What Lawyers Can Learn From Mad Men: 5 Lessons From Draper et al.

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 19, 2015 3:58 PM

The last episode of AMC's "Mad Men"aired this weekend, bringing to a close the critically acclaimed, booze-soaked series. While the show focused on the advertising industry in the 1960's, there's plenty that lawyers can learn from the chain-smoking, heavy-drinking characters.

Besides the best way to mix a cocktail before lunch, or why you shouldn't smoke a pack a day, here's five important lessons lawyers can take from "Mad Men:"

1. It's Not the 60's Anymore

"Mad Men's" first episode opened in 1960; it's last was set ten years later. The show, and its characters, tracked the massive shifts that occurred over that decade and since. Much of what happened is a lesson in what not to do. Don't sexually harass your staff, don't embezzle money, don't drink so much you wet yourself at work. Rocket Lawyer assembled a handy infographic for those who need a refresher on whether you can fight your colleagues or not.

2. A Woman's Place is in the Board Room

When the series began, Joan Harris, the firm's red haired office manager, advises Peggy Olson, a mousey new secretary, that if she plays her cards right, she might find a husband. By the end, they'd made it through sexual harassment, belittlement, discrimination and even rape, to become rich, successful, accomplished and independent. Their ascent mirrors the rocky rise of women in the workforce, even if there's still plenty of glass ceilings left to be shattered.

3. Marketing Matters

"Mad Men" is at its heart a show about the power of marketing. Whether it's selling Menken's Department Store to WASPy New Yorkers or your legal services to potential clients, everyone needs a marketing plan to survive. The ability to dig into a client's needs and come up with the perfect pitch were half of what made Don Draper and co. so great -- and successful.

4. Know When to Say Goodbye

Peggy might be a great example of the benefits of finding a mentor -- a large part of her success comes from being Don's protege. But she's a better example of knowing when to break free. Midway through the show's run, Peggy's star begins to wane at the SCDP agency. She's no longer on good accounts, she's yelled at in front of clients, her talent is generally ignored. So she leaves, as she should. She easily lands a better job with more pay and more respect.

5. Don't Be Afraid of Reinvention

You don't have to do a full Don Draper (or should we say Dick Whitman?) to reinvent yourself. Rather, adapting your practice to the times can help you stay at the top of your industry. Just like AMC's ad men ended up embracing T.V., computers and gross 70's mustaches, so too should lawyers evolve, whether it's through embracing new legal technology or burgeoning practice areas.

Oh, and don't drink so much scotch.

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