2 August 2004
Throughout his life, the Lawyer has regarded his career as being like a great mountain rearing up in front of him. He watched his step through the moraine of university and training; he found his footing and sped up the lower reaches of associatehood; he got his head down and put in the solid work needed to take him up the dangerous cracks to partnership; and then he expected to make a solo assault on equity, leaving his baggage behind him and climbing nimbly to the summit.
He never thought about what would happen if he got to the top and saw what was on the other side. Or what would happen if, after a team discussion, the leader decided he wasn’t fit to make the solo climb after all, and that others would reach the summit instead of him.
You can tell we took the children out hillwalking at the weekend. It was only on the way back down from the most murderous peak of the trek – when we nearly lost one of the children to a Kendal Mint Cake overdose and another to the condition known as “notgoinganyfurtheritis” – that the Lawyer started on this interesting analogy. He obviously felt things were just going too well, and we needed a good dose of gloom.
“You know, when they say someone’s over the hill, you don’t actually think about what that means, do you?” he asked. Subjudice rolled her eyes and groaned, and Liability threatened to have another sugar frenzy.
“I mean,” he continued, “what happens if you have actually climbed the hill and got to the top, it’s all downhill from there, isn’t it? Or perhaps they mean that being over the hill is being over the other side of the hill and you’ll never make it over the top at all and…”
At this point the children started beating him with ski poles and he had to shut up.
But he has a point. What do lawyers do when they’ve reached whatever summit they’re capable of? Where do they go? They’re certainly not hanging around the Lawyer’s firm – no one there is older than 50, which is another reason he is worrying about making that solo assault. He’s in his forties now.
Do City firms have rural retreats where people who get a bit past it get to do a little gentle contract checking and some reading up on new legal developments? Or are they all sent off to the knacker’s yard, like Boxer in Animal Farm? Do some of them really escape to run businesses of their own? Perhaps we only thought that dear old Pete from property went off to Canada to join his son’s development company, and in reality, he’s lying in the foundations of the last project he completed. But what would lawyers do if they weren’t lawyers?
They know their way around the golf course, a hotbed of quasi-legalistic argument because of all that rulebook nonsense, so maybe they could combine a spot of greenkeeping with law enforcement. And they’ve done a lot of eating out, so perhaps they could be chefs – they’d still be hiding from the client and sending out what the diners thought they ordered, being too dim to know better.
My guess is that they all look for nice, safe quangos to sit on and tell all the civil service oiks and oafs where they’re going wrong. The Lawyer, however, thinks the money is in consultancy. The trouble is, as his children tell him, “why would we consult you about anything when it’s Mum who knows all the answers?”