8 February 1999
Speech given by Jack Pratchard at a recent partners meeting.
...You know me. I'm the rainmaker - I don't often dip my toe into Lake Law.
But when Toby Tucker, chief executive of Tucker's Quarrying Limited,
demands our top man to help set up Tucker's Kingdom of Slate - the largest
slate wholesaler in Dorset - I begin dusting down my case note law book
My, how times have changed since my last "hands-on" action in 1963, most
notably with my learned friends at the Bar.
I remember the good old days, popping down to 3 Scissors Court to instruct
counsel. Big Arfur, the senior clerk, would greet me in Dick Van Dyke-style
"gord blimey squire" before haggling over costs like a pimp.
"You can 'ave 'im for 'alf an 'our for a score guvnor, but I can't go
lower. I should call the peelers now anywise 'cos at these prices, you're
robbin' me blind!" he would say.
I'd reply with "Look Arfur, let's call it a monkey, take this pony for
your trouble, the wigs need never know about that, what do you say?" We'd
shake hands, then go for a knees-up like a couple of pearly queens.
But not anymore godammit!
3 Scissors Court doesn't even exist anymore. It's been rebranded as
Whitesabre House. There's no Big Arfur either. He was prised out after 35
years with a measily u500,000 pay-off. I was greeted by Ashley
Burton-Smith, the new client liaison co-ordinator. Seems Ashley used to
work as an advertising executive - he created the Jolly Green Giant - and
has a more modern outlook than Big Arfur. And a smaller pay cheque.
Ashley led me into the client suite, complete with sofas, magazines and a
photocopier. Is The Firm helping pay for all of this? What was wrong with
briefs lying strewn all over a barrister's mould-scented carpet? It was
inefficient but by thunder it was cheap.
Then, when I asked Ashley if I could instruct Reg Knowles QC, my old
boozing buddy from way back when, he told me Reg was dead, but he had a
number of sharp minds who would be excellent for my case, before asking me
"What exactly is your case?"
The last straw was when I was presented with Whitesabre's brochure full of
glossy pictures of barristers. It was as if I'd accidentally wandered into
Argos. Under pressure, I chose some spotty kid called Jeremy and had to
pick him up from collection point D.
Well, there I was the following day in court with Toby Tucker fighting a
passing-off action brought by that bastard Alfie Parker at Parker's Empire
of Slate, when I remembered something clever old Henderson once told me
about - Solicitor-Avocados. It's where you do all that "objection m'lud"
stuff yourself. So I sacked Jeremy.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury," I intoned. "Mr Parker is out of order.
This action is out of order. Infact, this whole courtroom is out of order!"
Unfortunately there wasn't a jury.
The big judge then told me that as I wasn't a barrister I wasn't allowed
to wear a wig. Which was a shame as I'd specially selected my favourite
The beak then asked if I was even qualified as a solicitor -advocate - I
tell you, I didn't see that coming - which was when I had to run down the
street after Jeremy.
The moral of this tale, fellow partners? We should stick to our knitting.
Let barristers wear the wigs and frocks, let the solicitors do all the
work, and let me get back to my golf swing.