An unnamed Netflix lawyer has unwittingly gone viral (and struck PR gold in the process) by penning a good-natured cease and desist letter to the proprietors of a pop-up bar based (without consent) on Stranger Things – one of its flagship series.
The letter deploys a series of geeky references to the show as well as a convivial tone, which appealed enough to the bar owners that they went public with it. Cue media frenzy.
The fact this has made such an impact is interesting, and says something about approaches to legal problems.
Being more collaborative doesn't necessarily mean being less effective. If you read the Netflix letter in full, it operates perfectly as a warning shot (and the transgressors are left in no doubt as to what is expected of them legally), but at its heart is also a desire to preserve relationships and generally enhance the client's standing. These aims are not always mutually exclusive.
It is also a lesson in seeing things from the other side’s point of view and being alive to the reputational consequences of your engagement with others – two fundamental characteristics of good lawyering.
Recent years have seen a noticeable shift in how lawyers are engaging with their clients and (just as importantly) their counterparties - driven by developments like the growth of in-house legal teams (and lawyers who are "closer to the business"), as well as the current popularity of ‘collaboration’ and ‘partnership’-style deals. So the skills on show in the Netflix example are becoming more prevalent (and important).
Of course, many will be thinking “that’s all fine when you’re dealing with a couple of Sci-Fi fans and their pop-up bar, but you'd struggle to be that cute in an off-shore drilling dispute”. And it's hard to argue with that.
But even when the complexity, risk or value are high, there may be something to be said for stepping away from the template and trying a unique approach.
Someone at Netflix just got a pay rise. A nerdy cease and desist letter has gone viral after the streaming giant told a Stranger Things themed bar called The Upside Down to go, well, upside down.