Blog Week 96: Form over substance.

Sunday 23 September 23.07

A new stagiaire started at the beginning of the month. He looks very professional: sharp suits, ties etc. But that look is not so common in our office. Our male lawyers are not so bothered by appearance; the only people they get dressed up for are the clients. Our female lawyers make something of an effort; but often look dowdy compared to their visiting female counterparts from Paris or London. Whenever new lawyers start they typically look more "corporate" than everyone else.

The stagiaire is cute. Surprisingly no one else has really said anything yet.

Monday 24 September 23.11

I heard Hairy criticising my cute stagiaire today. He was in her office (as I was walking past) and she was berating him: supposedly the part of a Form Co he had drafted had no substance. He started explaining how unforthcoming the client was with the necessary information but she cut him short and told him to try harder. He left looking despondent. I gave a supportive smile but he looked through me. Even then I found myself wanting to comfort him. Which is a bit worrying.

Tuesday 25 September 23.40

Bill and I were talking in his office today. His phone rang and as he answered he signaled for me to stay. I assumed it would be a short call and for thirty seconds it looked like it would be. But as he kicked his shoes off and put his feet up (never a good sign) it was clear it would not be. In fact it went on and on and I sat there feeling uncomfortable that I could hear so much. But maybe that was the point. My time is not charged (or should that be Billable? - ok very bad pun, but could not resist) and so not important.

I drifted off thinking about more important things until he and the caller started talking about some recent public spat. Unfortunately I don't know what exactly they were referring to. Someone on one side of the Atlantic had said something and then someone on the other side had said something back. Bill and his caller were discussing the real sub-text; saying all the so-called experts (the media?) were missing out on what was really going. No one was asking the question: where one of the protagonist was before and where that person would be afterwards? They started laughing about the so-called experts, saying 99% didn't know what was going on and the other 1% dare not say anything. Instead we get all this - he then started pointing at his computer screen.

Bill's secretary Barbie then came in and signalled that a client had arrived. The call finished. I left - none the wiser about anything, let alone what I first came in to discuss.

Wednesday 26 September 23.12

I went to get a coffee this afternoon and found Shakespeare talking to my hot stagiaire in the kitchen. I say "my" but he and I have not even spoken (yet). And I am sure nothing will happen; I am older than him for a start. But it is one of those small frissons that makes my office life a little more interesting.

As I made my coffee, Shakespeare was describing a recent conference he had attended. It was the usual mix of attendees: mainly lawyers with a few economists and media present. At the start of one Q&A one journalist asked a really obvious question. Apparently it is a bit of an in-joke for some attendees. The question's main purpose is always to advertise the questioner's organisation. So after the panel gave non-answers to the non-question. (Shakespeare defined a non-answer is the opportunity to use the speaking time to support a point made in their earlier presentations). It was then followed by another journalist asking a question that no one - the panel or rest of the audience - understood. That is this person's habit; asking unnecessarily complicated questions that simply baffle. The questioner was asked to rephrase the question to make it understandable. When rephrased it remained largely unclear. So there were then more non-answers from the panel. The third question came from a practitioner with a reputation for some reflection on the matter in hand. And it was a really insightful question. Unfortunately none of the panel felt comfortable about giving a real answer. They had come to say something, said it in their presentations, and were not prepared to say anything more (particularly with the attending media present). Shakespeare was sitting next to an outside counsel who had made a special effort to come to the conference. It was all rather tedious for her: patiently sitting in the hope (if not expectation) of some insight. Instead she was confronted by a variety of agendas.

Shakespeare's comments reminded me of those of Too Kool a little while ago. Strange how the same situations appear to repeat themselves.


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