are just kind of passive aggressive way of being mean to each other or rude to each other. Another part of the Texas lawyers Creed, and if your state doesn't have the Texas Lawyer Creed, it might be something that you don't even know about. It might have something similar. You might have something similar that's relatable to the Texas Lawyer's Creed. These are just our guidelines for behavior for the attorneys in the bar. Another one is article three, number two, I will not quarrel over matters of forum or style, but I will concentrate on matters of substance. I tell my clients all the time, if attorneys would just concentrate on the substance of the case, rather than all the procedural things, motions to seal, or motions to compel, or motions to extend page limits, or motions to extend time to file answer, all these stupid motions that really don't mean anything, but sometimes you have to brief a motion for extension of page limits by 20 pages, if we just ignored all that, if we just didn't have that, it would cut two thirds of the legal expense in this country. But we don't and that's why we all have jobs. But in Texas, at least on paper, we are required to not quarrel over matters of form or style, but concentrate on matters of substance. We also have a requirement in article three, number six, about agreeing to reasonable requests for extension of time and for waiver of procedural formalities. That seems pretty basic. And then this is one of my favorite sections of the Texas Lawyer's Creed, article three, number 10, I will not without good cause attribute bad motives or unethical conduct to opposing counsel nor bring the profession into disrepute by unfounded accusations of impropriety. I will avoid disparaging personal remarks or acrimony towards opposing counsel, parties, and witnesses. I will not be influenced by any ill feeling between clients. I will abstain from any illusion to personal peculiarities or idiosyncrasies of opposing counsel. This is a good rule. I say this all the time to my clients, that don't attribute something to malice that could be more easily attributed to stupidity. Because most of the time when you see something that has got you riled up, nine times out of 10, it's an innocent mistake or it's a thoughtless mistake, or just thoughtlessness in general. It's not part of some grand evil conspiratorial plan to screw the client over. But most clients, that's where their head goes immediately. And some attorneys, that's where their head goes. They see something come across their desk that they don't like, they say, oh, this is step one in a seven move chess match that they're trying to run on me and they're trying to trick me. And no, nine times out of 10 it's not. Sometimes it is, but nine times out of 10, it's not. All right. Lesson number two is about being a happy warrior. Ted Lasso shows this very well in the show, in the personal difficulties he deals with. He's this American college football coach who has been transplanted to England to coach soccer, a completely different game. And the fans in the stadium start chanting the name, wanker, at him, just over and over again, calling him a wanker. There's a couple soccer hooligans who will yell wanker at him all the time. People just are upset with him because they love this team and he is at least perceived to be there to destroy it. But Ted doesn't let it get to him. You see a part in the show where he says, the whole stadium is chanting over and over again, wanker, and Ted just says, "Well, "we got 90 minutes to prove them wrong." And he goes out and coaches the game. And that's how we have to be sometimes too, is we can't let things get to us. Ted Lasso does this very well of not letting things get to him, but we do a horrible job as attorneys doing it. The next lesson I wanna talk about is one of the more famous lessons of the show. And it's the title of my presentation. It's about being a goldfish. So it's a very early episode in the show. I think it's the second episode. Coach Lasso is on the field coaching the players. One of the players, Sam, makes a mistake, and Ted calls him over and says, "Hey, Sam, come over here." And he says, "You know what the happiest animal in the world is? "It's a goldfish. "It's got a ten second memory. "Be a goldfish, Sam." That's the quote. It's one of the most famous quotes from the show, one of the most famous clips from the show, gets shared around, but that's something that we don't do as attorneys. We don't let things roll off our back that easily. I had a deposition last year, it was a third party witness, neither side controlled this witness. We didn't know what this guy was gonna say at his deposition. And I asked a question of this witness and he gave a very, very bad answer for my client. He told the truth. He didn't say something that was just false. It was just a bad fact that came out. And so I got done with this deposition. I go home, it's still bothering me, lay down that night, go to bed at 10:00, 10;30. And I did not fall asleep until probably 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, because I just laid awake stewing on that 30 second excerpt of that deposition, just going over and over about it over and over again in my mind, just thinking about it, worrying about it, wondering if I could have done something different. And the truth is I couldn't. This was a third party witness. I didn't know what he was going to do. I didn't control his answer. If I hadn't asked the question, the opposing counsel would've asked the question. There's just nothing I could have done about that. And that's a situation where I needed to be a goldfish. I mean, I needed to come with a plan to work around the answer and figure out how it was gonna affect my case, but it did me no good in worrying about it. And this is more than a leadership issue. This is a mental health issue that I believe affects our colleagues more than we know, because we are personally invested in our clients sometimes. We have a job that has consequences. For me, as a high stakes litigator, if I mess up a case, it could cost my client millions of dollars. I don't mess up cases very often or at all, but it does bother me that I could do something that would cost my client that much money. It's a great motivator for me to avoid those mistakes and to double check my work or triple check my work and really think through things. But we have live in this job that has these great consequences at times. And I'm just a commercial litigator. Transactional attorneys have similar issues. If you