Legal Widow

The managing partner unveiled a new training strategy at the recent personal development and motivational weekend. It was held in Dublin – motivation enough for anybody – but lawyers are awfully spoilt. If I was in charge, I’d book the local church hall and they’d have to lump it. Everyone spends the entire weekend in the bar, so they might as well be in the lager-reeking snug of St Cuthbert’s as anywhere else.

He has decided to base the firm’s entire HR strategy on a popular TV reality show, and will call it ‘I’m a solicitor… get me out of here!’ Ominous silence in the hall as people wondered whether he was going to drop millipedes down their shorts, apart from the eager beavers at the front, who were practically whipping their belts off and panting with enthusiasm. As we all know, however, the jolly-hockey-stick types get voted off long before the ones with the terrible attitude
problems – and this, apparently, is what lies behind the MP’s thinking.

The MP, who does no work and has time to watch reality shows, has noticed that people you really didn’t like at first tend to shine when asked to swallow eel slime or rub themselves with cockroaches. All the ones you thought were leaders are exposed as being horribly bossy and limited in imagination, and all the popular ones are seen to be terrible fakers. The strange and curmudgeonly misfits all turn out to be the quiet, strong ones, or insanely brave, or sexy in a crazy way; and he feels it is these people who can help the firm stand out in the jungle of commercial law (although as everyone except the MP remembers, things that stand out in the jungle don’t last very long).

It also gives him a terrific format for appraisals. Following
the ‘I’m a celebrity’ philosophy of making people do humiliating, frightening and distasteful things in a bid to make themselves loved and to resurrect a failing career, he will be asking his lawyers to, among other things, apologise to clients for their own mistakes; actually go out and get some more work in; let other lawyers in on their pet projects; try to see the big picture; bill for exactly the time they’ve worked; stop sending emails and talk to each other; forego business lunches and give the money to charity; try to be out of the office by 5.30pm every day; try going to the theatre one night, instead of the pub; not care about the sort of car they drive; listen when their spouses are talking; and take some holiday.

There were gasps in the hall as he unveiled all this; the good boys and girls at the front started weeping, and a junior member of property actually fainted. Gradually, though, an understanding dawned that the day of the slackers, the misfits and the firm anarchists had come. “Life is a popularity contest!” shouted the MP to a mixture of applause and booing.

“Yeah, but who’s doing the voting?” I asked.

“Well, the rest of the partners, I suppose,” said the Lawyer.

“The ones who work 18-hour days and overbill to make themselves look good and who would kill you rather than let you work with their clients?”

“Ah,” said the Lawyer. “I see a problem.”

Yes, life may be a popularity contest, but legal firms bear little resemblance to life as we know it. And the reason all the misfits win on TV is because the average reality show audience probably contains no lawyers at all – they’re all working too hard.