Opinion

Good Lord! You are surly not going to read this? How can you spare the time? You cannot possibly work in the City of London and probably not even in the law. This year the City has seen two magic circle law firms achieve million pound profit shares. By any reference point we should be impressed or, if not impressed, at least green. Does this not put solicitors back on top of the earnings ladder? Is this not recognition of the true value of the profession? It must be a just return for the extraordinary amount of hard work and skill put in to produce these figures.

But is £1m such a good result? When compared with other City workers? When you take in to account the awful hours, the long slog without any certainty of partnership, the missing social life, the thousand yard stare? Also remember the damage to others – high divorce rates, absent parents, the uncompensated children of work damaged childhoods? How long will it be before one of them brings a claim?

Seen from this perspective, £1m could seem a paltry affair. It surely cannot be enough to compensate for the gruelling effort and sacrifice that has gone to achieve it. What is worse, it could even make law seem a mug’s game. All that and only a million. The boys in the white socks will chuckle at the news. So the lawyers have arrived at seven figures – only 10 years behind us.

Who would go through what this lot go through for a mere million? Not I, said the sparrow. What can a million buy these days? Not a lot where I live. These million pounders could give solicitors a bad name – give the world the impression that lawyers are ready to trade their lives at basement prices as they rush hither and thither holding high their holy brand names hounded by investment bankers and the loitering heirs of City directors not yet departed. The investment bankers get paid for what they do. If the creme de la creme of English solicitors are prepared to settle for this, what hope is there for the rest of us?

For years, the value placed on legal services has been in decline. We all know that clients without demur pay £5,000 to the estate agent while baulking at £500 to the conveyancer. The relationship between the investment banker and the City solicitor is similar. All businesses, naturally enough, seek more for less. In response, the top firms seem to have turned themselves into little more than slave societies (to quote a former IT director of one of the top-five firms) to service the ever more tyrannical demands of the market. A crowd flowed over London Bridge.