George Hedges and the Lost City of Ubar Is Not a Movie Title: It’s His Life

How a curious entertainment lawyer became Indiana Jones

Published in 2008 Southern California Super Lawyers — February 2008

Usually following your interest means reading a good novel or hiking a beautiful path. In the case of George Hedges, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, it meant uncovering a lost Arabian city.

In 1992, Hedges, 55, a specialist in entertainment litigation, and his friend Nicholas Clapp, a documentary filmmaker, assembled a team of archaeologists that discovered the fabled “Lost City of Ubar,” an ancient Arabian center of incense trade buried under the vast, unexplored desert in the “Empty Quarter” region of southern Oman. The discovery was one of Time magazine’s “Top 10 Science Stories” of the year and became the subject of a documentary that ran on PBS’s NOVA series, which Hedges and Clapp produced.

In 1996, Hedges helped establish The Archaeology Fund, a not-for-profit corporation aimed at furthering the team’s explorations of the ancient civilization. A major expedition into the Mahra region of Yemen revealed more than 150 major archaeological sites by 1999.

The Archaeology Fund’s “world headquarters” is Hedges’ office. The team’s work has been interrupted by the political tensions in the region, but Hedges continues to schedule regular trips to the archaeological sites and hopes to uncover more centuries-old secrets as soon as possible.

“People ask me how I manage to combine this with litigation. It’s just another file, another case,” he says. “Litigating is a hard thing to do and it’s good to have some other interests mixed in.”

Hedges received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania and attended the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, where he learned basic archaeological methods. He wears his amateur status as a badge of honor and says people too often feel pigeonholed because they’ve chosen a certain career.

“Lawyers didn’t go to undergraduate school to study law,” he says. “They studied English, history or whatever. A lot of them went to graduate school. They have credentials. Just because they aren’t working in academia doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to sit at the table.”

Or dig in the desert.

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