The great equity interview has taken place, and the Lawyer treated us to a post mortem at the weekend. I made us all ice-cream pancakes, which is what the children have after a gruelling exam, and we sat down and listened to his tale of woe.
“The thing is,” said the Lawyer, “I read too many books on interview technique beforehand, and they all said: ‘Talk above the line!’ You know, never give negative reasons for doing things and never dwell on what went wrong, and it was going all right and I felt really calm and focused, thinking: ‘Above the line! Above the line!’. And then I had this ridiculous thought pop into my head: ‘Plimsoll line’. And then I suddenly had a vision of the Titanic sailing majestically to her doom, and just then the department head tossed this really evil question at me. I can’t even remember what it was. And all I could think was: ‘Iceberg! Straight ahead!’
“Well, it destroyed me. I felt as if I’d been holed below the waterline. I could feel all my bottom decks filling up with water, as it were, and I tipped right over and fell into the blackness.
“I couldn’t think of a thing to say. All that stuff I’m good at, and the fact that I get on well with my staff, and my great billings, and the client satisfaction; well, that all went crashing down into the depths of the sea, just like the plates and cutlery in the dining room of the Titanic when it went nose down.
“And then they must have seen me struggling because they asked the killer question: ‘What do you think are the major strategic weaknesses of the firm?’
“And I know the answer to that; it’s something like: ‘The fact you can’t clone the managing partner! Ha! Ha!’, or ‘There are only 24 hours in the day! Ha double ha!’. And guess what I said? ‘There aren’t enough lifeboats.’
“Well, one of them nearly jumped out of his chair, and another one snapped his pen in two, and the other said: ‘What the hell do you mean by that?’. And I had to make up some old rubbish, so I said there weren’t enough exit routes for underperforming staff, and that they all needed a bloody good boot over the side, or at the very least to be set adrift. Lifeboats, you see.
“And that went down amazingly well, and they asked me if I had any more good ideas for axing poor staff. So I outlined how they could get rid of me, my assistants, my secretary and even the entire department, and they made notes and said thank you. And that was it.
“I don’t know if I survived it or signed my own death warrant – I really felt like I was giving up a place on Kate Winslet’s raft.”
The girls started crying because the memory of Kate heaving poor Leonardo di Caprio’s frozen arms off her floating door is the saddest thing they’ve ever experienced. I found it a bit of a relief, frankly, because it meant the dreary film must be nearing its end.
“It’s odd about the lifeboats, though,” I said. “Do you think they know something that you don’t?”
“Darling, I’m not equity,” he replied. “The amount I actually know about the firm would fit below the title on my business card. If I still have a title after yesterday, that is.”
I could think of nothing more to say, except: “More ice-cream?”