The Firm

Minutes of a meeting at the Firm between Jack Pratchard, Tom Henderson and corporate partner Wally Baxter.

Pratchard: Tom, I got a lovely letter from an old chum this morning. He's 78, yet he's planning on running a marathon. Marvellous.

Henderson: What old chum?

Pratchard: Augusto Pinochet. He's back home in Chile now apparently. Says he never felt better. Look, there's a picture of him doing the Lambada round a Santiago bar. "Sorry Jack, got to go now, Chile's version of Countdown is on and I want to see if I can get the conundrum within two seconds – I've got it! It's HOODWINKED! Thanks for all the legal help. Gusty." But I didn't think we helped with the case.

Henderson: It was your medical report that we sent to Jack Straw. We just tippexed out Pratchard and put in Pinochet. No wonder they thought he was a crazy old buffer. Which reminds me – have you seen this clipping? A 58-year-old partner has quit Rowe & Maw because it wanted him to retire.

Pratchard: That's awful. I didn't fight in two world wars…

Henderson: I know. You were a deserter you old fool. The idea that this guy actually got to 58 before being given the push. The law is a young man's game. I mean what impression do clients get when asked to take the stannah stairlift up to the boardroom for a lunch of puree swede and Werther's Originals? I've decided to cut some deadwood out of the equity myself.

Pratchard: But I'm old and I'm in the equity.

Henderson: Jack, you left the equity in 1972. You remember that document I got you to sign – I told you it was a birthday card for Mrs Timkins in the canteen. You signed the deed "To my treacle pudding, love Jack", but I'm told the thing's binding. Anyway, it's time to wield the proverbial axe.

Wally Baxter, a venerable member of the corporate team, enters the room.

Baxter: You wanted to see me sir?

Henderson: Ah, Wally. Sit down. I'm afraid it's time you started thinking about gardening, jigsaws and stuff like that.

Baxter: You want me to take retirement?

Henderson: I don't like using that horrid word – retirement. I prefer to say "that boring bit before death". You're just not a Firm man, with your woollen cardy and gramophone records. I bet you can't even name any of S Club 5. It's not IT, it's not sex, man.

Baxter: But I've been with the Firm man and boy. I started cleaning your father's boots with my tongue Mr Henderson. I was there the day Mr Pratchard wandered in off the street and fell asleep in the boardroom. The day you became managing partner and took everyone out to lunch. Well, you ate a suckling pig while making the rest of us work. I can't leave. If you're good enough, you're young enough, I say.

Henderson: Sorry Wally. At this firm that should be – if you're pretty enough, you're good enough. Or something. Anyway, you're out.

Baxter: Do I get a golden handshake?

Henderson: Strange request. I could arrange one. I've got a phone number for a woman in Soho I sometimes, err, represent. I think she's into that kinky stuff.

Baxter: No sir. I believe you misunderstand me for comic effect. A golden handshake, a pay-off for my long years of service.

Henderson: You can have a cake I guess.

Baxter: In that case, no sir. This firm is like a family to me and I'll fight you in the courts if I have to.

Henderson: Okay. But before you go, do you want to sign this birthday card for Mrs Timkins in the canteen? Just above your printed name. She likes it if you put the date alongside.

Baxter: Happy to oblige.