Trying to get your name out there as a corporate lawyer, without spending a dime on advertising?
Follow Twin Cities attorney Bob Gust's lead. With an op-ed piece in the Thursday Star Tribune, Gust demonstrates how to make friends (well, clients) and alienate people, by becoming one of the only people in America to support United Airlines.
If you've been conscious for even a few seconds this week, you're aware of the story of David Dao, the United passenger Chicago police dragged off a flight from Chicago to Louisville, after Dao refused to surrender his seat to members of a flight crew. The tense, humiliating moment was documented by Dao's fellow passengers.
Some of that can be seen here:
The incident has sparked countless follow-ups and think pieces. How do the airline companies get away with treating people like this? Is this United's fault? Or was it Chicago cops that took it too far?
Is Dao really a sympathetic victim? Should the media go digging into someone's past, dredging up any bad thing they've ever done?
Gust eschews these second-day stories, and instead wants to re-litigate the original issue. His take? United did nothing wrong. Neither did the cops. This guy got what he had coming.
The only things bothering Gust are Dao's "selfishness," and the "lack of critical thinking from everyone else."
The needs of United, and its passengers in Louisville (who were awaiting the arrival of this crew from Chicago) takes precedent over this one man, who should've recognized the situation and sacrificed his seat, Gust writes.
When no one took the "generous compensation" offered ($800 and a hotel room for the night, according to reports), Gust says United then "did what it is allowed to do under federal regulations."
Not only was the airline allowed to do this, Gust writes, it was right. Only one person that day was in the wrong:
"[T]his passenger decided that his needs outweighed those of all the other people on the plane with him and all of the people in the destination city who would also be delayed. If he felt he was being wronged by being removed, he could have pursued legal remedies (although he would have lost). Instead, he reacted like many six-year-olds who don’t want to go to bed or eat their vegetables."
One small, telling detail: Throughout his piece, Gust never refers to his subject by name. It's always "the passenger," or "he," "this passenger," or "the defiant United passenger." Pretty neat little de-humanizing trick.
Now, check out the bolded passage above: "although he would have lost." These are the five most important words in Gust's whole piece. If you want to know why, you'll have to read the footer that follows the story.
"Bob Gust, of Bloomington, is a lawyer." Gust's law firm's website fills in the rest.
"Many companies never sue or get sued. Others may only be involved in litigation once, but it is frequently a “you bet the company” type of situation. Others are involved in litigation so regularly that they have their own in-house legal team.
Bob Gust has represented Fortune 500 companies, insurance companies, and other entities that are regularly involved in litigation, but most of his litigation clients are relative novices. The result is often a lot of educating and explaining, but the rewards of helping a potentially vulnerable client are great.
Maybe this whole op-ed is just some of that "educating and explaining" described above. More likely, it's an ad. By voluntarily siding publicly with an airline, the cops, and "the system," in a situation where nearly everyone is on the side of a badly treated individual, Gust is publishing his firm's philosophy up in skywriting.
Whatever your business or institution is accused of doing to someone -- even if it's seen by dozens of witnesses, recorded on camera, and subsequently watched by millions -- Gust's firm can find a way to defend you... perhaps by attacking that "someone," comparing him to a six-year-old who won't eat his vegetables.
"Anyone who chooses to disobey the police is entitled to no sympathy from me," Gust writes at his piece's close. "The fact that anyone is on his side is troubling."
Do not worry or feel troubled if you're unmoved by those lines. Bob Gust wasn't trying to convince you, and the corporations he's writing to were never on David Dao's side to begin with.