De Files – De Files — Part II

(This is a long narrative. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos at the end of the post and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

In Part I of this Thebeerchaser post, I mentioned how my wife of almost 43 years has understandably insisted that I significantly reduce the myriad files in our garage, my office and scattered throughout filing cabinets we own.  (That means recycle most of them especially if they have not been viewed in the last ten to fifteen years.) 

In the last post I gave examples of material from my employment at Clackamas County and one undergrad college paper with a cryptic comment from a professor – one I didn’t use for a reference in my graduate school admission process…

I worked with lawyers in a management capacity for over thirty-five years at the Oregon State Bar and the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm based in Portland’s PacWest Center.  So in my first 2023 post, I’ll begin by giving you some glimpses of the enjoyment I got from the humor surrounding this work. 

Was it a  stressful environment?

Yes! 

But one where the tension was eased by jocularity and people not taking themselves too seriously.

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# External photo attribution at the end of the post. (#1 – #2)

Schwabe had a wonderful culture, shared by attorneys and staff alike and was a major factor why we regularly landed in the top ranks of Oregon’s Best Employers as rated by the employees themselves. There was an organizational sense of humor.

Lawyers are a competitive group and ensconced within the five floors of the thirty-three story PacWest Center in Portland, there was often a friendly rivalry on who could come up with the wittiest electronic missive or response to an e-mail.  The same was true in all the offices whether Seattle, Vancouver or Bend.

I have to admit as the COO, I tended to reinforce this trait by recognition of several “Emails of the Year” at our firm’s annual retreat – I’d present bottles of wine to the winners. 

The first one I saved from 1996.  (Now you know why Janet is on my case!)  It was even authored by a tax lawyer – a group often stereotyped as having senses of humor tantamount to the humor buried in the pages of the Internal Revenue Code on depreciation…… (#3)

A comedian’s source book?

I will generally omit the names of the senders in this post (although I don’t think they would mind and their colleagues would recognize the senders). 

The one below was authored by a brilliant tax litigator who would periodically send an e-mail to the entire Firm entitled, “Taxes are Your Friend.”  These would include an excerpt from the Code accompanied by a picture of a rabbit with a pancake or waffle on its head.

We also had a “junk-mail” address where people could send questions, advertise items for sale or raise other issues not related to client business.  This one started with the following inquiry: 

Question:  Is anyone familiar with how real estate is transferred in Brazil?  (#5 – #6)

Response:  The entire town stands along the property lines of the property to be conveyed.  A representative of the town recorder called the “Schlimph” garrotes a chicken and the children of the village spread the feathers at the corner of the property.

Then the appointed elders (“drelba”) while chanting ancient real estate incantations, pick up dirt clods and rocks and hurl them in the air.  Finally, a small child is selected from the crowd and forced to chug large quantities of Eucalyptus Tea and Tabasco while the rest of the villages shout “Go!” “Go!” “Go”.

If the selected child becomes ill, the transaction is considered “closed” and the buyer and seller exchange twigs from the plants growing on the property and go home. If the child is unaffected by the ordeal, the buyer and the seller are sacrificed to the real estate gods in the “Ritual of the Ostrich” and property eschews to the Schlimph.  (I hope this is helpful….)

Impermeable?

The one below was the winner at the 2010 Firm Retreat – written by one of my favorite associates in the Environmental and Natural Resources Group.  Notwithstanding his feigned disregard for Mother Earth, he’s now a partner.   

The Truth – Sometimes Stranger Than Fiction

Of course, e-mails were also sent to lawyers seeking expert witnesses, referrals, case cites, etc.  This one emanated from another Environmental Lawyer in 2005.

Bowler suit 1

Employment and Labor Law generated some of the most interesting and often bizarre situations.   While the following matter was not one at Schwabe, I added this 1967 case https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/257/468.html) to my files years afterwards as a keeper when I started collecting these treasures.

I was only a freshman in college when it went to trial, but I’ve kept it all these years.  Maybe because it portended some of the recent lawsuits involving education and religion – perhaps it’s surprising it’s not on a current docket.  (#7)

The Daily Grind…

Maybe there are days when it’s not the stress of legal work, but just daily life that makes one yearn for a highball at the end of the day.   This premise was demonstrated in this 2001 e-mail from one of our Seattle lawyers who inquired of his colleagues at 4:06 in the afternoon:

One difference between Schwabe and many other big firms was the lack of a status difference between attorneys and management.   They viewed non-attorney managers as professionals – in fact all staff were treated as professionals which helped the cohesiveness and teamwork at the firm.

