30 August 1999
There is a recruitment crisis at the Lawyer's firm. This means the children and I see little of him at the moment, as a "clear desk" policy only works if you've got someone else's desk to dump everything on, and he is not only working 14-hour days, but suffering from severe delegation withdrawal. He makes up for it when he comes home, with all his ordering people about now concentrated into the evening hours, like undiluted orange squash. I found myself jumping to undo his shoelaces the other night, without even asking myself (first rule of delegation) whether I could pass the job onto someone else, like the children.
More seriously, it means his chances of making equity are receding as he sees the other departments in the firm drawing ahead in the charge-out race. What's the point of assistants if you can't take them along to see a client and charge extra?
Unfortunately, none of the bright young things coming out of law school seem tempted by a firm gamely maintaining a Manchester United capped wages policy in the face of Premier League competition. Rumour is that some jobs for first-timers in the City firms are paying more than the Lawyer and his colleagues earn now.
In desperation, the Lawyer has been contemplating kidnapping one or two newly-qualifieds and locking them in the boardroom with a portable and a modem, or creating a virtual assistant who would fulfil all the requirements of a real assistant - too poor to buy a round, problem girlfriend up in Newcastle, unable even to start writing a project agreement - yet cost the firm nothing.
I suggested, more practically, inviting them round to ours for a drink. If you can't get them in for the money, the only way to sell the firm is as a dating agency cum social calendar. I said we could arrange for next door's French au-pair to pop round (for a chap) or for Gary the dream-boat gardener to stay late (for a lass), and arrange for the entire hockey team to drop in for a pizza after their summer league Wednesday night thrashing by the local police.
I said I would strew the front room with property supplements and hide the children in the cupboard under the stairs. If the candidates seemed keen on settling down and breeding, I would let them out one by one and get them to put on the charm.
The one time we'd tried this I gambled on letting Subjudice out first, as being the most articulate. Unfortunately, she's also the most clued-up and asked straight out whether the candidate (a very scary Oxbridge grad called Katya) was going to get free golf club membership and the firm's new Jag as part of the deal. "I wouldn't take it otherwise," she sniffed (I had completely forgotten she's already up to things like negotiating the franchise to run the break-time tuck shop at school. The house is awash with pink prawns and liquorice bootlaces.)
Panicking, I brought in Liability in her ballerina outfit to soften Katya up, and sent Deminimus with his super-powered water gun to cause a diversion. I even considered, for one mad moment, asking Gary the gardener to whip his top off, but it was too late. Subjudice was already nose-to-nose with Katya on the sofa discussing how much better a deal she'd get in London - and could she come and stay with her when she did?