The Apple TV streaming series Ted Lasso is unlike any television show I’ve encountered. With the explosion of online streaming content, many high quality streaming series (GoT, Ozark, Chernobyl, Bloodline, etc.) pride themselves on grittiness and high drama. Ted Lasso is the antithesis. The series consistently provides uplifting, feel-good viewing on a humorous backdrop. Compared to our current polarized environment, Ted Lasso promotes empathy, kindness, and understanding (while being enjoyable and funny).
Who, what is Ted Lasso? I’ll tell you…AND I will tell you the lessons I, as a 35-year plus transactional legal veteran, learned from the wonderful series when ruminating about my transactional law practice.
However, before we go any further, there are Ted Lasso spoilers ahead and I (as your self-appointed streaming/content counsel) advise you to continue reading at your streaming peril unless and until you complete the three-season series.
The titular character (Ted) is a successful NCAA Division II (American) football coach. He is hired away by the owner (Rebecca) of a failing British soccer club with the goal of making the team flounder to upset her ex-husband (Rupert) from whom she received the club in divorce settlement. His star players are Jaimie Tartt and Roy Kent. The club’s kit man (locker room attendant) is Nate and the team’s PR director is Keeley. Along his sojourn from his success at Wichita State football, Ted brings along his assistant, Coach Beard. Throughout the team’s struggles, there are uplifting lessons to be learned and laughs to be had (including some of the best scenes in comic streaming history).
Now, a brief digression (which served as my muse for writing this piece) follows. Ted is from Kansas. On his journey from home, he brings along his constant companion Coach Beard to a land run by Rebecca where he meets meek Nate, not so smart Jamie, and heartless Roy. SOUND FAMILIAR? Yes, I recognized that Ted Lasso is the Wizard of Oz (especially in Season 3 ). It is not a determining or dominant factor throughout the series; but the Wizard of Oz undercurrent is constant. I’d be happy to debate with you all of the ways in which the show draws upon the Wizard of Oz: overtly in the “There’s no place like home” signs around the Richmond football team stadium and Ted’s red sneakers (clicked together three times during a victory dance) as well as to much more subtle callbacks.
However, we are not going to go down that rabbit hole (pun intended) and dig deeply into things like how “Scarecrow” Jamie Tartt progressed from a simpleton to becoming one of the more thoughtful and astute characters throughout the show (after getting his metaphorical brain) or why Keeley can be viewed as the nice witch Glenda.
When questioning my land of Oz hypothesis, I started to think about how Ted Lasso (above and beyond the wonderful messages and life-coaching advice the show overtly renders episode to episode) lends to other walks of life. In so doing, I settled upon my own legal practice. Let’s take the major Ted Lasso characters one by one and see how their attributes harken to transactional legal practice:
“Dorothy” Ted: The Dorothy in any negotiated transaction is each lead attorney in the transaction. Counsel must navigate a number of obstacles (and adapt using lessons learned along the way) to achieve a favorable “go home” closing result for her client.
“Scarecrow” Jamie: Counsel must draw upon knowledge base and augment it from time to time.
“Lion” Nate: In any negotiation, a transactional attorney must pick the appropriate deal points to display courage and effectively advocate for client objectives. Remaining neutral throughout the course of a deal as a rule will fail when faced with a situation that calls for one’s roar of controlled aggression.
“Tin Man” Roy: In negotiating a transaction, counsel must be able to empathize and understand the counterparty’s desires for certain terms. Having this type of heart/understanding enables your side of the transaction to achieve its own most-desired negotiated deal points.
“Toto” Beard – Every negotiating advocate Dorothy needs a trusted support system including junior counsel, paralegals, technology, and support staff.
“Be a goldfish” – One Lasso saying is “be a goldfish.” The basis for Ted’s pithy advice is that there are situations where having a short memory is beneficial to your maturation as a person and professional. Apparently, goldfish have a memory span of only a handful of seconds. Many times, while I am slugging out deal points in a financing or M&A transaction, the other party will digress and focus on the history of negotiations or “how we got here.” In that situation, it may very well be best to focus the transaction parties on the NOW (rather than the past)…be a goldfish.
The entirety of the subject transaction is the Richmond UK suburb of London (Oz) and serves as the landscape for the evolving journey of getting a significant transaction closed to the satisfaction of your client. It is in Oz (Richmond, the deal) that you/Dorothy navigate the steps that your Wizard (Rebecca, your client) laid out in order to overcome the hurdles to achieve a homecoming closing. Chief among those hurdles may be the Wicked Witch of the West — that’s Ruppert (heck, in the show he owns the West Ham Football Club archrival).
I liken the Ruppert hurdles in a transaction to things like adverse discoveries in due diligence, difficult to obtain third party consents, regulatory approvals, financing contingencies, tax planning, documentation, and purchaser/seller remorse. I BELIEVE a competent transactional attorney needs to be smart, courageous, empathetic, and able to draw upon her support team when needed in order to step out of the Crown and Anchor Pub (metaphorical Munchkinland) and touch down in a deal closing (metaphorical Kansas).
Look for my next blog release “Game of Thrones, Commercial Litigation, and You” coming in November 2023.
Author Robert Londin is a partner in the Jaspan Schlesinger Narendran LLP Commercial Transactions Practice group regularly negotiating M & A, Emerging Growth Company, Executive Compensation, Private Equity, Secured Lending and Complex Litigation Settlement Transactions.