Being Jim Halpert

Not the guy in Scranton—the D.C. attorney for whom the character was named

Published in 2008 Washington DC Super Lawyers Magazine — March 2008

On Thursday nights, Jim Halpert likes to watch Jim Halpert. The first Jim Halpert is in Washington, D.C., and a partner at DLA Piper. The other Jim Halpert is the droll practical joker on NBC’s television sitcom The Office.

The fictional paper salesman was given his name by the show’s executive producer, Greg Daniels—an old friend of the real Jim Halpert. The two grew up in Manhattan and have known each other since they were 4. In 2005, Daniels developed a U.S. version of The Office (it originated in Britain). One day, a few weeks before the new comedy was to air, Halpert got a phone call from Daniels and was told a character would have his name. He had seen a few episodes of the British version and wasn’t thrilled with the association.

“I was pretty upset,” he says now from his Penn Quarter office, which has a nice view of the FBI Building. “All the British characters were loathsome.”

Daniels assured Halpert that the guy was going to be appealing; sure enough, after the first couple of shows aired, Halpert was mollified. Today, Halpert, who handles DLA Piper’s communications, e-commerce and privacy practice, says he gets asked about the sitcom a couple of times a week.

“Clients think it’s cool,” he says. “I had one who asked me to e-mail her daughter just because her daughter’s friend was really into the show.”

The similarities between the two Halperts are apparent. Both are likable, funny and have floppy hair—the lawyer has rust-colored hair, which he says was more loose and unkempt in high school. Also like the TV character, Halpert often reacts to a strange question by widening his eyes slightly and dropping the right corner of his mouth.

Halpert has taken a keen interest in the show. At one point, Halpert informed his friend that he thought Pam was too passive, and Daniels said they were working on addressing that.

Of course, having the same name as a TV character can have its downsides. “When I call Greg up at his office and say, ‘It’s Jim Halpert,’ the person thinks I’m some practical joker,” Halpert says with a laugh. “I find it’s a lot easier now just to call Greg on his cell phone.”

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