The Firm

Conversation over lunch at The Firm between Jack Pratchard and Tom Henderson…

Pratchard: I think it's a wonderful idea of Keith Clark's. Clifford Chance is lucky to have him. A leader. Dare I say, a living saint. I'd say a few other things, but he'd probably take out an injunction to make sure they weren't published…

Henderson: What are you talking about?

Pratchard: Dressing down day. It's fabulous.

Henderson: Yes. I've given all the staff a real dressing down. Chalmers for turning up 13 seconds late this morning. I fined the property department for going to the toilet too often. And I sacked that pretty new assistant in corporate because… well, you know what I think about women doing men's jobs.

Pratchard: That's not what dressing down day is. It's almost like you misunderstand for comic effect. It's where we get to wear what we like.

Henderson: That's why you're dressed as Lara Croft again.

Pratchard: Ermm. No. This is what I always wear. I'm changing into my costume after lunch.

Henderson: Well, every day should be "give the staff a bollocking day". Do you know that those fools at SJ Berwin want to pay their assistants 25 per cent more? We can't afford to pay these people… let me calculate… an extra £32.40 a year. If we want to make them work harder, cut their rations. Make them work longer hours to earn their bread. That's bread in the literal sense. Times are tough, but if we buckle down…

Pratchard: Tom, is your Sumatran tiger steak cooked properly? Mine's a little burnt.

Henderson: I don't know. I went for the dodo eggs in swan's tear sauce. Tosh, can we get another tiger steak for Jack?

Tosh: No sir. That's the last one.

Henderson: Well, buy some more!

Tosh: No. I mean that was the world's last Sumatran tiger.

Henderson: You see. We all have to make sacrifices – get him some fish fingers. He doesn't know the difference.

Pratchard: I've often wondered, Tom. What with The Firm being such a shambolic mess, how do we make enough money to afford to buy endangered species for lunch?

Henderson: Astute business dealings on the Stock Exchange, my mentally challenged little General Pinochet. For example, I have good reason to believe a certain mining and quarrying company is about to merge.

Pratchard: You clever fellow. What's your hunch based on?

Henderson: Knowledge of the markets, a gambler's nous and the fact that we're acting for them in the merger. I told you about it – Stan-Quarrymore's merger with Granite.com, the inspirational internet quarrying service.

Pratchard: Isn't that insider dealing?

Henderson: No. It's just like when I bet on football matches.

Pratchard: What, the ones where Big Tosh makes the floodlights fail during the second half?

Henderson: That's it. Technically a crime, but where's the victim? The same as when I bet against The Firm winning cases. Our clients may not get the best service, but William Hill doesn't know that. If we turn on Working Lunch, we should be able to check our bank balance.

Television: …and today's big business headline again, the giant merger between Stan-Quarrymore and Granite.com has collapsed. Insiders blame it on farcical standards of legal advice which was, literally, laughed out of the DTI. It isn't known which firm acted on the deal…

Pratchard: This is terrible! We've lost a fortune.

Henderson: What are you talking about? I knew we'd balls it up. We always do. That's why I invested the money in their rivals lastminutequartz.co.uk. Their stock's soared! I'm hoping to get in on the Vodafone deal next. If we bugger that up, we can retire to Cuba…