29 March 1999
Memo from Jack Pratchard, senior partner at The Firm, to all partners.
Pratchard here. There I am, minding my own business, sipping my champagne at some poncey Linklaters' function held in an aquarium, when up rolls old Terry Kyle and bold as brass says: "So what's The Firm's long-term strategy then?"
I've never been so embarrassed in all my life. How was I supposed to know The Firm needed a strategy? Nobody has mentioned it up to now. I diffused the situation by quaffing my bubbly and falling into the carp tank - but the incident left a nasty taste in my mouth so I recently "consulted" a top strategy boffin by the name of Goodheart.
"Stick to your knitting," he blathered - at u550 a hour. "It's a law firm, not the women's institute," I thundered before he explained that he had used something called a "metaphor". Apparently we should concentrate on what we're good at.
And that got me really worried. We may be the leading firm in quarrying law, according to Chambers Directory, with offices in Hull, Palermo and Kosovo, but I've never been able to get my head around all those other areas of practice like corporate and litigation. And property. And Intellectual Technology.
"Well why don't you develop a new practice?" asked Goodheart.
And that's when it hit me. Fruit law - law relating to fruit. But then clever old Henderson had an even better plan. Sports law. There's not another firm in the entire City that's thought of that one yet.
I was quite an athlete in my day - class champion at the Eton Wall Game, a blue from Oxford at real tennis. Ah, the horseplay in the showers after the match, whipping each other's peachy backsides with wet towels. We could represent the next CB Fry.
It turns out Henderson shares my passion for sport. He used to bare-knuckle fist fight in a lovely pub called the Three Crowns in Millwall and then took up association football. But his career was cut short by a horrendous injury. Apparently he hit the opposition's goalkeeper with a brick and was banned for life.
Initially I thought sports law would be a doddle. The laws of most sports are easy - well, apart from the offside law. I quite fancied earning a packet during Wimbledon representing players asserting in court that "the ball was clearly out".
But, I misunderstood. Sports law is all about big business, multimillion pound deals, corporations and contracts.
Now that I've read the sports pages of the Financial Times, it seems the "Association of Football Premier League" is flush with cash, especially the top team based in Manchester.
I can now announce that I phoned that team and they have agreed to hand all their legal work over to us! And few firms can have a client as high-profile as Manchester City.
I've booked a corporate box at the international match on Saturday between England and Poland and all the top players like Jimmy Greaves and Dixie Dean have been sent invitations.
All partners must turn up with their rattles and meat pies to cheer on the national side. There's nothing like a good five nations match to get the blood stirring and we may even rub shoulders with the charming cockney characters on the terraces for a few rousing verses of "Swing low, sweet Charlotte, coming forth to carry me home". And then it's off to the communal bath afterwards for some old-fashioned hospitality and high jinks.