Blog Week 53: Keeping up appearances.

Sunday 26 November 23.06

A really big deal is going on this week. Various small teams of lawyers are arriving tomorrow: some London-based German lawyers; a few lawyers from Berlin; a couple of partners from a US office.

Weirdo is continuing her one-woman campaign to save the fax machines.  On Friday she gave Pierre a recent FT clipping saying increased usage of mobile devices could reinvigorate fax machines as the demand for convenient printing facilities will increase.  One thing I have to admire about Weirdo is her persistence.

Monday 27 November 23.54

Why does Brussels not have a 24/7 Kinkos type service? Perfectly reasonable question from the visiting US lawyers. Anyway we have kept on top of things concerning the demands of our visiting "hot-shots". Just.  At one point Mockney and Paranoid Android had to help services out. Old Timer was calling our efforts the "Gilded Service": the veneer of top-quality, efficient support hiding the rust and general disrepair. I don't know if Old Timer is insightful or just a miserable, old git (to use one of Mockney's current expressions).

Tuesday 28 November 22.26

Old Timer was showing off his replacement for Brilliant today.  Pierre did his best to hide his disappointment at the speed and ease of Old Timer's successful recruitment.  Especially after all the time - mostly my time - wasted on Pierre's misconceived replacement plan.

Pierre smiled and congratulated Old Timer on a job well done.  I smiled and tried not to show my frustration at all the wasted effort.  Old Timer just smiled.

Wednesday 29 November 22.11

The office fax machines have been saved - thanks to the European Commission.

You know how each EU merger filing (or Form CO) contains various third party contact details including the fax number?  When I used to input the information in merger filings I assumed fax numbers were of secondary importance, just in case the email addresses were not working.  I hadn't realised how significant those fax numbers - still - are to the Commission; it really relies on them.

Earlier this week the Commission told Shakespeare that a few third party fax numbers were either not working or missing from a recent merger notification.  The officials' frustration at the lack of working fax numbers has been building up since then and today they threatened to declare the notification incomplete.

I came across Shakespeare this afternoon.  He was in the kitchen fuming about the Commission's ultimatum to Johan.   Normally Shakespeare is quite calm; this afternoon he was less so.

"This is ridiculous! One market segment is an emerging, cutting-edge technology niche, full of new start-ups who do not use fax machines.  How the hell are we going to give the case team fax numbers that don't exist?  At one stage it looked like these start-ups didn't even have fixed line telephones, just Skype addresses!  Imagine what the Commission would have done with those?".

Hearing a raised voice in the kitchen, some colleagues decided it was a good time to make a coffee.  (One benefit of the office's "open door" policy.)  The bigger audience seemed to incite Shakespeare; I have noticed before how he loves to play to the gallery.

"Someone at the Commission invents a fax-dependent information gathering system suitable four years ago.  The rest of the world is now expected to stick to the old technology just to keep the Commission happy and conform to it's fax-age ways.  This is terrible: a shocking way for a regulator to act.  How long does the rest of the world have to suffer?"

Shakespeare looked around, expecting a reaction from his call-to-arms speech.  Perhaps a polite round of applause building into an angry mob of rioting lawyers and support staff charging on the Josef II emerald Bastille?  Sort of a cross between Citizen Kane and Delacroix's "Liberty leading the people".  Instead there was silence.  No one quite knew how to react.

Before the silence grew too long, Johan made a sympathetic comment but then pointed out the notification had to be cleared on time - the client expects it.  This sub-market is tiny and uncontroversial and should not "stop the clock".  So Shakespeare has to humour the Commission and smile through gritted teeth.  Shakespeare accepted that - after all he likes to act.

At some point during Shakespeare's call-to-arms speech, Weirdo had materialised in the kitchen.  Overjoyed at this fortuitous conversation she waited till Johan was about to leave and said: "See, we need the fax machines. How else can we check if these fax numbers work or not."

Johan agreed, the fax machines are safe.  In fact, the firm's fax machine policy now has to take account of the "Brussels exception".

Thursday 30 November 22.36

The Christmas party is tomorrow.  I have not been involved in the organisation this year and apparently it has all gone smoothly - wonder if there is a connection?

Our visiting lawyers' deal is closing tomorrow.  They are going to stay on for the Christmas party and celebrate.


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