August 2015 Bar Bulletin
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Lessons from Television Shows



At its worst, television is a means for subliminally influencing us to buy things we don't want. Whether blatant infomercials or careful product placement within your favorite show, we know we're being manipulated. I've wondered more than once when waking from a nap on the couch, television still on, whether I've been conditioned against my will to buy a Ginsu knife or start playing a game of solitaire to pass the time (mother of the year: Angela Lansbury).

At its best, however, television provides news, entertainment and even education. For my part I've learned a lot of lessons from television that I think can help KCBA continue as our region's most well-respected bar association. This month I'll share three of them.

Lesson No. 1 comes courtesy of "The West Wing" (1999–2006), reruns of which I confess to binge watching from time to time. The energy of that workplace is without parallel, evidenced by the constant "walk and talk" style of the scenes. One important conversation begins in the press secretary's office, continues with additional people in an adjacent hallway, others drop off from the conversation in the chief of staff's office, and suddenly the discussion ends with a meeting in the Oval Office.

My take-away here is that the value of spontaneous interaction with smart colleagues can frequently take a good idea and make it great. We lose that synergy when we spend too much time telecommuting, phoning into conference calls and working in isolation. That's a good reminder for me to keep encouraging KCBA volunteer leaders and staff to work together in person whenever possible.

Lesson No. 2 comes courtesy of "Dallas" (1978–1991), a show where I confess I rooted for J.R. Ewing to succeed no matter how badly he behaved (after all, Bobby would always clean things up later). Not to worry, I'm not about to suggest that ruthless business deals are something KCBA should emulate (although there are days ...).

No, my take-away is actually about the importance of diversification of your revenue sources. Every TV junkie knows about the show's big focus on oil. But there was also a lot of money flowing from the ranch, with its cattle and related activities.

That's a good reminder for KCBA to not rely solely on membership dues to fund our programs - we want to raise money also from CLE fees, publication sales and fundraising, giving us a diversified pool of dollars. Our Association will be stronger when we don't take a mortgage out on Southfork to underwrite an oil deal, so to speak.

Finally, Lesson No. 3 comes courtesy of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970–1977), a series where I often enjoyed the supporting characters more than Mary herself. Who wouldn't want to work with Murray as your officemate, or smile at Sue Anne's never-ending attempts to go out with Lou Grant, or wonder how the writers created Rhoda's mother to be just like your own (guilt is a wonderful tool when used for good - and a laugh).

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