12 September 2005
"You know, there was once a time when going back to school meant a new pencil case," said the Lawyer as he signed for the upgrade on Subjudice's mobile phone. "I'd be lucky if I got a new set of HB pencils to put in it," he said to her, handing the form back.
"Whatever, Dad," she said. "Anyway, you can't expect me to do well at school without the right equipment, can you? End of!" And she flounced off.
"We've somehow brought up a generation that expects an awful lot more than they've earned the right to," said the Lawyer sadly.
"We'll get our own back," I said. "Our generation's already spent the Earth, so there'll be nothing left over for them."
"The trouble is, they all feel so entitled they'll sue us for it."
"Trainees getting you down?" I asked.
The Lawyer has been interviewing bright young things for the office, and feeling old and dull as a result. In previous years they had fun weeding out no-hopers on categories as subjective as appearance ("eyes too starey") or verbal ability ("pronounces 'want' like John Major").
This year the trainee applicants are thin on the ground and they've had to put on the charm to stop them bolting out the door and taking the first train to London. Bloody magic circle, apparently, upping their trainee grants again. The competition for trainees is so fierce that next year they'll probably have to send press gangs into the universities on 1 September to seize them as soon as they put a foot on the steps of the Law Faculty. They'll chain them to the radiators in the canteen and they can get their degrees by distance learning.
In the meantime, the Lawyer has to do a selling job on his own firm to get them to sit still long enough to be interviewed.
"I mean, this is the first interview, right? And when I say, 'What would you like to do?', I expect an answer along the lines of, 'I'm actually looking to get experience in all departments before I can possibly know my own strengths, sir, and then I'd fit in with whatever your plans might be for my future'. Not 'Litigation. Although I don't think much of your clients - you'd have to do something about them before I came on board'. It's frankly weird."
Apparently, the delightful thing about new trainees used to be that they had no sense of judgement or discrimination - how else could you get them to do the 90-hour weeks? Nowadays, judging is all they do. I pointed out that a well-informed employee, able to make up their own mind about solving business problems, was not actually weird, but an asset to the firm.
"Look, I expect trainees to think they know better than me, to think that they'll never get stuck doing a job like mine, or that they'll pay off all their debts next year, because if they knew what was coming they'd simply lay down and die," countered the Lawyer. "But this lot… they're so self-assured. They're so sure of what they want, so sure they'll get it. I'm actually quite scared of them."
"Dad!" shouted Subjudice, storming in and waving the form, which she'd finally read. "You've limited my text bundle to 120! It's not enough! And what about my weekly ringtone?"
"He who pays the piper calls the tune," said the Lawyer, perking up. "You know, I've just realised that as long as I'm the one funding those trainees' salaries, it's me they've still got to be scared of."