At Arnold & Porter, an elaborate Olympics spoof

Company: Arnold & Porter.

Location: Washington, McLean.

Employees: 425 locally; 682 globally.

Last summer, an e-mail pinged around the Washington office of Arnold & Porter: “Does anyone know why her majesty is in elevator number nine?”

The questioner was referring to the mysterious life-sized cardboard cutout of Queen Elizabeth II that had been riding the elevator all day at the law firm.

The question didn’t get an immediate answer, but more oddities popped up throughout the week: Other cardboard members of the royal family joined their matriarch in the elevator. A starting line was set up in the lobby.

By the end of the week, the scheme was revealed: With the Olympics about to get underway in London, Arnold & Porter would stage its own Olympics-inspired competition.

Allison Rumsey and Anne Davis hatched the idea when some of the firm’s partners were invited by clients to attend the quadrennial event in London.

“We were not invited, so we thought, ‘Okay, fine. We’ll have our own Olympics,’” said Davis, a partner and general counsel.

The pair didn’t bother with a formal process for getting their plan off the ground.

“We know committees kill the fun,” said Rumsey, a partner. “We just reached out to people at the firm who had a good sense of humor to help us.”

The result was a days-long spoof of pomp and pageantry. They transformed the office cafeteria into “athlete’s village.” They ordered sweatbands and matching tube socks for participants. An operations staffer built a medal stand in his garage and hauled it into the office.

Competitions included table tennis, mini golf and the “CFR throw,” in which the massive Code of Federal Regulations book was thrown like a discus. Someone dislocated a shoulder during office-chair basketball, which used freestanding plastic kiddie hoops from the child care center downstairs.

The event wrapped with a closing ceremony in which staffers dined on British-themed food and winners received medals made of chocolate.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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