neal burn

Burning Man/Muddy Neal.

A Hogan Lovells partner has made a "harrowing" escape from Burning Man.

Neal Katyal, based in the firm’s Washington D.C. office, became trapped when torrential rain transformed the offbeat festival into a swamp. 

It’s nothing Glastonbury veterans aren’t used to, but the remote location in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert left tens of thousands of people stranded. Attendees were ordered to "shelter in place" and "preserve resources" until the roads became dry enough to use.

But the prospect of a journey through the doors of perception with an overflowing toilet bucket was sufficiently unappealing that Katyal made a break for freedom, leaving behind the costumed tech bros and rapidly diminishing Whole Foods supplies in the middle of the night.

“It was an incredibly harrowing 6 mile hike at midnight through heavy and slippery mud, but I got safely out of Burning Man”, the lawyer revealed on Twitter. 


Expanding on the dangerous conditions for the benefit of those left behind, Katyal advised that “it is very slippery and the mud is like cement and sticks to your boots”, with “some quicksand properties — it grabs your boots and sometimes you are stuck”. 

“No one should try this unless in good shape and part of a group”, he warned. “There are treacherous places where it is worse than walking on ice.”

At least Katyal, who served Barack Obama’s administration as acting Solicitor General, had a nice time while he was there. “Never been before and it was fantastic (with brilliant art and fabulous music)…except the ending”, he said. 

However, if he was responsible for the makeshift Supreme Court he photographed, perhaps HogLove could remind him of the benefits of switching off while he’s on holiday.


Court tent not quite as popular as the music, drugs and sex tents, for some reason.

Katyal’s viral post attracted plenty of green-eyed critics. 


Although some were more pleasant.


Among the detractors was one of Donald Trump’s co-defendants, Jeff Clark, who seemed to think Katyal had been involved in a “neopagan ritual” and invited followers to pray for him. 


Others betrayed their narrow conception of the legal profession by suggesting that a counterculture festival was an odd fit for a corporate law firm partner. When, as a vintage legacy Lovells newsletter shows, the reasons given for his firm's appeal could just as easily apply to Burning Man:


LU iconLet top firms and companies ping your app when they like you for a role. Whether or not you're looking to move, download LawyerUp on the App Store and Google Play.


Tip Off ROF


Smouldering Man 08 September 23 09:31

Imagine taking that selfie - with that outfit and that expression - and then choosing to share it with the world on social media. I thought lawyers were supposed to have good judgement.

GC 08 September 23 09:34

After reading the self-congratulatory and asinine nonsense that a certain London-based Hogan Lovells partner posts on social media (accompanied by photographs of not at all interesting things such as the partner staring into the distance while holding a coffee cup) I had thought I would never instruct that firm. This gentleman seems all right though. 

Katyal is not a nice man 08 September 23 10:49

In 2020, Katyal represented Nestle and Cargill at the Supreme Court in Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe, in a class-action suit brought by former enslaved children who were kidnapped and forced to work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.

He argued that Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labour because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the nazis to kill Jews and other minorities in extermination camps was not indicted at the Nuremberg trials.

Related News