7 May 1999
Memo from Jack Pratchard, senior partner at The Firm, to all partners.
What's gone wrong with the legal profession? I remember a golden time when if you wanted something, you simply bought it with good honest bribery. But not now. Take the "so-called" Lawyer Awards. I forked out a sizeable wedge for a huge 12-seat table right near the front. Only myself and Mrs Pratchard sat at it, just to demonstrate my wealth and importance.
Having spent all that money, I expected a prize, but my rude awakening began when I innocently slapped a wench's backside and asked her for another vat of champers. The skirt ignored me and jumped on the podium. She was from Southwark Council and had - I can hardly say the words - won something. I frantically searched my programme for the other entrants in the "Best bin emptiers and street cleaners of the year" award only to be told they'd transacted the best deal of the year. My arse they had.
What about our crack quarrying team overseeing the 500 metre extension to the Dumfries Granite Pit? It involved new law relating to slag heaps and was a top effort considering the total bloody incompetence of our lawyers and that distracting money laundering business with the police.
And so the night continued. A whole B-list of bloody rural firms picking up gongs which by rights belonged to the likes of ourselves, A&O, the Chancers and Herbies. After all, we are the biggest and most important and spend the most on advertising in that toilet paper of a magazine.
Some legal aid firm, Irvin Michael, picked up the client care award. It's easy to look after clients if they're all on legal aid. Just give them a free can of Special Brew and make sure they don't piss on the floor. Then came Wightmans and Hammond Stoppards. By the time Law Firm of the Year Addleshort Boot stepped up, I'd come up with a great heckle. "Who the hell are you?" I bellowed, to much amusement.
The low point of the evening was Legal Personality of the Year. You know me - a modest man. But I had turned up with some expectation of receiving the main prize. I even pencilled out a speech, in which I thanked nobody: "It's my sodding award and I'm not sharing it". Only it wasn't my award. Imran Khan won. Not even the cricketer, but some man fighting for justice. Justice, pah! Who's going to get six-figure fees fighting for justice?
Partner of the Year was some woman, Assistant of the Year was some thicko with a 2:2 who I seem to remember rejecting with the wry comment "You must be joking" some years ago. And The Firm won nothing. Who judges this sham? Not City lawyers, that's for sure. Well, apart from Pat Balfour at Slaughters. And Tony Salz at Freshfields. And Tony Williams and Alasdair Simpson. And Lord Hunt. And in-house types like Stephen Ball and Richard Wiseman. The rest are pinkoes like that woman Kamlesh Bahl. I'm sure I saw her putting in our windows during the J18 riot.
I conducted myself admirably in spite of the injustice of the whole evening. Of course, the wife didn't understand the humour behind my little misdemeanour on the dance floor. The young blonde filly I claimed as my prize didn't appear to get the joke either. The rest is all a bit of a blur. But I'm told I was found asleep on the pavement yesterday morning outside the Dorchester still clutching the Law Firm of the Year Award.
The only thing I can say to you all is that I will not let this shoddy episode taint the vision and culture of The Firm. The day we in The Firm accept that law firms are judged on "merit" is the day The Firm goes out of business.
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