Legal Widow

Subjudice recently won through to the finals of a kids’ short story writing competition: the judges were moved by the harrowing story of how her father put her mother’s entire jewellery collection in the food mixer during a bitter marital row over who had the car keys last


They particularly liked the way the diamonds were shaken out of their settings and erupted from the mixer bowl (having scratched it to perdition) in a glittering shotgun blast, which also scoured the tops off the basil plants on the windowsill. Perhaps they thought it showed extraordinary imagination, but I had the cleaner examining every last speck of dust from the hoover for two months afterwards.

Naturally, the pressure of work meant that the Lawyer was late coming to the presentation, and one judge actually asked me whether the divorce had come through yet.

Subjudice came second, and duly tripped up the winner as he went to collect his cheque and fountain pen, smirking in the knowledge that stories about children finding hope in war-torn cities in hot countries win every time. “If I’d known they wanted stories about violence I would have had Daddy battering you over the head,” hissed Subjudice disconcertingly, as we watched the boy go flying.

The whole thing has prompted the Lawyer to dust off his own never-finished novel, although the plot has been rather superseded by events: if he’d done it years ago, the story of a conspiracy hatched by bitter, overcharged clients to bring down the legal profession by sending deadly diseases through the post would have looked prescient. But now…

“I still like the bitter, overcharged clients conspiring to bring us down, though,” he said. “I’m not sure how they’d do it. We’re like cockroaches, really: the last thing alive after the bomb drops.”

“Perhaps they could do it by simply banding together and refusing to pay such astronomical fees,” suggested Deminimus, a thought which gave his father palpitations.

“Don’t even whisper that outside these walls,” he commanded. He started asking around the office for inspiration, and it turned out nearly everyone had the beginnings of a John Grisham novel stored on the hard disk: his assistants were planning a blood-spattered epic, describing how a lateral hire went beserk when he realised he’d been short-changed on holiday entitlement; Julie from pensions was preparing a tragic romance in which the love of two pension lawyers is blighted by annuity shortfalls and the removal of the final salary scheme; over in insurance, Robert was concocting a doomsday scenario based on a world where no one could get cover for anything and people had to walk everywhere in soft, padded suits; and the big surprise was that the managing partner’s secretary had already sold her daring lesbian boardroom novel, about how a managing partner’s secretary, asked to buy a present for the boss’s wife once too often, ends up taking over the firm and setting up home with the wife.

“But when do you find time to do all this?” the Lawyer asked his assistants. “Aren’t you doing any work?” He’d written all of his novel at home, and now had that itchy, unhappy feeling all good lawyers get when they’ve had to do something for free. “I bet they haven’t got time for this sort of thing in corporate,” he told them.

“No, corporate’s writing a television screenplay,” his assistants replied.

Apparently, it is about corporate lawyers who worry about what sort of lawyers they are and whether it’s all about People or Law; although what it’s really about is everybody getting off with everybody else. But of course, no one would ever buy that – would they?