This Is Not Business As Usual


The market was booming and I interviewed with three law firms. Even after I accepted an offer, a ‘magic circle’ law firm in the City offered an interview. I declined, but a partner insisted I meet him for a beer. We got on well and drank so much I can’t remember leaving the bar. The next day, I received a call inviting me to a second interview. I didn’t realise the piss-up was a first interview, but explained that I’d already accepted an offer so I was going to stick with it. The law firm I had committed to was Jemunt, located in the square mile. But I had reservations. One of the interviewers, who greeted me with a limp handshake, was standoffish, patronising and overbearing. I shrugged off the poor first impression. That would be the last time I ignored the sound of alarm bells ringing in my head. Bludgeoning on regardless, I was about to make a big mistake.

After the initial optimism of landing the job, doubts gnawed away. I set off for my first day at Jemunt feeling downbeat. The first few minutes of entering the building dictated what my time there would be like. In the lift up to the department, I met a lawyer who had joined the firm only weeks before. James Pilkins was someone who I’d known a few years earlier. He was an oily blend of deceit and self-congratulation. From curly blond hair to dark-rimmed glasses and pinstripe suit, he was the epitome of posh boy lawyer. James insisted on using words like “Sherbets” for beers and “Doris” for girlfriend. I’d lost touch with him on purpose.

He said with a smirk that he had already told the partners it was a mistake hiring me. Great, that’s all I need, I thought. The malicious back-stabber would end up doing well there. As the lift stopped, I was greeted by the smell of stale smoke from the nearby smoking room, mixed with aftershave. I was assigned to work for three partners, who appeared serious and unfriendly. I was not sure at all about this bunch but I was here and would have to see how it went.

Initially, I worked with a partner, Toby Wagstaffe, who called me to his room in order to talk through a new transaction he had been instructed on. I read the papers in advance, sat down and listened to him thinking aloud. He got the wrong end of the stick. Eventually, he asked for my thoughts. Leaving out the tediousness of the deal, I explained it was a synthetic split-structure risk transfer contract. He looked at me incredulously, as if I had dared to confront his vast importance. We were summoned to the office of a senior partner to discuss the new matter. As we walked along a corridor past open doors to offices, weak lamps cast dim light over lawyers and paperwork inside.

“When we’re in this meeting, don’t say a word, understand?” His tone was hateful.

I nodded as we reached the senior partner’s office. After introductions were made, I sat down and took it all in.

“Yes so, in my view, this is a classic example of a synthetic split-structure risk transfer contract,” Wagstaffe unashamedly regurgitated in his conclusion. He sat back and basked in the gushing praise of the senior partner.

Fucking dickhead, I thought.

On the way back to our respective rooms, a silent glare was flicked in my direction before he stopped to speak to two other partners, Julian Swithers and Simon Thwaytes, for a jumped-up discussion.

“Go to your room and get back to work,” Wagstaffe ordered.

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