Fiddling While Rome Burns

If you haven’t seen the Why Heller Didn’t Survive article in the recent issue of The American Lawyer, then take a look at this quote:

“When Heller Ehrman partners gathered at Santa Barbara’s Bacara Resort & Spa in March 2007, there was already reason to be concerned about the firm’s future. Several practice areas were slow. The firm’s national and global ambitions were in disarray. And partners were increasingly skeptical about management’s ability to address the problems. But that weekend they were determined to laugh at this somewhat worrisome predicament.

The final night of the retreat featured a $300,000 skit. Performers from the Los Angeles Opera, accompanied by a professional orchestra, portrayed Chairman Matthew Larrabee and other firm leaders frantically searching for a merger partner. “Some people were laughing, but I thought it was surreal,” says one former shareholder (Heller’s term for partner).”

and once you have picked up your bottom jaw or your entire self off the floor, tell me:

– can anyone confirm said skit and said price tag?

– can anyone give a synopsis?  Not a review – this is not the theater section of the New York Times

– does anyone have a video?  Oh how I’d love to post it here on HH.

And can someone tell me why this makes the AIG Retreat look like a working lunch?

Over and out of my mind

Heller Drone
Cruise Director

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9 Responses to “Fiddling While Rome Burns”


  1. 1 hellerclerk 10 November 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Criminally negligent mismanagement.

  2. 2 Former Heller Assoc 10 November 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Seriously? Shady. Glad I went out on my own and don’t work for any of these numskulls anymore. I hope their new firms keep an eye on these guys.

  3. 3 marketingclerk 10 November 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I’m pretty sure that’s true. Heller has always had “grand” shareholder retreats but WOW, that’s a big number! A lot of those skits were taped but I’m pretty sure they are under lock & key buy those whole planned the meeting and/or the Executive Committee.

  4. 4 Library Funkmeister 10 November 2008 at 10:33 pm

    How I’d love to read that article in AmLaw, but it seems you need a subscription. Is there any way to republish it for free?

  5. 5 Observer 11 November 2008 at 2:36 am

    Try here for the article:

    http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/PubArticleCA.jsp?id=1202425894093&hubType=LawFirms

    Read to me like a pretty good overview of the strategic errors of the past five years (and longer, actually). I’m skeptical of that dollar figure for the skit, but I haven’t seen it and don’t know the truth on that.

    Not sure I would want to watch a video of it even if it were available. (I don’t like to throw up while watching movies.)

  6. 6 Library Funkmeister 11 November 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Observer, I’m still being asked for a login cookie.
    I guess I’ll try my local law library ;)

  7. 7 Off With The Show 11 November 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Yes, there was such a production. It was terrible. Poor concept, and a lot of stupid attempts at being funny, all at the expense of one or two people.

    All I could think to myself when I was watching it unfold is, how much did this cost? The price tag is close enough, given the number of people in the show.

    Hardly a new thing. This escapade had been done at retreats before too. I guess that’s entertainment.

  8. 8 EyeWitnessInLA 13 November 2008 at 12:46 am

    I saw the planning, the music and the price tag – now you know why certain people were in charge of billing rates – to cover the expenses of shareholders’ write-offs, client discounts and “business development” dinners……

  9. 9 hellerclerk 14 November 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Someone ought to be serving time in a cold cell for this. Preferably as a cellmate to a large, indiscriminate rapist.


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