Legal Widow

There comes a time, the Lawyer tells me, somewhere near the middle of adisastrous pitch,

when the clients’ eyes are glazing over and the financeguy starts making houses out of

the business cards his team has handedacross, when he swears he can hear the sound of

a biplane motor cutting outand the high-pitched phut phut wheeeeeeeee! of a plane

falling out of thesky.Woken by the acrid smoke streaming out from the sharp end, he

makes themall jump with a stunningly intelligent comment, usually gleaned from theback

page of the FT on the way to the meeting: “I’m sure you’re aware ofhow the news about

Zeneca/Moscow/our 2006 bid/the Teletubbies profitgearing initiative is going to be

affecting your business,” he says gently.He has their attention, the motor coughs back

into life, they’re airborne,until the junior on the team seizes the controls and shrieks

insanely: “Ofcourse we’re not experts in this field…” and the motor dies for good.They

actually go to the pub afterwards to celebrate their heroic failure,and they round off

the evening by chanting in unison: “No-one ever gotsacked for going with Atkinson

Grimshaws.” (Try it to the tune of Hey Jude.Four pints and it sounds terrific.)

Apparently it’s the curse of the smallfirm, like pitching against the Hydra.When you’re

considering sending the cleaner along to make up numbersbecause X’s wife is in labour

and Y is hiding in the broom cupboard with aninjunction pending, Atkinson Grimshaws can

be guaranteed to send in a teamof eight, quite prepared to lose two of them to parking

meter duty alone. Athird is deposited in the lobby to check out the competition in

thevisitor’s book, and a fourth is delegated to hanging around the watercooler to pick

up the office buzz.The client, outnumbered by bright young things in suits, is lawyered

intosigning on the dotted line. And everyone says: “You went with AtkinsonGrimshaws?

Good move, Stewart. Good people.” Meanwhile, the other half ofthe legal profession which

doesn’t work for them is getting quietly souseddown the pub, singing “No-one ever got

sacked…” and failing to turn up fortheir youngest daughter’s bedtime story.I must

admit to a sneaking admiration for the Atkinson Grimshaws choice,the policy of “bigger

is better”. I, who have been helping to organise thevillage summer fete, wanted to order

the biggest bouncy castle with thehighest towers and the gigantic generator, but I have

been overruled, andwe are to have the medium-sized ball pond instead.I would have gone

with Lilting Jack Harry and his Sixteen Swinging Hornsin the beer tent, but my voice has

been lost on the wind, and we are tohave one man with a synthesiser and his girlfriend

singing Sade songs. Ihave tried to avoid the jeers I know will come when the village

sees the25-year-old tombola drum, made from an old Party Seven keg, wheeled outagain,

but the committee wouldn’t go with my alternative: the 16-car ghosttrain with realistic

ectoplasm.The Lawyer berates me for failing to support the small business. I replythat

there is safety in resources; having Mr Towell the butcher, who hasoffered to do the

pony rides, dressed up in a pink hunting jacket, does notmake Daisy the donkey any more

like a horse. And neither does it reassureus, his customers, that what he hands us in

the shop really is “threepounds of silverside lovely and fresh, now”.