And Management was often tasked with having to say “no.”   We made ongoing decisions on space planning and who received which office, negotiated on annual billable hour goals and, of course, determined compensation.  The list goes on…..

Just as the lawyer above, had a toddy with colleagues at the end of the day, one didn’t necessarily need to leave the firm as the daily grind ended.  This was the case when I appreciated the chance to have a single-malt beverage with the partner whose office was next to mine after she sent this e-mail.  We enjoyed at least one shot of Balvenie Scotch.

Patty Dost (3)

 I mentioned space planning as one of Management’s ongoing challenges.  The same was true anytime there was a major remodel or a build-out when the firm expanded to an additional floor. 

Gaining anything close to a favorable reaction on carpet, paint color or even design of nameplates was problematic. (I could devote a book chapter on the Firm’s Art Committee alone……)

I’m going to depart from my stated guideline and name the lawyer who authored the next e-mail because he was well known in both legal and local broadcast circles and also served on the firm’s Board for a number of years and was supportive of Management decisions.

Jack Faust – one of my former Beerchasers-of-the-Quarters – moderated an award-winning Portland civic affairs television program (“Town Hall”) for many years and was also one of the most respected practitioners of appellate law in Oregon. 

He also loved engaging in the humorous revelry and we still recount these stories on some of the numerous Beerchasing Events we’ve had at various Portland bars since retirement. (The picture on the right below was not on one of those events, but from Jack’s law school years.) 

He offered these words of comfort to the Portland office in the midst of a major build-out on two floors in 2003:

Faust - Town Hall 5

Head Shot?

It’s not only the substantive legal issues that complicate lives in a large regional law firm.  As the prohibition against lawyer advertising prohibited by most states’ ethics rule was struck down in a 1977 US Supreme Court decision (Bates v. State Bar of Arizona), the practice of law forever changed. 

Interestingly, three justices (Warren Burger, Lewis Powell Jr. and William Rehnquist) predicted dire consequences.  As Powell stated “…..will effect profound changes in the practice of law, viewed for centuries as a learned profession.”(#8)

…Will effect profound changes in the practice of law……

When I worked at the Oregon State Bar in the late ’70’s, the Board of Governors spent a good part of every meeting discussing how to discipline lawyers who viloated the Ethical Rules by advertising. 

That changed and by the mid ’80’s, most large law firms had Marketing Directors (Schwabe used the euphemism “Director of Client Relations.”)    If a lawyer wanted to become a partner, he or she had to be effective at bringing in new clients.  Professional photographs for resumes and to spiffy up responses to Requests for Proposals became the norm. 

The aforementioned tax lawyer (see above) often battled with the Internal Revenue Service and offered this tongue-in-cheek response to the following 2007 e-mail from Client Relations.  The advice from the Marketing Assistant is also sanctimonious and I’m sure drew some deserved sarcastic responses:

Marketing Assistant: All Attorneys, Paralegals and Managers – our firm photographer will be in the Portland office.  Please dress however, you feel comfortable being represented as a professional – some prefer jacket and tie, others in shirt sleeves, still others in sweaters. – whatever represents who you are. 

These are color individual Headshots (emphasis added) so take advantage and put a little color in the clothes you wear (a bright tie, a colored blazer or shirt….)  

Tax Lawyer: Please do not use the term “Headshot” with those of us who deal with the IRS on a regular basis.  It makes us nervous.

The Oregon State Bar

This is a digression from Schwabe matters because the letter below was received by the Oregon State Bar when I worked there as Business Manager.  But it’s part of my collection. (#9)

Before getting into the essence of Ethics Opinion (No. 475) issued in 1982, I have to state that I loved working with lawyers from 1974 until my retirement in 2011.   

The overwhelming majority of those I met and with whom I worked were not only skilled and dedicated professionals, but people with whom I would not hesitate to have a beer and enjoyed their company.

Now I realize there are lawyer stereotypes – just like those that characterize sales people, undertakers, actuaries and consultants.   And while I disagree with the portrayal of J.W. Reid  from Costa Mesa, CA who wrote this letter, I had to laugh at his assertion.

It was written after the Bar issued an opinion (It was modified in 2005 with Opinion 2005-140) that stated except under very limited circumstances, a lawyer may not have a consensual sexual relationship with a client. 

