Tulkinghorn: There once was a lawyer from Freshfields…

Last week The Lawyer News Daily email marked the arrival of Carol Ann Duffy as the first female Poet Laureate by highlighting some gifted wordsmiths among those in the legal profession.

The story prompted several readers to respond with other well-known names.

“The most famous English lawyer-poet of the 20th century was Roy Fuller, comrade of Auden, Spender and MacNeice, later in-house counsel to the Woolwich Equitable Building Society,” pointed out Paul Mountain, a partner at Martineau in Birmingham. He added, “Franz Kafka was a lawyer, TS Eliot was a bank clerk and Wallace Stevens was an insurance broker.” The missive also uncovered a fair number of readers who like to put pen to paper for reasons other than drafting a bi-lateral loan agreement.

Mountain himself recalls that, back in 1981, when he was reading English at Oxford, he won the Eugene Lee-Hamilton prize for the best Petrarchan sonnet.
“It was on the subject of Scouse (Lapskaus), the north German lamb stew that became Liverpool’s national dish,” Mountain says.

Sadly, Mountain’s ode was unavailable but Tulkinghorn is delighgted to offer this effort, called Only Skin Deep, inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 (yes, the one about the dun breasts), from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer real estate partner Geoff Le Pard.

Slum guys have all the luck

Forget Slumdog Millionaire, that’s so last year. Bristol-based firm TLT recently showed where it was really at, man, by starring in an Indian business game show on UTVI, one of India’s best-known business news television channels.

TLT was the only UK law firm that participated because of the firm’s strong links with the Indian market.

Apparently, TLT advised two teams of Indian firms on their fun-packed attempts to acquire a UK company. The idea was to highlight the different legal, financial and regulatory issues that needed to be considered and to increase understanding of the role of consultants and advisers in an M&A scenario… at this point, Tulkinghorn switched over to Planet Bollywood to search for Slumdog 2.

New office is dead good

A little gem featuring ­Simmons & Simmons reached Tulkinghorn recently. According to a mole, all of the firm’s ­financial regulatory ­partners are being
shifted to nicer offices, essentially being swapped with the private equity team.

The mole added, only half-jokingly Tulkinghorn believes, that the move was a sign of which teams are bringing in the moolah these days at Simmons.
By the way, the name of the partners’ former home? The Corridor of Death.

Two plus two equals 11

Tulkinghorn never tires of chuckling to himself over a large glass of Armagnac about the lengths some firms go to to keep bad news under wraps.
Following last week’s promotions special, he was in hysterics over the obfuscation that appeared to be emanating from Olswang.

For those who may have missed it, on 30 January Olswang launched a redundancy consultation, proposing to cut around 45 jobs. The Lawyer reported on that plan just as it did when the firm cut 10 real estate jobs back in ­November 2007.

Consequently, when The Lawyer was putting together the promotions feature we contacted Olswang to find out the final result of its second consultation. In other words, how many lawyers, staff and partner had ­ultimately lost their jobs?

The response from Olswang? “In terms of staff we anticipated reducing our headcount by 42,” it said. “Through voluntary redundancies and collective arrangements within groups we managed to need only 11 compulsory staff redundancies.”

Eleven? Good lord, ­considerably less than 42, eh? Well done, Olswang.

Except that it wasn’t quite the whole story.

It took some doughty digging to come up with the actual figure.

Very politely and very efficiently, Olswang eventually revealed that it had reduced its fee-earner headcount by 17.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff (including 9.7 ­volunteers and 7.4 compulsory) and its ­support staff headcount by 22.1 FTE (20.1 volunteers and two compulsory).

Olswang refused to be drawn on partner numbers but sources suggest the final number was eight. So, 39 fee-earners and support staff plus eight partners. Tulkinghorn’s maths, admittedly ropey, makes that 47. Not 11.

Now, we know you’re lawyers, and that giving a straight answer hurts the brain cells, but seriously.