The story goes that in 1986 Slaughter and May received a phone call from The Lawyer. “Could I speak to Mr Slaughter?” asked a journalist, only to be told that Mr Slaughter was no longer around. Undeterred, the hack responded: “Could I speak to Mr May, then?”
According to Greig, the tale was invented by none other than renowned raconteur Nick Gillies, who along with Greig and Richard Clayton made up The Lawyer's original editorial team. Nevertheless, he concedes that the story is not so far-fetched, since the team had no experience of writing about the legal market. Then again, in 1986, no one did.
Even if experienced legal journalists had been available, it would have made no difference – Greig would not have been able to afford them, anyway. “We weren't undercapitalised. We just weren't capitalised,” he laughs. “Both the printer and the paper merchant used to come and take me out to lunch about once a fortnight, which I was always kind of puzzled about. I think, on reflection, they were checking I was still there.”
Greig had taken huge financial risks to turn his idea of a trade magazine for the legal profession into reality. “I had been promised money on the government loan guarantee scheme. But just as the first issue came out, my bank phoned up to tell me they were terribly sorry but they weren't going to put any money in.” The local manager had been “terribly enthusiastic” about the idea, but had failed to mention to Greig that the loan would require approval from the regional office. “I was as committed as you could be,” he says. “I had £10,000 as my total capital to launch this thing, which was costing about £20,000 an issue. I'd been employing people for four months and I was pretty much down to my last few pennies.”
Greig found another bank for the loan, but only after he agreed to take out a second mortgage on his home. Having recently become a father, this burden hung heavily on Greig's shoulders. “By that stage, if it hadn't have come off, we would have lost everything. At times, when things weren't going too well, I used to think, 'Oops! That's the front room gone!'”
Looking back, Greig remembers “a rather bitchy piece” in The Solicitors' Journal that suggested that The Lawyer was doomed to fail. Although he is more than happy that he proved the Journal wrong, he concedes that it got one thing right. The early days of The Lawyer were indeed “a triumph of optimism over experience”.