6 February 2006
The Lawyer has been sweating over the most important application form of his life.
I appreciate that for some this would be the entry application for Filford Golf Club and the choice of nominating members would be the most agonising decision ever made. What if Guy won't actually back your membership application and is still holding against you that extraordinary birdie on the seventeenth during the annual members' invitation competition, which led to the loss of his eight-year unbroken record?
Of course, nothing so important as the good opinion of the Filford Golf Club committee is sought here, but for the Lawyer the chance to apply for equity is the invitation to the top table he has craved since becoming a lawyer; the reparation he has hoped for since losing the close-fought and ugly race to be chairman of his school chess club (lower house) all those years ago. It is nothing less than the vindication of his existence, both as a man and as a solicitor, thus, he is consulting his 15-year-old daughter on what to put on the form. He reasons that today's schoolchildren are endlessly evaluated and that Subjudice will therefore know how to work the system.
"What do you mean, dates and names aren't enough? It's not a history lesson I'm giving them," says the Lawyer as Subjudice tries to get him to expand on his recent business successes.
"You've got to prove outcomes, link them back to your original aims and describe the learning process that got you there," says Subjudice in the sort of modern Brit-speak that increasingly convinces me that once we've got the kids through university we're off to Spain.
"You are joking, I hope," says the Lawyer. "Lawyers haven't got time for that sort of gobbledegook. No, what they're looking for is a solid business case, backed up by evidence of good management practice, proof that you can hang on to those slippery bloody assistants for dear life, an ability to deal with clients without headbutting them, alongside bringing in shedloads of dosh. Always worked in the past."
Silently, Subjudice calls up the websites of some of our leading legal firms and goes into the 'values' pages. "Excellence in everyone and everything." "Quality must be non-negotiable." "Embrace change and challenge the status quo."
"All of which sounds exhausting and quite undoable," says the Lawyer. "Who wrote that rubbish?"
"Yeah, but they're all doing better than your lot," says Subjudice. "And you know you've got values on your own home page." (She calls them up: the Lawyer goggles as he learns he is expected to "place the firm's interests at the heart of his life and his heart in the hands of the client".) "It's about working the system, and if you don't target the main values, you can kiss promotion goodbye. When I wanted to get funding for the end-of-year ball, I had to prove I was upholding decency, promoting health and deterring promiscuity. I got round it all by getting the God squad to run a juice bar and we had to ritually burn the condom vending machine for the local television news. But I got the money."
"If I'm honest, I think our core values are exploiting our staff until their limbs drop off with a little bit of being nice to squirrels and peonies and dancing barefoot in meadows while singing the firm hymn," says the Lawyer. "Buggered if I know how to fit all that on this application form."