I was told to prepare a talk for some clients and set to work on the presentation slides. Swithers reviewed my work and, without any acknowledgement, used it verbatim to give his presentation. I was allowed to sit at the back of the room but ordered not to speak. Swithers added his condescending slant to the talk. It was entertaining as I watched the reaction of clients who shot each other silent grimaces and grins. If Swithers had anything about him, which he did not, he would have been embarrassed.
About halfway through, justice happened in the form of a fire alarm. I found it difficult to contain my cheerfulness as the presentation had to be abandoned and the building evacuated. It was even funnier when Swithers tried to reconvene the presentation when we were allowed back in the building to find nearly all the clients had taken the opportunity to get the hell out of there. Swithers was forced to call it off. As we both got the lift back to the department in silence, he scowled but was unable to pin the blame on me this time as I was in the presentation room and nowhere near any fire alarm point. I smiled. It was a good day.
I was due to attend an internal pan-European conference in which speakers would be randomly picked on the day from the delegates. Previously, I was no fan of public speaking but, since my training at the bar, I did not mind it so much. If called upon to speak, I would do it well.
The next morning, legal problems were given to a number of groups and the solutions had to be worked out and presented by one member of each group to the delegates. A panel would then award marks for each presentation. I was chosen to speak for my group because I was the most junior and the partners from the Netherlands, Germany and the UK showed no interest in the task. They just delegated to me and talked amongst themselves. On my own, I worked the problem out and decided to speak with no notes. I was ready and looked at the rest of my team. Not a single one talked to me. I had memorised my speech, but looked at this overpaid, under-talented dickheads with the disgust they deserved.
The presentations before mine were interspersed with fumbled papers, stuttering and an inability to talk off-the-cuff. I did my presentation, brief, to the point and delivered looking up at the delegates in the auditorium. I was not sure how clearly I spoke, but I was taught by the best during pupillage. It took a while, but the results were handed down and my presentation won. I had to go back on stage to collect a crappy little book about wine as a prize. To muted claps, I walked off the stage and threw the book in a bin at the bottom of the steps. It was seen by many and I never gave a fuck. I was not interested in that firm or those people.