I wonder what David Attenborough would say if he ever crept up on a pride of sleeping lawyers. Would he marvel over the magnificent beasts? Would he note the thin ones, soon to be fatally injured in some gruelling hunt for new clients, or the young ones, ready to maul each other for their place in the pecking order? Or would he point out that lawyers are famed for the exclusivity of their mating habits? “Many of these wonderful creatures,” he would whisper, “choose partners not only from the same species, not only from the same pride, but from the same family. It is, one could almost say, a game of Happy Families.”
Yes, it’s the call of the office. Where else is a real estate lawyer going to find another one to marry? Certainly not by trawling the bars. You might meet accountants there, and then the gene pool would be irretrievably muddied. No, the best place to look for a mate is at the desk opposite, because with any luck you’ll be able to share a car on the way to work and, if that’s not possible, you’ll be able to afford to run two, even if they are going to the same place.
The Lawyer slipped up with me. I was a Miss Publisher, not a Miss Commercial Projects, and I just don’t get the lawyerly jokes. The other day he said: “They’re arguing about numbers now! Can you believe it?” Which I certainly couldn’t. The numbers… of people in the office? Whether two and two do make four? It turns out ‘numbers’ is lawyerspeak for ‘money’ – specifically, how much this is costing us and how much we’re making out of it.
I remember whole dinner parties where all those matched pairs (Mr and Mrs IP and the Taxes, for example) just beat their knees and howled with laughter while I looked blank. And while we can all agree on house prices and school fees for the length of the starter, the conversation is drawn back, kicking and screaming, to whatever the firm is doing at the moment: the upcoming merger, the smell in the lifts, the size of the baked potatoes in the canteen, the terrible level of uplift… Hilarious!
It was some consolation when the Taxes split up recently, having found that uplift wasn’t so funny after all, especially as Mr Tax’s eye was caught by comely Miss Pension and Mrs Tax realised that there was a gap in Mr Managing Partner’s life following the departure of his current Mrs, a former Miss Pension herself. I don’t envy their seating arrangements at the Christmas party.
Because it’s a dangerous game, Happy Legal Families. With the hours they work, no one gets to have a life, and unless the children come along, allowing Mrs Lawyer (come on, it’s never Mr Lawyer is it?) to make a graceful exit, they’re stuck with the same pack of cards until they get to 65. The only change possible is when they shuffle themselves a bit and try out new matching pairs.
I try to mix them up at parties, introducing people from my Happy Friends pack: Miss Homeopath, Mrs Regeneration or Mr Piano Teacher all try to break into the pack of lawyers, but the lawyers turn their stiff, shiny backs on them and carry on talking in lawyerspeak. “Ah well,” I tell myself as I tidy up after the party, where I’ve had a great time in the kitchen talking about other things. “It’s the hand that life dealt you. But I wonder if I can get another deal?”