don't catch something in due diligence, it could cost your client millions of dollars. If you're a family lawyer, if you screw up, it could cost someone their kids. One of my good friends is a criminal defense attorney. And anytime I wanna feel good about myself, I talk to him about what's going on in his life and his stories, because if he screws up, it's somebody going to prison. And that's a huge weight to carry on your shoulders. We get personally invested in this because we do care for our clients and it's hard to let things go. And so we stew on these things. And this be a goldfish is not new wisdom. It's something we've known about for a long time. I'll read you a quote, it says, who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? That's from the Bible, Matthew 6:27. And I'm not quoting that to make this CLE presentation about religion. I'm just pointing out that the book of Matthew is 2000 years old and that is old wisdom of saying, worrying ads nothing to your life, which is basically the same thing as saying, be a goldfish. Lesson number three in the show is about treating everyone equally. And we see this primarily in the relationship between Ted and Nate, the water boy. So Nate is, at the start of the show, is a water boy and he becomes a very consequential character over season one and a really big character in season two of the show. But Ted, his first introduction to Nate happens within the first minute of the show, starting in the first episode of the first season and in this great clip that I show in my presentation, Ted is introduced to Nate and Nate is, we have this kind of meet cute run in where Ted is on the field and he's not supposed to be on the grass and Nate shoos him off the grass and is leading him to his press conference. And Ted asks Nate, "Hey, what's your name?" And Nate says, "My name? "Nobody ever asks my name." And keep in mind, this happens in the first five minutes of the first episode of the first season of this show. And that is where I think I got addicted to Ted Lasso was that very moment, because it was such a heartfelt moment, when you think about this is a guy who's a water boy. His previous manager probably didn't know his name, didn't care to know his name, because he's just not an important person. But Ted Lasso is different. Ted wants to know everybody. He treats everybody the same from the water boy to the team owner. And think about our own lives and just the people that make our lives possible. We have people in our lives that we ignore, but are important to our success. I think about the people in the IT department, who, especially in 2020 and 2021, just accomplish this amazing task of getting us all to work from home during the middle of the pandemic. How many times did we thank those people for doing that? Probably not. Probably not much. You think about the HR people who make sure that we get our paychecks, make sure our reimbursement checks are getting processed, making sure that our benefits are getting paid. You think about our accounting department who sends out our bills, our invoices, make sure we get paid. You think about all these people who, if any of them stopped doing their job, it would have a detrimental effect on your life. But very often we just don't take a moment to treat those people as equally as we do to attorneys, or paralegals, or assistants, because we don't see them. And Ted does a very good job of making sure everybody feels included, everyone feels part of the team. Lesson number four is about empowering your people. And one of the breakout stars of Ted Lasso is a guy named Brett Goldstein who plays Roy Kent. Roy is described by Ted early on in the show as he said, "If we're gonna make any difference here, "the first domino that's gonna fall is in that man's heart." And he's referring to Roy. And he uses Roy in a very interesting way in a clip in the show that I like to play during my presentation, where Roy sees Jamie Tartt and some of the other players bullying Nate, the water boy. And so Jamie goes to Coach Lasso and asks him, "Hey, are you gonna do anything about this? "He's bullying this poor defenseless water boy. "What are you going to do about it?" And Ted says, "Nothing. "I'm not gonna do anything "because the worst thing you could do to a bully "is recognize his behavior. "That's what the bully wants is he wants attention. "And if an authority person tells him to do it, "it's just gonna make him do it even more "because that's what a bully does." And so Roy, as a peer to Jamie goes and talks to Jamie and tells him, "Hey, you gotta stop doing this "or I'm gonna beat the crap out of you." And Jamie listens because Jamie respects Roy as a peer, rather than it coming from an authority figure. And I used this clip from the show to illustrate one thing is that Ted could have done this himself. He could have gone to Jamie and told him, hey, cut it out, don't bully Nate anymore. But he instead got Roy to do it. And Roy functioned as a leader of the team too. And that's what we need from our people. The people that work with us, because we only have a finite number of hours. I mean, we live in the ultimate profession where the only thing we have to sell is our time. We bill by the 10th of an hour or quarter of an hour, whatever the case may be. But you only have a finite number of hours in a day. There's only so many hours you can bill. You only have a finite number of eyes to watch over things. You only have a finite number of hands to do things. The only way you can get things done is by delegating and empowering those underneath you. And too often, we don't do that, because we don't trust the people underneath us. Even though the only way we're going to have somebody reliable is by giving them a little bit of rope and letting them do the task that we want them to and to figure out how to do things on their own. I tell people all the time that you can't micromanage somebody into being a leader. They have to get there on their own. And so sometimes I give my associates some very broad assignments. I don't tell them how to get there and I don't care how they get there. I just want to know that they'll get there at the end, and if they don't, I'll help point them in the right direction. But I want them to go through that process. Delegating and empowering is not enough. You have to trust the people to do that. I mean, you could delegate someone to make copies for you and that may be simple enough for them to handle, but for the type of high stakes things we all handle for our clients or our