3 April 2006
Well, they offered him equity on Friday, but at a terrible price: they informed him that the firm was nosediving and they were almost certainly going to make a six-figure cash call on partners later in the year.
The Lawyer took the rest of the day off and sat in a café doing sums on a tablecloth. Later, he called me from the laundrette, where the manager had made him go and wash the tablecloth: "Why would they make me up if the firm's doing so badly?"
"Well, duh," I said, "they're great believers in sharing the pain, it's sharing the good times they were never so hot on."
He spent the weekend in a terrible state and sat up with me late on Saturday night working out where we could retrench if he had to shell out to keep the firm afloat. After ditching holidays and cars we concluded that, if we wanted to retain any social life, one of us would have to take a part-time job at the David Lloyd just so we could qualify for free membership. "But it can't be me," said the Lawyer. "Too many clients and colleagues there." I said they'd never recognise him in a T-shirt, but he wasn't convinced.
The children were unimpressed, for teenagers have very little sense of risk. Why else would they eat revolting things like cheese strings?
"So you're saying, Dad," argued Subjudice, "that you're prepared to give up on the chance of achieving your heart's desire, the one goal you have left in life, just on the possibility of bad management of the firm and your own personal fear of bankruptcy?"
The Lawyer moaned softly at this, because bad management in a law firm is almost a given and bankruptcy would be too much for his tender solicitor's constitution. After all, the hardest money decisions they ever have to make are whether to move more of it into ISAs and at what point on a fixed-fee project you actually stop doing any work for the client. Unlike most other professions, year-on-year lawyers expect to see their salaries climbing; if not by an exponential curve, at least a nice steep incline. The prospect of someone actually taking money away from them is almost inconceivable.
"What you don't realise, children," I said sternly, "is that between you we've got to shell out about three six-figure sums in school fees and university maintenance, so it's possibly your education going down the drain here."
"Suits me," said Liability (who's nine). "I'm going to be a pop star anyway. I just hope they're still doing The X Factor in six years." Deminimus added that entrepreneurs didn't need higher education, and if we could just set up an online poker account for him we needn't worry about him ever again. Either of these statements would normally send the Lawyer into a rage, but he didn't even notice.
Eventually we worked out that, if we cashed in everything, remortgaged the house and made sure none of the children trained as doctors or vets, we'd be able to meet the cash call. "And after that the good times might come back," I said cheerily. "Think of it: equity at last, several lots of six figures coming in every year… worth a bit of pain, surely?"
We slept on it last night, and this morning, which ironically is his birthday, we still didn't know what to do. Curse the Lawyer's general inability to make a decision. In the end we tossed a coin for it. Well, what would you do?