The opinion made major headlines and Mr. Reid evidently focused on the limited circumstances allowing sex when he wrote the following:

Now the unnamed gentleman below from Independence, Oregon in his 1981 letter indicates anger and revenge for the Oregon State Bar based on a prior act, but the lack of specificity in his notice of claim indicates that he might need the assistance of a lawyer:

oregon State bar lawsuit 1

Expense Reimbursement and Perks

While working as a lawyer in private practice involves stress and very long hours, it had definite advantages – among them generous compensation and year-end bonuses and good benefits and perks – including travel to conferences and seminars paid by the firm.  (#10 – #11)

There were several trends that diminished law firms’ willingness to pay travel and lodging expense at these events.  The economics of law grew much tighter with the over-supply of lawyers and increased competition from advertising in the late 1980’s.   Clients became more sophisticated and concerned with the escalation of fees and costs. 

More importantly, the IRS also modified it rules on the deductibility of meals and entertainment – also spousal travel.  Agents also targeted professional service firms because there were often excesses under the guise of marketing.  (Maybe taxes aren’t always your friend!”)

Prior to that time, the firm would sometimes pay for senior partners to take their spouses to major events such as the American Bar Association National Convention or other professional association meetings.  This included spousal air travel, meals and lodging.   

The enhanced IRS enforcement and requirements now meant that among other requirements:

…… where a taxpayer’s spouse accompanies the taxpayer on a business trip, the travel expenses will not be deductible unless the spouse’s presence on the trip has a bona fide business purpose.” (emphasis added) (#12)

Interpretation of “Bona fide business purpose.”

Of course, garnering agreement on the definition of “bona fide business purpose” generated  debate – maybe of a lesser scale, but almost as vociferous – as that resulting from Justice Potter Stewart describing his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964. 

And since I was involved in the final approval of these expenses, I enjoyed many of the esoteric justifications submitted.  Perhaps my favorite was the one below which also shows another trait exhibited by many lawyers.  While they may be stereotyped as having inflated egos, I always appreciated the self-deprecating humor shown by many as evidenced below:

While we appreciated his witticism, he either paid for his wife’s expenses out of his own pocket, or she stayed in Seattle while he enjoyed Florida’s sunny climate!

And Finally….

You’ve seen a very small sample of the items I’ve saved from my career in legal management and I’ll leave you with this classic.   The development of a robust Intellectual Property Practice at Schwabe (Patent, Trademark, Copyright, IP Litigation, etc.) began in 2002 under the late Al AuYueng – a gifted lawyer and manager.  It had some interesting implications.

While Schwabe lawyers making the cut to get hired as new associates were very smart and well-educated, the new IP attorneys possessed both of these qualifications, but their educations surpassed that of their colleagues. 

Besides undergrad and law school degrees and passage of the Bar, most of them also had masters’ degrees or doctorates in fields such as Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics or Computer Science.  They also had to pass the Patent Bar Exam.

Their high-tech clients had technical and esoteric issues requiring expert legal advice.  One of my favorites was this one from Al – his inquiry was serious – but his e-mail drew two great responses from lawyers who couldn’t resist the opportunity:

Al Au Yeung:  Does anyone have a recommendation for a carbon dating service?

Lawyer No. I:  Match.com?

Lawyer No. 2:  That’s the response I sent to Al, but I also warned him that they will often bait and switch. They show photos of really attractive minerals and all you end up with are common minerals such as silicon and iron.  You never strike gold!

A Final Comment on Enlightened Management

I worked for two co-managing Partners for most of the years I was the COO.  Mark Long and Dave Bartz were not only distinguished lawyers in their specialties, but had remarkable management instincts – and they complemented each other.

The length of their tenure belies the respect of their lawyer colleagues and that of all firm personnel.  They are both now honored with Emeritus status. (Long on the left and Bartz on the right).

0315_lil_long_and_bartz1

They were also very approachable and collegial which is why one firm paralegal did not feel threatened sending this e-mail to one of them under his own e-mail address: (you’ll have to guess which one received as I don’t want to get fired retroactively!  (In fact, I think the only way I got this e-mail was the recipient laughed about it and forwarded it to me.)

long scan test (2)

Cheers and Happy New Year!

External Photo Attribution

#1.  Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=513523270102753&set=pb.100043352539827.-2207520000.&type=3)

#2.  (https://www.facebook.com/schwabelegal/photos/pb.

100043352539827.-2207520000./1439037686148006/?type=3)

#3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internal_Revenue_Code.jpg)  This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

#5.  Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brazil_on_the_globe_

(Brazilian_Antarctica_claims_hatched)_(Chile_centered).svg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author:  TUBS    21 June 2011.

