5 October 1999
Minutes of a recent management meeting at The Firm between Jack Pratchard, senior partner, and Tom Henderson, managing partner.
Pratchard: A splendid day. Those damned bean counters put in their place at last. Top five global law firm in five years, my arse! It says here Arnheim Tite & Lewis are in disarray after losing six partners and poor old Garretts are "reeling" after losing a senior partner to some Northern firm.
Henderson: That's not good news at all. The Arnheim people have moved to KPMG to set up KLegal.
Pratchard: KLegal? It sounds like a brand of toilet cleaner. Mind you those accountants love stupid names, like PricewaterhouseCoopers. Does their spacebar not work? And KPMG. It hasn't even got a vowel in it. Believe me, they'll go out of business and good riddance I say. Legal work is for lawyers.
Henderson: But we've been trying to merge with an accountancy firm for years. They all wanted access to our Kosovo practice, until they discovered that it was actually a two-man tent on the Albanian border. And then they discovered all of our hidden overheads in the Hull office. Oh and do we really need a boat?
Pratchard: Yes we do. It's for entertaining clients. And its not a boat, its a forty foot yacht.
Henderson: It was a former fishing trawler! We found six buckets of three year old mackerel rotting in the hull after we bought it.
Pratchard: It looked fine after a lick of paint... But anyway, think what merging with accountants would have meant. Our partners would become salaried slaves, compelled to blindly obey some global civil service-esque dictatorship. And there would be massive scope for conflicts of interest, temptation to abuse positions of trust for financial gain with Chinese walls. What are "Chinese walls" anyway? Do you get them at IKEA?
Henderson: Listen, as a multidisciplinary partnership our dream model for The Firm would be realised at last. Think of all those lovely clients that would be forced to use us because of aggressive cross-selling, even though we're totally unsuitable. Sadly, I think we've missed the boat. the big five offered to take on our profitable areas of business. Sorry, I mean area of business after all we still are the leading firm in quarrying law according to Chambers directory.
Pratchard: What about my accountants? FB Stanley & Co, a nice two-partner firm in Ruislip. They have lovely biscuits and as for clients, well they've got me and I'm loaded.
Henderson: Unfortunately Jack, I fear that you are, once again, talking bollocks. Which is why I've decided to take a bold strategic decision. If the accountants want to muscle into my turf, I'm going to muscle into theirs. We're setting up an accountancy firm. I mean how hard can it be? All they do is add up. What's five plus six?
Pratchard: Hold on. I've just borrowed a new watch from one of the IT boys. It has a calculator on it...Twelve.
Henderson: Well obviously we'll need some training. And we get to use proper calculators. But I predict that we'll be a top five global accountancy firm within five years. And why stop there? Clients want legal advice, tax advice... then a cab back to the office. So this morning I purchased EezyCabs of Mile End. Want your shoes shined while you're at a meeting? Look no further that the Firm's cobblers arm Chalmers & Co.
Pratchard: Mrs Pratchard has always wanted to make and sell her own jam. We could set up a marmalade making firm.
Henderson: Now you're just being silly.