companies, we need the persons who we delegate to to feel ownership in the decision. And they can't have that ownership if they are micromanaged. And they can't have ownership if they know someone is gonna step in and fill the gaps for them. Next lesson. It's lesson number five. It's called, be curious, not judgemental. Now this is another one of the most famous scenes in the show, Ted Lasso. This scene involves Ted playing a game of darts. There is a bet between Rupert, the former owner of the team, and Ted. Rupert has found a way to gain a small minority ownership position in the team. And he has threatened to be a thorn in Rebecca, his ex-wife's, side through this minority position. So Ted bets him over a game of darts that if Ted wins, then Rupert can't harass Rebecca anymore. But if Rupert wins, Ted will give over some of his managerial powers to Rupert. And so there's this great scene where they're playing darts at a bar, surrounded by a bunch of rowdy soccer hooligans. And Ted says, "You know, people have underestimated me my whole life." And it didn't really hit him until he was driving to drop off his son at school and saw this quote written on a wall that said, be curious, not judgemental. And he said he likes that, because all those times that people were making judgements about him, it wasn't about him, it was about them and what they saw in him rather than what Ted actually was. And Ted uses this quote to then show Rupert that he was wrong about Ted because Ted ends up winning the dart game because Rupert just assumed, well, Ted doesn't know how to play darts, makes this silly bet with Ted, and then Ted kind of pulled a rope-a-dope on him and beat him in this game of darts, because Rupert never asked Ted, have you ever played a lot of darts? And if he had Ted would've said, yeah, played darts every weekend with his dad. And that's how I learned how to play darts and became a very good dart player. But Rupert never asked. He just assumed that Ted was not good at darts and that he would lose the bet because he didn't think about anybody other than himself. And it's important for us too, because this quote, be curious, not judgemental. We all have confirmation biases. We have our blind spots. And we have to be aware of our peripheral vision. Ted knows he has these limitations, but he's still confident. He's confident because he's asked questions. He listens. He's empathetic. He understands. So even when he may not know as much as someone else, he understands the people better. One of the big ironies of the show is that Rebecca made the same mistake with Ted. She assumed that Ted would be bad as a soccer manager because he had never coached soccer before, but she never asked why was Ted, this first year college football coach, ever able to take his team to the national championship game? I mean, there must be some leadership ability in this guy that took his team from a nothing team to the national championship. She didn't ask why. And it's because Ted was good with people. And that's what one of the messages of the show is. You may not need to know the specific content of what you're doing, but if you know how to talk to the people and know how to deal with the people and get the most of the people, then that's most of the battle right there. And so the lesson is don't prejudge people, whether it's your opposing counsel, you might underestimate them or the members of your own team. One of my other favorite quotes from the show, moments from the show, is Rebecca's upset about something her ex husband had did and Ted goes to her, "You may think you're the only one "who can see who he really is, but you're not." Bad people have a way of standing out. Good people have a way of standing out. People who are paying attention, notice the good and the bad people. And so the question for you is do you wanna be one of the good ones or one of the bad ones? Now the last lesson I wanna talk about is just about believing. There's a big moment at the middle of the season, team is down in a game, Ted comes back and we have this stereotypical sports show or sports movie, big rah rah, you can do it, speech from Ted Lasso. And Ted hangs this sign in the locker room and it just says the word believe. And he tells all the members of his team that they need to believe in themselves. And he says later in the show, he says, "For me, success is not about the wins and the losses. "It's about helping these young fellows "be the best versions themselves on and off the field." And sometimes you just have to get your team to believe in themselves, to believe that they can do anything. This has lessons for all of us, especially with how we develop our colleagues. They need to be able to believe that they can go head to head with a more experienced opposing counsel or they can stand up to the person on the business side of the company who's trying to do something improper. Now this lesson of just believing is sounds cheesy. And that may be a cheesy way to end a presentation with a bunch of cynical lawyers, but I think it's a good place to do so. So in closing, I would just say, imagine how much easier your job would be if you could figure out how to neutralize that 10 to 20% of the people who cause 90% of your problems. My wife asked me, "So do you normally have to give presentations "to lawyers to tell them to not be jackasses?" Not normally, but maybe that's what we need to hear. I hope that you get something out of this. It's a great show. I encourage you, if you haven't watched Ted Lasso, to watch it sometime. The second season came out and the second season of the show is completely different from the first. The second season is about leadership lessons and how to deal with people. Season two is all about mental health. And I've done a second presentation about the mental health lessons from Ted Lasso and how mental health affects lawyers. And it's an interesting topic because it's hot on everybody's mind after the pandemic when everybody's experiencing so much burnout right now. And so that may be something for you to look forward to in the future. Ted Lasso, season three, starts sometime in 2022. We'll see when it comes out. And I'm sure there'll be a third version of my presentation after that. But please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. My name, again, is Heath Cheek and I'm at Bell Nunnally. And I want to thank you for your time.

Presenter(s)

HC
Heath Cheek
Partner
Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP

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