11 November 2002
"You just wait," he called out from under the desk while his own associate heaved him up. "Money'll get you in the end."
The associate muttered that the only padding going on around here was around the Lawyer's waistband; and his secretary, who is pregnant again and can see the escape hatch looming up ahead of her, poked him in the belly and said he was guilty of gratuitous pudding.
The associates have been huddled in corners for the last week discussing whether they, too, have grievances that deserve the drawing up of a heroic memo. The Lawyer has simply jeered, calling it the Children's Crusade and asking when Supermemo was going to come flying round the corner.
"Supermemo, saviour of the legal underling, opener of avenues of communication, reviewer of performance, provider of career support," he declaimed. "With his faithful hound, Probono, Supermemo faces the evil might of Charge Ableours and strikes down the forces of Overpadding."
You see, the Lawyer is of the old school of 'work till you drop dead of a heart attack at 55' and thinks that complaining about billable hours is akin to wearing a pink shirt: nice idea, but just not masculine enough, frankly.
And because his heart's desire is equity, the idea that the youth of today can enter the profession and imagine that there's any career option other than equity partner causes him a genuine pain under the ribs. "I mean, what else would you do with your career?" he asked me, plaintively. "Good God, you don't suppose they're still interested in law, do you?"
He turned to the children. "I absolutely forbid you to grow up and think you're going to be idealistic," he said. I looked at them. Subjudice was practising dance moves in case one of the S Club Juniors gets fired (sex, drugs, acne - it's a perilous profession); Deminimus was playing at being a bank robber on Nintendo; and Liability was working away on a scratchcard she'd nicked from my purse.
"No problem there, then," I said.
Of course, he cares for his children, but so long as he can see them occasionally during term time he feels he's not missing out on too much, especially as we'll all get together for a couple of weeks each summer.
Anyway, work has practically stopped at the firm as they all discuss how you can get past 1,400 hours and still have time to watch Graham Norton of an evening. "Oh, we charge for watching him," said the media lawyers. "It's research. Libel, obscenity, contract fees… He's very profitable."
The sports lawyers, it turns out, all charge for their wall-to-wall Sky Sports watching - the one with kids even charges for the time he spends watching his sons playing footie at weekends. "But not the matches during school hours," he said. "That would be immoral."
And Madeleine, the property partner looking for a swanky new house, has been charging for her Saturday afternoons of rubbernecking around showhomes on the basis of market research.
The Lawyer, who simply treble-charges the time he spends on train carriages staring up the corridor and hoping the coffee lady will come soon, felt he had missed a trick. "But you just can't be that creative with project finance," he wailed. The others looked at him bleakly, and he realised he'd blown his chances of making equity for another year.