Among the mass of paperwork which lands on my desk every morning, there is usually several invitations to attend a lunch, dinner or seminar with drinks. The subtext of all these invitations is a desire to secure work from Wetherspoons.
One of the main business functions of the company involves the conversion of unlicensed premises into pubs. Consequently, Wetherspoons lawyers are responsible for obtaining planning permission and licences for these premises.
As head of the legal department and company secretary, I am responsible for fulfilling the secretarial function, and also dealing with a number of general legal matters relating to the day-to-day running of the company's existing estate.
Obviously any of the invitations which are sent to me are not seeking the pleasure of my company but are sent in the hope that I will be tempted into instructing the host.
The companies could save their money. Wetherspoons has been as successful as it is on the basis of merit and not from receipt of any favours.
As a result company policy requires staff to refuse invitations to expensive meals or outings. If Wetherspoons is to instruct a firm it will do so on the basis of merit and expertise in a particular area and not because of an invitation to The Savoy or to Wimbledon.
The only exception to this policy is invitations to seminars held by firms which work in a field the Wetherspoons legal department is involved in and so could benefit from.
In the past these have proved themselves to be useful but, long-term, I doubt whether they influenced me in instructing a particular firm.
Having said this, if a firm we are already using wishes to wine and dine me, I would have no objection. However, it should do so in the knowledge that if it provides us with a good service it will continue to be instructed regardless, and if not it will be dropped, dinner or no dinner.
I expect my popularity will now decrease.