1 November 2004
At last, a reason to shun equity: people get awfully cross with you when the profits go down.
“Poor sods,” said the Lawyer cheerfully, as he launched his copy of The Lawyer across the breakfast table. Story after story had partners apologising for their performances and promising to do better, placating the underdogs or simply throwing a couple of scapegoats overboard.
“You know, I almost feel sorry for them,” he exclaimed.
This is a turnaround, as he normally behaves like a dog in a rescue home where partners are concerned. He alternates between giving them the spaniel eyes and hoping to be taken home with them, and seeking out bare flesh to sink his teeth into, as he’s spent too long waiting to be recognised as a good dog.
“So these people earn several hundred thousand a year, right?” asked Subjudice. “And they’ll still be taking home several hundred thousand, just maybe take off the odd thousand here or there. I’m not feeling very sorry for them. They’ll just have to get a smaller Christmas tree.”
“I suppose they must have lots of things to pay for,” said Liability. “Houses and handbags and things.”
“There’s only so much maintenance you have to do on a handbag,” Deminimus pointed out.
“I don’t know, I’m sure Louis Vuitton scuff spray costs a fortune,” I countered.
The Lawyer looked at us. “It’s not all about money, you know.” At which we all burst into peals of laughter.
“No, seriously,” he said. “Think of the responsibility. Every year you’ve got to turn over more business, and there’s only so much law to go round; and look at the flak you get if profits per partner go down…”
“Why don’t they just have fewer partners, Dad?” interrupted Deminimus, who has just started economics and keeps assuring me that if I gave half of the money in my purse to him it would make what I had left worth more.
“Are you mad? And make people think there’s no chance of promotion? No, the ideal is to have lots of partners, all being filthy rich, and all being made to feel like they’re not rich enough. Where was I? Ah! Now I see, for the very first time, why they have to put my targets up every year. And freeze the bonus. And delay the salary hike. It’s to stop them feeling like failures. Honestly, it makes you want to rush out and hug them. Or at least get them a good therapist. Isn’t it crazy, all this chasing after standards that get higher and higher until they’re out of reach? Maybe equity partners had terrible parents who pushed them too hard and never made them feel wanted. Poor old things, what a life they must live.”
We were amazed. I was slightly hopeful that he would now stop whining about never reaching equity. Only Subjudice saw the true potential of his change of heart. “It’s like GCSEs, really, Dad, isn’t it?” she piped up. “I mean, the amount you’re supposed to get goes up every year, and I’m supposed to be getting 12 A stars, but what happens if I only get six? Or one of them is a B? You’d feel sorry for me then, wouldn’t you? You’d say it doesn’t matter, that I did my best…” She trailed off as he registered what she was saying.
“The amount I’m paying for your education, you’ll get stars on the stars, my girl, or you can say goodbye to university and a three-year subsidised hangover,” said the Lawyer, without a trace of irony.