Legal Widow

The Lawyer is considering his (office) position now the firm’s fabled move to a new building looks perilously like it is ushering everyone into the 20th century, just in time to leave it.

“Cubicles!” he said, storming in one night and throwing his briefcase across the hall, where it smashed into the telephone table and upended a jar of calla lilies.

“I’ll be losing my office!” he wailed, as I patiently retrieved the briefcase, mopped out the lily water and hung up his documents to dry on the utility room clothes horse.

The office in question is not his alone – he shares it with two other lawyers, a television tuned to the World Cup, a photocopier and some conveyancing filing cabinets that got lost in the last move – but I suppose it must seem like home to him. He certainly spends enough time there.

I had no idea he felt so strongly about it, as he was always muttering darkly about overcrowding and how the admin department was no better than a slum landlord.

“Well,” I said brightly, “You could look at this as slum clearance, I suppose.” But he merely cast me a despairing look and went upstairs to change.

For months, all eyes have been turned to the great steel and glass structure being erected two streets down, all fingers crossed as the negotiations went on. People held their breath as it appeared that a rival firm was in the running, but then half its partners decamped in the most astonishingly disloyal fashion and its main problem became how to fill the office space it already had.

A high point was reached when the marble cladding went into the foyer and it turned out to be top-class, silky-grey Nero Impala rather than trashy Baltic Brown. Champagne corks popped in the old offices that night and went straight through the ceiling – a parlous plaster affair that really does appear to be coming down around their ears, unless the white flakes on the Lawyer’s suit just mean he’s forgetting to use the medicated shampoo I bought him.

Unfortunately, they were so impressed with the outside of the building that they paid no heed to what was going on inside, beyond dreaming of blonde wood desks with little cable holes for the computer and fancy up-lighters.

Meanwhile, the estates team had decided against separate offices (which cost money) and were instead erecting 8,000 padded grey screens (which, because they are made of balsa wood and cotton wool, cost almost nothing). I’m concerned that you cannot pin things to them, so the children will lose their exhibition space, but this is as nothing compared with the loss of privacy, the loss of the telly and so on.

Enterprising souls who have read Dilbert are already planning to increase their cubicle size by using piles of old correspondence, but my main concern is the stampede when they move in. Unless they manage it properly, it’ll be something like the claim-staking race at the end of Far and Away, with everyone belting in from the lifts and hurling towards the cubicles nearest the windows and walls, throwing down a big brown box of papers and shouting: “This is my land!”

There will be heartache and bloodshed if they’re not careful, and they will end with a no-man’s land in the centre of the room, populated entirely by those nice property lawyers, who always take far too long to get anywhere and are bound to be trampled in the rush.