16 February 2004
We got an exciting letter the other day from one of the Lawyer’s old firms, inviting him to a reunion of past employees. Like a school reunion, said the Lawyer, except without any surprises, as it’s fairly certain that if you were doing commercial property back in 1985, you’ll still be doing it now, but with less hair (and that holds good if you’re a female lawyer). And your kids will just be older.
“They’ll be at work, Dad, if they were kids in 1985,” Subjudice pointed out. This made the Lawyer feel so old he had to go out and play a hearty round of golf before recovering enough to look at the letter again. I could tell he wasn’t keen.
“It’s all so… perky,” he said. “Why do I want to see these people again? I mean, I left, didn’t I? What bit about ‘I’m leaving for a better life’ didn’t I make clear?”
I said he shouldn’t sneer, as we’re all desperately looking for a community nowadays, and the success of The Office shows that the office is where most of our life actually happens, and that this was a warm gesture reaching out to people to remind them of good times in their past.
Yes, he said, but that suggests that the office is actually fun, and he didn’t remember too many games of wastepaper bin stilt-walking or directors’ chair derby going on. “Most office friendships are based on having grievances in common,” he said. “Like sharing a secretary, or the rubbish boss, or having no car parking space.” I said he had a nasty, suspicious lawyer’s mind, and Deminimus asked if lawyers actually knew how to have fun, which sent him off into another slough of despond.
Look at Liability, I said. She got 40 Christmas cards last year, and she’s only seven (which means that I’ve got another few years of writing out 40 cards in return, curse it), and if she keeps in touch with only 10 per cent of her classmates and ballet class buddies, she’s got four friends for life already.
“You won’t see me for dust once I leave school,” said Subjudice darkly, and went off to read The Great Gatsby.
“Lawyers have got to work harder at having friends, anyway,” said Deminimus. “I read that they’re some of the least-connected people in business. Party organisers and band managers know the most people, except the band managers can never find their telephone numbers, and teachers come next, but only because they know so many children so they’re always bumping into people they know at Sainsbury’s.”
Silence followed. “Are lawyers made to have friends, Daddy?” asked Liability, and the Lawyer groaned and ran off. I found him scanning the website of his old firm, where no mention was made of the alumni project. “What if it’s a hoax? What if I turn up and there’s no one else there and everyone laughs at me?” Good grief, it must be awful being a lawyer, if that’s the way they think. “Ring some old colleagues,” I said. “See if they have such a jaundiced view of the past as you.”
So he did – and was on the phone for hours. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “All the guys from the old days are going.” The way that lawyers circulate professionally, even with their pathological aversion to change, a gathering like this will be like meeting everyone he’s ever worked with. All at once. Just think of all the things they’ll have to complain about.