1 March 2004
A severe shortage of assistants – those new, conscience-plagued ones who keep wanting to get their life in balance and leaving to go round the world and doing other unlawyerly things such as voluntary work – has brought crisis to the Lawyer’s department. The Lawyer has been tasked with finding a few replacements, but apparently advertising for them was so expensive it would have meant giving up first class rail travel or staying at a lowly B&B for the partners’ conference, so they’ve had to haul out a long spoon and go and sup with legal recruitment agencies.
It’s not been all bad. The Lawyer has enjoyed some nice lunches and, indeed, met up with some of his former assistants who decided the law wasn’t for them, but that legal recruitment was. “I don’t want to be sexist, but they do all seem to be women. And blonde,” he told me. “It’s a people thing,” I said. “Who could have appreciated those qualities if they wasted away doing law?”
The Lawyer has a low opinion of recruitment agencies. He wonders how people who don’t like practising law themselves can live with pushing desperate solicitors back into the fray – a bit like those white-gloved men wedging commuters into overloaded Japanese trains. And he believes that the only people who go to said recruitment agencies are deeply hacked off with life or hopeless at the job. “No one you’d actually want to employ ever goes to one,” he mused. I said he only thought that because lawyers favour inaction over making a mistake that could cost them money – why else has the garden gate been hanging off its hinges for two months, unless the Lawyer is avoiding looking at it in case he realises he can’t fix it and needs to call someone in? No one that lawyers usually want to work with would go to a recruitment agency because they are people who actually dare imagine their life could change, I said. This, rather than plodding along in their old jobs until retirement, which with the population crisis looming looks like it might be put back until 75.
He took the point, and ordered up a batch of CVs. After reading through them the whole of one evening, he concluded that not one of the candidates was remotely qualified for the jobs he had going.
Apparently one chap qualified for a transport brief because he had made a scale model of the Birmingham motorway system in school. His opinion of recruitment agencies dipped even lower.
I suggested he contact the headhunters who have been responsible for pinching all of his assistants, but he’s a bit wary of them – they always seem to wear sharper suits than he does, and only one has ever invited him to lunch. The Lawyer got very excited at the thought that his talents were being recognised at last, but the headhunter only wanted to grill him about vacancies in the firm. At least the Lawyer didn’t have to pay for lunch.
And then the inevitable happened: he got sent the CV of one of the few assistants left in the department. “Oops!” said the recruitment agent, when he rang them up to complain. The Lawyer is grieved that someone else wants to leave what increasingly looks like a sinking ship, and is puzzled that the assistant would go to a recruitment agency, an institution which the Lawyer has spent years criticising. “I thought I was his mentor!” he wailed. Worst of all, it turns out that the disloyal assistant isn’t even qualified for his own job. Should the Lawyer let him go?