The Rise and Fall of Alan McBeal …
1 May 2009
The last month has been something of a voyage of personal discovery for yours truly. But I don’t strictly mean the good kind – like the sort you get in a misty forest clearing fighting off poachers and taking bullets for Silver Back Gorillas. No. I mean the other kind. The bad kind. The “my capacity to deal with even the most simple tasks is possibly about as half baked as Jackie Smith’s husband’s attempts to master … err hmm … the remote control” kind.
This bout of self-appraisal came about after the first big mistake of my training contract. In a rush to get home on a Friday evening, I’d managed to send out some post transaction bibles (big bundles of legal documents) to a client’s old address. Only later - when Gekko got a phone call from the client asking why he’d sat on the papers for over a week – did I realise my gaffe. The file copies duly confirmed my fate. And although Gekko should’ve checked my work, it was my responsibility. There was no option but to fess up. He’d trusted me. And I’d made an error of epic proportions.
So, with over two grand’s worth of disbursements (charges the firm usually bills to the client) doing a Lord Lucan, CJ, the lead partner on the deal, called us in for a chat. I went in expecting a major telling off. But, surprisingly, it wasn’t quite the Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment. There was no turning purple. He didn’t wave his arms around like a geriatric nutcase. And he didn’t rope in Sam Allardyce to back him up. He simply explained that he was very disappointed with the standards and said that he would be reviewing the situation. Somehow, that was worse. “I didn’t get where I am today without knowing how to check an address,” he seemed to say, impliedly.
The upshot was that I’d contrived to make myself look like a bungling idiot. Plus, Gekko would be getting a black mark against his name when - in the current climate of jobless associates - he could well do without it. And despite his yuppie pretensions and Bang & Olufsen fixation, the notion that he could end up on theCredit Crunch Montyscrapheap - jangling his change to satisfy the prurient interest of Sky One viewers – didn’t sit well on my conscience. No man, not even Danny Dyer, deserves that fate.
Consequently, for the better part of the week I sat at my desk feeling something likeSandy Brown after his famous Merseyside Derby own goal in December 1969. A spell of soul searching and silent reflection was in order. I felt clinically fed up. And I gorged on a huge Toblerone. But I knew that self-pity wasn’t going to help matters. Silently, I resolved to bounce back. And this started with an apology to Gekko. I was his first trainee. And I owed him that much.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ve made worse mistakes and you did the right thing. Fess up early. Don’t pretend to your big time. Accept your mistake and take your medicine. So long as you seem contrite, people won’t mind helping you out. They’d be ars*s if they didn’t.”
Kind of like Del Boy affectionately calling Rodney a plonker this was a truly landmark moment in our burgeoning working relationship. We were in the concrete jungle, I was Dian Fossey, and Gekko had just held out his big monkey hand. Now we’d be fighting the poachers together. And I felt glad – just as long as I didn’t end up murdered one night in my hut, of course.
So, if I had to look back at my mistake, I guess the lesson would be that most trainees are going to make at least one mistake in their first seat: especially coming straight out of university. And whilst criticism isn’t always easy to face up to, if you deal with it properly, you can still salvage something from the situation.