29 March 2005
There is indignation at the firm, where the client relationship director has circulated an email asking all partners to prepare a crib sheet for their top five clients containing vital stats such as "Nature of business", "Profit against turnover", "Whisky or chocolates for Christmas?", "What the MD drives" and "Date of MD's wife's birthday".
These will then be sent to and memorised by all staff, before being eaten at 11am in a mass demonstration of privacy compliance. It is believed equity partners will be offering bonuses to eager assistants prepared to consume crib sheets on their behalf, but this may just be an ugly rumour.
"It's just regulation gone mad," said the Lawyer, trying to memorise eight A4 pages of densely-typed figures. "I mean, I bet no one at these firms actually knows they've got 15 empty staff flats dotted around Europe with a total square footage of three football stadiums. They'd probably be pretty cross if they ever found out, actually."
The Lawyer sees the latest craze to hit his industry - the idea that law firms should actually care for and know about their clients - as mere pandering to paranoia, and just an excuse for the client relationship manager to elevate his title to the director. The fact that he's married to the legal services buyer of the firm's leading client has nothing to do with it, of course.
"It just proves it's not what you know, but who you know," said Deminimus, sagely. "Or who you're sleeping with."
"Deminimus!" yelled the Lawyer. "Whom you're sleeping with. Whom! Don't they teach you anything?"
The Lawyer actually comes from the "tough love" school of client relationship management, and frequently compares his clients with lapsing heroin addicts, who tell you they're done with the whole thing and can make it on their own, but keep sneaking back for little top-ups of advice. "Just another meeting," they cry, scratching on his door. "Just a few more issues to discuss." Then they go all sweaty and start shaking when he says they've discussed everything they need to.
It's cold turkey or nothing, he tells them: he won't even let them have access to his assistants or associates - no law-addicted client will have anything to do with the legal equivalent of methadone.
"Think of the cost" he tells them. "I know you're raiding the pension accounts to pay for this. It's like robbing little old ladies."
He cured one client of his terrible addiction to pointless meetings staffed by thousands by getting the design and technology teacher at Deminimus's school to rig up a digital counter to run like a taxi meter. He placed it on the table and got everyone to punch in their hourly charge-out rates, and set the clock running. By the time fifteen minutes had elapsed the client was down about £500 and gabbling as if Kicking King was about to cross the line at Cheltenham. For the next scheduled meeting the client asked the Lawyer to come on his own and the one after that was over the phone, while the Lawyer sat at his desk and played Pinball on the computer, grinning from ear to ear.
Of course, the client relationship director put a stop to all that and told the Lawyer to go out and press the flesh in a series of chat-up meetings that he couldn't charge anybody for. So he's filing time sheets that eat into the corporate entertainment budget, and once that's gone, he figures, so is the client relationship manager.