#6.  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heres_a_bunny_with_waffle.png) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Source: File:Oolong the Rabbit’s last performance (2003).jpg: Hironori Akutagawa Derivative work: Yuval Y § Chat §

#7.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HCS_bus49.JPG) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, William Grimes at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.  19 February 2007.

#8.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Supreme_Court_Justice_Lewis_Powell_-_1976_official_portrait.jpg)  This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

#9.Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sex_education.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Shairyar.khan.7  7 December 2015.

#10.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_Bar_Association_3c_1953_issue_U.S._stamp.jpg) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

#11. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Airbus_A380_blue_sky.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Flickr user Axwel  12 May 2007.

#12.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue-Eagle%2BIRS.png). This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

#13.  Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon (https://djcoregon.com/news/2012/03/16/leadership-in-law-mark-long-and-david-bartz/)  Author:  in 1535March 16, 2012.

 

Lawyers Continued: Summer Associates – Part I

In an August 2020 blog post I did an initial tribute to attorneys naming them Beerchaser-of-the – Quarter – Part I.   This was based on my forty years working with them – not as a lawyer, but as a legal manager.  After working with lawyers at both Clackamas County and the Oregon State Bar, the last twenty-five years of my career were spent at the Northwest Regional law firm, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.

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While first serving as Business Manager, I retired after twelve years as the Chief Operating Officer of this 150 lawyer firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon which then had four branch offices, the primary one being in Seattle. (Oh yes, for awhile, we also had a lobbyist in Washington, DC. as well.) My beerchasing hobby started in August 2011, eight months after I retired.

Herding

Herding Cats – A retirement present – Look at the label on the bottles!

While most people really like their own lawyer, the group as a whole, seldom receives accolades and is often subject to stereo-typical and often pejorative labels.  

As is true in any profession, I know that a number of attorneys are egotistical jerks, flaunt the ethics of the profession and would not be good drinking companions.  That said, my 40+ years working with lawyers in three different organizations were rewarding and an opportunity to interact with ethical, smart, dedicated advocates who have amazing work ethics and elevated senses of humor.  Many cherished friendships resulted.

Wikipedia - Public Domain

“It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing and talk by the hour.” *1

(*1  Attribution for the photos not taken by Don Williams is at the end of this post.)

Below, you will glean some information about the amazing backgrounds, and without exaggeration, the incredible talents and abilities of the law students who would seek employment at Schwabe and other firms during the summers of their first two years at law school.  While we also hired both new lawyers and lateral attorneys who hadn’t gone through the summer associate program, it was the best source of new lawyers.

If they performed well during those summers and had positive personal interactions with attorneys and staff, they would be offered a job at the firm when they graduated contingent on their passage of the State Bar in their jurisdiction.

Competition among law firms was intense for the best students as these were the future of the firm.   And the law students also went into overdrive to get a cherished clerkship. A small number would eventually make it to partner – usually after about seven years – and others would enhance the economics of the firm and be esteemed colleagues until they moved on.  And while everyone worked hard, Schwabe was a very collegial firm with a great culture.

During the 1970’s and until economics and the changing practice of law dictated otherwise, we recruited by sending two of our lawyers to the top law schools to interview prospects on campus.  Most, besides Stanford, were on the east coast including the Ivy League Schools, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan (shown in the photo above).

If they were selected and chose our firm, the law students would spend the next one or two summers in Portland or Seattle demonstrating that they could explain the nuances of such stimulating topics as the Rule of Perpetuities or the five factors considered under the Daubert Standard, work well with others and that they had the personality and drive to ultimately bring in new clients.

For the most part, we ended this expensive east coast recruiting  practice in the first decade of the new millennium, realizing that most of the top students at these schools would take clerkships at the Wall Street firms or the mega-firms on the east coast where beginning associates who essentially had very limited experience would be making well over $100,000 per year (+ bonuses) even then!

Concurrently, we realized that those who excelled at good law schools in the Northwest might not have the sterling academic pedigree, but were just as smart and motivated as Ivy League stock.  Besides, they often had relationships with people on the West Coast that could become good clients.

These “kids” had a good situation.  Once they got to the firm, they were wined and dined at lunch and dinner, participated in lawyer-league athletics, got a lot of hands-on mentoring and attended professional sporting events and concerts where they had great tickets.   They were also paid extremely well for their efforts which did not require inordinate working hours.  (They would encounter these if they became associates……)

Before they arrived, we had them complete detailed questionnaires on their interests, experience, talents, etc. – information which probably didn’t arise in the personal interviews on campus where they were selected.  This was so the people at the firm would be able to get acquainted more quickly.  When they arrived in early June, we also gave them an all-day orientation about what to expect and tips on how to be successful.

