12 November 2001
The Lawyer has spent all weekend in a telephone queue for the local multiplex box office, trying to get tickets for Harry Potter. "Only 365 people before me," he said cheerfully, as I put the potatoes on for Saturday lunch.
He thinks he's doing it for Subbie, but in reality he's dying to see this film himself. My criticism of Harry Potter is that every adventure takes three terms to unfold - heaven forbid he'd catch the evildoer by autumn half term - but I can see how this appeals to a projects lawyer. After all, you've got to have something to fill your year with, and a nice juicy project can take you right through to the summer holidays; although, by that time, you're probably on course to bill more than the budget, so you've got to race like the devil to get the thing completed before the project leader catches you and hangs you up by your thumbs.
He got whimsical as Saturday teatime approached. "Actually, you know, in the legal world, the lawyers are the wizards and the clients are Muggles - thick humans who don't understand the magic of the law. They don't even see that the world would fall apart without us.
"But you do realise that Voldemort owes everything to Sauron," he added, playing with the phone cord on Saturday evening. The Lawyer's theory is that Harry Potter wouldn't have existed without Tolkien, and actually welcomes dinner parties as a forum for explaining this.
Again, the attraction for a lawyer is obvious: the dark lord creating havoc at the heart of both books clearly has its counterpart in the commercial law firm. The only question is who is the Sauron/Voldemort figure in your own firm? Is it the managing partner? Is that sense of hopelessness emanating from his office just like the wasted landscape of Mordor? What are the all-seeing Palantir but the embodiment of the accursed time management system, which looks deep into the heart of every lawyer and seeks out the truth of what they were doing last Tuesday afternoon? (Answer: not completing the long-overdue Exeter contract, but walking round Habitat comparing coffee tables.) Who are the Nazgul but the department heads, former kings of men who sold their souls for equity and now wander the world wrapped in a dark fog created by a deep misunderstanding of targets and recovery rates?
"Of course," said the Lawyer, phone clamped to his ear on Sunday morning, "many's the time I've wanted to say, 'Ai! Ai! A Balrog is come!', when the client actually turns up to a meeting. And I've always rather fancied myself as Arathorn."
"What's Daddy talking about?" asked Subjudice.
"It's a book he read too many times as a teenager," I said. "I'm afraid it's compulsory if you ever want to go to university and have late-night discussions with your new student friends."
The Lawyer ate Sunday lunch while holding on the phone. "Is Harry Potter actually worth such a huge phone bill?" asked Subbie, showing a dangerous tendency towards wobbliness in these stern times.
"Absolutely," said the Lawyer. "It's a blueprint for living. Defenders of the good against the forces of evil. It's a sort of natural law."
"Like those poor children in Afghanistan?" asked Deminimus, who reads too much. "And Northern Ireland?"
"Well… not exactly," began the Lawyer, and nearly dropped the phone into his treacle tart when someone came on the other end.
"Two tickets for Harry Potter," he shouted. "I don't care when. As soon as possible."
"Why don't you and Mum go?" asked Subjudice. "I'd rather see American Pie 2."