The Lawyer smuggled home this month’s management reports, which is amazing, as they only print a miserly number of copies and they’re usually surrounded with the sort of security that blasts purple ink all over you if you open the cover. Perhaps it’s to stop juniors fainting at the thought of all the hours they’re supposed to put in at partner level, although it’s more likely that there would be a horrible mutiny if they saw just how few hours some of the partners get away with.
He showed me his dismal position on the all-important list of top earners, which looked just like the tournament ladder at a squash club, surely the most savage competition arena known to man.
“Don’t tell me, you’ve got to challenge the person in the slot above you and beat them senseless with a ream of photocopying paper?” I asked.
He gave me an old-fashioned look. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any sympathy stored in those kitchen cupboards of yours, along with all the chocolate biscuits?” he said, nastily.
I gave him a big hug and Subjudice walked in.
“Gross! Parents embracing,” she said, and raided the cupboards for some chocolate biscuits. “What’s the problem, dad?”
“I’m too far down on the list,” he sighed.
She commandeered the report. “Well, your main problem is that it’s a whole load of numbers, which don’t seem to mean anything,” she said.
The Lawyer was aghast. “Businesses are built on numbers. Anyway, most of them are money. I’m sure that’s not beyond you, Miss Selfridge.”
“So, these guys at the top have worked all these hours? And so they’ve made the most money?”
“Well, theoretically,” said the Lawyer. “They’ve got to charge for it first. And then collect it.”
“Oh, I see. So the top guys are actually the ones who owe the company most. Look at this one, he’s millions in debt. And what’s this recovery column?” A short lecture on charging policies followed.
“I see. So Mr X worked, like, a billion hours but charged about 50p? What a prat. And it’s like he’s cheating the firm too, isn’t it?”
The Lawyer began to feel a whole lot better. He might even get a bushy-tailed memo to top management out of it. He asked her to look at the earners’ list again. “If only they put earnings against budget,” he sighed. “I’d look so much better.”
“It’d look just like school league tables then,” said Subjudice. She’s planning her remaining school years like a military campaign, and can recite league figures for all the schools in a 30-mile radius. Despite her disdain for numbers she actually knows what all those fearful columns mean.
“You need a value-added section,” she said. “Something that shows what you’ve brought to the job. Do you do anything else but clock up hours?”
The Lawyer thought hard. “Well, there’s pro bono. That must take up some time, mustn’t it? And the firm five-a-side. And there’s…”
“That’s frankly not enough to lift you out of the special measures department,” said Subjudice. “You need something really great. Something that sets you aside from everyone else.”
“How about my clients liking working with me?” asked the Lawyer. “That must count for something?”
Subjudice snorted. “You can’t measure liking. I mean, it’s not like money in the bank, is it?”
She’s so hard-nosed. I can’t think where she gets it from.