Tulkinghorn simply adores those old-fashioned lawyers who still dare to be marvellously indiscreet. True, they’re a rarer breed in these corporate-led days, but when one finds oneself in their company it remains a delight with few equals.
Such a character presented himself to one of Tulkinghorn’s scribes last week. The esteemed property partner is clearly enormously happy with his smoking-and-wine culture and proceeded to regale his audience about how he loves going to parties, how he thinks the junior partners and trainees should do all the work and how he always aims to schedule his meetings and conferences on the Continent to coincide with a F1 Grand Prix. Sensational work, thought the hack.
Once the great man got into his stride, he related a tale of how he came to choose his former firm, Freshfields. On the interview trail, his first appointment was with those muscular chaps at SJ Berwin. “They had a gym,” he recalls. It was the first time he’d ever encountered a gym in a corporate office. He was astounded. When he asked why they had it, he was told it was “to pump yourself up before a big meeting”. He immediately formed the opinion that all SJ Berwin lawyers were pillocks.
It is a view he staunchly maintains to this day.
His next interview was at Clifford Chance, which also boasted a gym, and our hero was told, more reasonably, that it was to help the lawyers “stay fit”. He liked that a bit better, but was and is a “smoker with religious zeal”, so it didn’t really fit in with his ethos.
Finally came the interview at Freshfields. When he asked about its gym (by now it was his killer question) he was told it was “to relax”. He signed up on the spot.
Of course, in his time there he never once used the gym to relax and he made just the one appearance there in the name of charity. Apparently, quite a crowd had formed to witness this old wheezer actually exercising.
Tulkinghorn, in the great man’s interests, has decided to keep his name a mystery.