Of Numbers and Names -- The Week That Was

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a business executive slamming his desk and saying, “What? A billion is a thousand million? Why wasn’t I informed of this!!?”

I think about that cartoon as I contemplate the numbers of the past week. First, there is the $700 billion bailout package. Just as I’m wrapping my brain around all those zeroes, we learn that on Monday, the market went down by a trillion dollars.  

A trillion dollars. That’s a thousand billion. It’s like a million millionaires losing everything in a single trading day.

With losses like these, it’s not surprising to see the actions taken by two firms to respond to the financial crisis. On Wednesday, Susman Godfrey announced the creation of its “Financial Fraud Task Force,” moving their most experienced partners from across the country and relocating them temporarily to the firm’s New York office.

That same day Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney announced the formation of its “Financial Crisis Working Group,” bringing together the firm’s resources from offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia to help businesses deal with the crisis. 

I love these terms. It’s no longer a “practice group.”  That term is too staid -- too plodding for these rapidly changing times. “Task Force” and “Working Group” imply immediate action, a work-through-the-night rapid response. They conjure up images of  legal special ops forces. 

It will be interesting to see how other firms follow. But they better hurry. The best names are going fast.