Dangerous property

After last week's tales of poor banking lawyers being lumbered with drunken au pairs, Tulkinghorn has been informed that, in fact, property law is where the real rough stuff takes place.

Conveyancing, it transpires, is a much tougher world than Tulkinghorn had previously imagined. Take Tom Barth, a partner at Cumberland Ellis Peirs solicitors. Mr Barth has written a little "backward glance prior to retirement" following his 40 years in the law, which Tulkinghorn feels obliged to mention. For Mr Barth's experiences show that life in a small law firm puts larger firms in the shade. For him, it wasn't drunken au pairs that were the problem, but potential new recruits. On one occasion he interviewed a solicitor who was so drunk that she was hardly able to climb the stairs, let alone conduct the interview.

But that's not the only highlight of his career. In order to supplement his income during articles (that's a training contract, for you youngsters), Barth was first chased down the road by a butcher in the East End after serving a divorce petition on him; arrested by the Colombian Ambassador in his Embassy after being told that he was in Colombian territory, while serving a writ; and beaten up by a six-foot-five, twenty-stone hairdresser after serving a writ on him.

And in terms of the age-old problem of clients dying before paying their fees, our Mr Barth has suffered the extreme. He was talking to a client on the telephone and about to disclose his fees when the client croaked it there and then. But on a happier note, after issuing an employee with a formal written warning for persistent lateness, he married her seven years later.

Tulkinghorn would like to congratulate Mr Barth on his forthcoming retirement. Surely, nothing can happen between now and May, can it?