Negotiation Ethics for Lawyers: Hollywood Edition (Part Two)

Zach McGee Ted Russell
July 02, 2016
Legal Ethics


Continuing their popular “Negotiation Ethics for Lawyers” series, Ted Russell and Zach McGee switch gears to show how negotiations are portrayed in some popular Hollywood films. In part two, they tackle “Thank You for Smoking,” which stars Aaron Eckhart as slick lobbyist, Nick Naylor, who represents the tobacco industry. In this film, you’ll see Nick masterfully twist words, reframe others’ positions and question their intentions, and engage in other sharp tactics and manipulations in an effort to defend his clients and attack their enemies. Nick is the sort of adversary that you hope never to face in a negotiation, but at one time or another in your career, you’re likely to find yourself sitting across the table from a Nick Naylor-type.

In this program, we take a look at what Nick is doing when he spins, evades and attacks, analyze why his negotiation moves appear to be effective, discuss whether they are ethical under the rules applicable to lawyers, and suggest some ways that you might respond if these sorts of tactics are used on you in a negotiation, including:

Attacking the Other Side’s Motives;
Creating a Conflict of Interest;
Feigning Alignment of Interests;
Phony Facts;
Playing to Emotions;
Public Shaming;
Red Herring;
Showing Disrespect; and
The Best Defense, is a Good Offense.

The program will include a review of the key ethics rules that apply when lawyers act as negotiators as well as some useful negotiation techniques and strategies. This program will benefit both litigators and transactional attorneys, as it includes examples drawn from both litigation and deal-making scenarios.


Zach McGee, Senior Vice President, Business Affairs, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA

Ted Russell, Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, Digital, Home Entertainment and Television Distribution, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Los Angeles, CA

Zach leads worldwide business affairs for Sony’s home entertainment division. Before moving to Sony, he was the Senior Vice President, Head of Business & Legal Affairs at Miramax, a leading independent film and television studio. Before joining Miramax, Zach was a Vice President, Legal Affairs, with NBC Universal, Inc. Prior to moving in-house, he was an associate with Davis Polk. Zach clerked for the Honorable Michael B. Mukasey, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and he received his Masters of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Zach also has taught negotiation ethics for lawyers as an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University.

Ted negotiates deals for the distribution of film and television content in digital and traditional media. Prior to that, he was Senior Vice President, Litigation, for Fox Entertainment Group, handling all manner of legal problems faced by Fox's film, television, cable, sports and Internet properties. Ted has substantial experience litigating in state and federal courts. He has lectured on topics ranging from electronic discovery to crisis management. But his true academic interest arises in the context of negotiations, and specifically the legal, ethical, and practical limitations imposed on lawyers participating in negotiations. Ted serves as a Lecturer in Law at USC Gould School of Law, where he teaches a course in Negotiation Ethics, and as an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University. Before joining Fox in 1998, he was a business and employment litigator at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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