21 June 1999
Minutes of meeting between Jack Pratchard, Tom Henderson, Alison Brett, a new partner in the corporate department, and her three-year-old son Billy.
Mr Pratchard: I've been meaning to talk to you, Alison. Corporate image is very important to The Firm. We're lean and hungry in the forest of law - and quite frankly you're not exuding that image. To be tactful, you're getting fat.
Ms Brett: But it's because I'm pregnant, Mr Pratchard.
Mr Pratchard: Pregnant? I don't remember being consulted about this.
Ms Brett: I didn't think I needed your permission. I'm here to request six months of maternity leave.
Mr Henderson: Six months! Are you giving birth to an elephant? If we get a midwife in she could induce it during the lunch hour, whip it out - a stiff gin and you're back at your desk by two.
Ms Brett: I'm legally entitled to maternity leave, I'm afraid. I don't think you understand the demands placed on working mothers in the modern world. Why do you think I have to bring little Billy here into the office with me?
Mr Henderson: Oh, do wipe that dribble off his face. It's quite disgusting.
Ms Brett: He's only three, Mr Henderson.
Mr Henderson: I was actually talking about Mr Pratchard. So what do you want?
Ms Brett: Couldn't the firm introduce "part-time" partners, allowing me to work from my house?
Mr Pratchard: I've always wondered, Henderson - is working "in a house" the same as working "in-house"?
Mr Henderson: Jack, why don't you go and play with Billy and his Lego? Now, Alison. Point one, you already work part-time. I don't recall making you come in on Sundays. Well, not every Sunday. Point two, corporate work is a 24-hour seven-day-a-week practice these days. I'm often ready at the end of a phone for clients at three in the morning.
Ms Brett: Why on earth do clients want legal advice at three in the morning?
Mr Henderson: They don't. They want fresh supplies of coke sent down to whichever lap-dancing bar I've set them up in. But that's part of The Firm's comprehensive service. Point three - and this is a slight diversion - if Billy's in the office anyway, couldn't I get him photocopying? At least I won't have to pay him the minimum wage. And I expect he's better than Chalmers.
Ms Brett: Linklaters, Herbert Smith and Cameron McKenna have all brought in flexible working practices.
Mr Henderson: And you think we just blindly follow what Linklaters do?
Ms Brett: Quite frankly, yes.
Mr Henderson: Listen luv. It just so happens that after careful thought I've slightly revised my earlier view. Part-time partners are the best idea in the whole world. There are just a few conditions before I allow you to work from home. One, you invest in state-of-the-art IT to make sure you work efficiently. And two, you buy that house over there, so I can see into your living room from where I'm sitting - just to make sure you're not abusing my trust.
Ms Brett: No. But I tell you what, Mr Pratchard. If my baby's a boy I'll name it Jack after you. And if it's a girl I'll also name it Jack after you.
Mr Pratchard: Oh, give her what she wants, Henderson. This wicked harlot knows how to wrap me around her little finger. Little Jack Junior! I'm getting quite emotional...
Mr Henderson: Alright. But that smell's revolting. Change his nappy before he poisons the entire boardroom.
Ms Brett: Billy doesn't wear nappies.
Mr Henderson: No. I was talking about Mr Pratchard...