Based on assertion in the memorable epigraph by eighteenth century English essayist and poet, Charles Lamb, at the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird, I decided that for my thirty minute orientation spiel, rather than bore them talking about firm Management, I’d tell them a little about their summer associate colleagues – their lives and activities outside of law school and before they decided on that academic route.

 

Charles Lamb

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. *8

Who were these elite students sitting beside them (or on video link from Seattle) and what made them interesting and worth joining at a bar after work for a pint of IPA?  For many years during the heyday of legal economics, we would hire about fifteen clerks each summer.

Most of these wiz-kids did very well and unlike at some big firms where they would cull substantially, Schwabe made associate offers to about 85% of its summer clerks and our acceptance rate was very high.  (It should be added that law would be a second career for a number of these individuals or they had worked for a period between college and law school.)

(Note:  With the pandemic, most of the summer associate programs were temporarily discontinued and before that, law firm economics significantly reduced the number of summer clerks in many firms to single digits.)

Below, I have combined the data on the summer associate classes at Schwabe for a three-year span (2005 and 2007-8.  I either lost the file for 2006 or they were a boring class.)  I think this will demonstrate the exceptional nature of these young students. 

I have to add, that based on their accomplishments, while one might expect them to be very confident and brash, they as a group, were almost without exception, well-rounded, modest and very personable.

Languages besides English

Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Persian (just learning….), Basque and Pig Latin (we loved this guy!).

Previous summer jobs or occupations

Waiter/waitress, receptionist, paralegal, English teacher, reporter (once interviewed Toni Braxton and Santana), AV technician, college admission counselor, life insurance sales (80-hour weeks for twelve weeks with top sales awards), risk analyst, consultant, co-director of Victoria Secret store.

Manager, engineer, barista, quality assurance analyst (in a waste treatment plant?!), UPS worker, chauffer, church youth director, customs broker, computer network engineer, manager of a wilderness backpacking firm, semi-pro football player, survey researcher (tracked Wisconsin vendors who sold tobacco to minors), Russian interpreter (dealt with international trade and environmental matters), high school vice principal of discipline and supervision, business manager at Party City.

High school chemistry teacher, credit risk analyst, personal banker, grass seed farmer, jewelry salesperson, drugstore clerk, general manager of Fun-time Fireworks, fire prevention specialist (coordinated Smokey the Bear appearances).  Fortunately, there were no sparks and we did not have to mediate any disputes between the fire prevention specialist and the manager of the fireworks operation.  

This post is getting too long and the other categories for which I have data were also very interesting and I’ll cover these in my next post.  So stay tune.  They include sports in which they participated, hobbies and interests, past volunteer or civic activities, education besides law school and foods they liked – or wanted to avoid.  Remember, they got to dine out just about every day because it was a good chance for our lawyers to meet them and see how they acted in an informal setting.  

I want to conclude this post, however, with a letter from one law school student – not from the summer associate program but who applied for a job upon his future graduation from law school.   

He was from a very good law school in the Midwest and his letter was unforgettable – at least to me – which is why I’ve kept it in my archives for thirty years.  The internet is a marvelous research tool and I have to admit that I did a successful search for the author of this missive.

I’ve decided to black out his name and most of the details although my instinct is that this guy just had a dry sense of humor and was trying to remedy an embarrassing error with jocularity.  Unfortunately, he did not get hired.   

That said, he’s done well during the ensuing years.  After graduating from law school and passing the state and federal bars, he’s had an impressive career in legal education, legal professional associations and a stint as consultant for an international mega-firm.  He currently works at a university on the east coast.

After consulting with some of my attorney friends, I may actually call the guy, introduce myself and just ask him how this happened and his thoughts about this long-ago missive.   If he’s like most of the lawyers I know, he would laugh about it and we might ultimately end up having a beer together at some point.

Law clerk letter 1

Bad judgement or a dry sense of humor?

Photo Attributions

*1.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Lady Justice 

*2.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – University of Michigan Law School

*3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – PacWest Center 

*4. Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.- US Bank Centre Seattle – Author: Cumulus Cloud – 8/1/2008

*5.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Willamette University College of Law

*6.  Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Lewis and Clark Law School – Author: lbcstud – 6/3/2014

*7.  Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0University of Washington Law School – Author: Joe Mabel – 8/11/2009

*8.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – English Essayist and Poet Charles Lamb

*9.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Smokey the Bear

*10.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Fireworks show