Legal widow

It’s new trainee time, and they’re queuing up outside the Lawyer’s office, fresh-faced and hopeful, clutching immaculate CVs with good degrees and wearing a tatty piece of friendship string from their obligatory year building classrooms in Nicaragua. After a series of trainees arrived sporting these, the Lawyer marched to his secretary’s desk, seized the scissors and snipped one off the new lad’s wrist. There was a yelp of grief and the Lawyer told him it was part of the toughening-up process that makes a successful commercial lawyer. That lad now runs his own projects team, works too hard to have friends and is torn between buying a Porsche Cayenne or a Boxster. I think that says quite a lot about the Lawyer’s toughening-up process, don’t you?

As usual, the Lawyer is dissatisfied with his lot. “They’ve never done any research. You ask them what sort of law they want to specialise in and they come up with the one thing you’re rubbish at, or that you don’t do at all, or the department where all the partners ran off to join another firm last year; and when you suggest they simply try Bossall Claxton & Crambe, they look blank.

“And then you worry about whether they’re going to shape up, because half of them haven’t even done vacation placements and they still think law is about helping people and solving problems instead of getting it right and getting the money in.”

“But that’s mostly the ones who did a conversion course,” I suggest, because he hates them: he doesn’t see why anyone who enjoyed themselves reading Shakespeare at university should get a job when he had to slog through years of unnecessary law.

“And they always, always give the wrong answers to the questions,” he adds.

“Like what?” I ask.

“Like when you ask them why they want to join the firm. If they’ve bothered to read the website, they start spouting the latest mission statement, and we have to rush out for a good laugh in the corridor. And if they haven’t they start talking about principles and the structure of society and we wonder how they’re going to survive working until they’re 60.

“And then if you ask them if they’ll be happy being a solicitor, where you’re generally implementing other people’s decisions rather than making them yourself, half of them suddenly have this moment of revelation and realise what they’ve let themselves in for – 40 years of sucking up to everyone else.

“And the other half obviously haven’t got a clue what you’re on about, so you hit them with the ultimate question: why choose commercial law, rather than being a high street solicitor? To which there are three proper answers: money, access to powerful people and early abandonment of principles – although there are extra points for crying out ‘Good God! I’m not spending my working life dealing with people’s boring houses and terrible marriages!’

“But you know what they come up with? It must have been an exam question last year: ‘I really enjoy the interweaving of law with the economic fabric of the business world, and I’m looking forward to contributing my interpretation of legal structures to the continuing economic cycle.’

“I mean, who could work with people like that? So we’ve gone for the obvious choice: she’s the daughter of the guy who runs Bossall Claxton & Crambe. She might actually know something about law. And maybe if we treat her badly enough they’ll do a swap and give us back all the corporate guys who ran off last year.”