Thursday, June 28, 2007

the arrival...

I knew that the second the boys from ABC swept in that the firm was going to be a very different place to work. ABC has a predominantly male employee base where as BCF is known as gender balanced and progressive, with a number of female partners, some of whom even work part time.

It was about midnight that they swept in, like ghouls from a scene in a Harry Potter movie, they floated across the floor in their impeccable dark suits and co-ordinated shirts and ties.

Ben Montan was, of course, at the centre of it all. As their soon-to-be-new-hot-shot-partner he was the golden boy of the firm and he was acting like it. My skin crawled thinking about our meeting in the lane this morning and that blonde woman he was obviously so keen to lick from head to toe. It did not stop the other women in the room throwing cheeky glances in his direction though. He was holding court with Peters and Jones as well as (surprisingly) my Uncle. They all clearly thought he was terribly funny.

Kate, however, seemed transfixed by another man.

"Trix," she said pulling on my sleeve, "who IS that?" her finger waved in the general direction of John Claude. The gorgeous and perfect John Claude.

"Oh come on Kate, that's John," I said. Kate knew that I'd been at university with John Claude, the dashing French exchange student who had fallen in love with Melbourne and never left.

"No way…. He looks FANTASTIC!" she sputtered.

"I know, he always did. So bright too, got the uni medal for law in our year".
John was class personified. If I were to date men he would be the sort of man who would tick all the boxes on my list: smart, tall, handsome, charming, well dressed, employed (in a very fine job) and ambitious. He could have done with a little more spunk but given I wasn't actually planning to date any men in the near future I was objectively willing to forgive him this subjective fault in our non-existent relationship.

Kate was clearly smitten. At that moment John caught us looking at him and as I lifted my hand in a half wave (which Kate quickly pulled down) he started to make his way over to us.

"Bloody hell Trix, now he's on his way over here…" I don't think I'd ever seen Kate quite this flustered by a man.

"I know" I smiled back at her teasingly.

"Ladies", he said as slid up to us and kissed me on the cheek. "Looking wonderful as always Trixie Allan".

"Thank you," I said "you too. How's Melbourne treating you?"

"Wonderfully. I love this city," his French accent was delectable, "there are so many hidden gems," he was looking directly at Kate, clearly hankering for an introduction.

"I'm sorry, John, do you remember my cousin Kate? She was the year below us at law school."

"I do now," he said as Kate blushed. Perfect.

"I better go and get some more drinks," I said. "Kate another champagne? And John?"

"Just a beer," he replied. I nudged my way back through the increasing number of people toward the drinks.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Night Drinks ctd...

The board room looks fantastic on Friday night. The partners have gone all out. There is Moet everywhere and little sushi rolls and blinis darting about the room on platters. The roof is covered with fairy lights and some kind of white muslin cloth so it looks like an enchanted forest. The overhead projectors are flashing images of smiling employees on the white walls at either end of the room and a jazz trio is quietly bubbling away in the corner.

Kate grabs two champagnes off the closest tray and pushes one into my hand.

"Magic", she says as if the champagne will fix everything.

And it comes close. The first sip is extravagant, bubbles hitting the top of my mouth and tingling up my nose make my entire body sigh. Finally, it is clear that the day is over and what's more because of the day I've had I can't possibly work on the weekend. I've been demoted big time, which means no working out of hours without supervision.

Another champagne. Kate and I sneak outside for a Friday-night-only-when-I'm-drinking-not-during-the-week-when-I'm-sober-cigarette.

"You ok?" she asks. "Dad said you had a pretty rough day."

"Great, now the whole firm knows how crap I am".

"You know he tells me, he won't have told everyone".

"Yeah, I know. It was just SO crap. I don't know what happened. It's like I have forgotten everything I've learnt so far".

"Trix, it's a totally different world. Coming to civil litigation from crime is like changing from obstetrics to orthopedics. They sound the same but they're really very different".

"I know. I'm just going to have to suck it up and do my time all over again."


"Just when you feel like you're finally getting somewhere."

"I know."

"And I ran into that bloody Ben Montan. Swanning about in his suit with some girl drooling all over him. Jesus. Men like that make me sick inside. It's no wonder women like us stay single. I mean really, what are the options?"

"Don't pull me into your little I hate men club" joked Kate.

"But honestly, I look at Ben and I look at Brad Pitt and I think, how is it possibly worth all the crap? They claim to be not into relationships but if you just want to sleep with them .."


"…they're so clingy and needy and then if you do actually look like you might send them an email or give them your phone number they run two thousand miles at the pace of some very fast marathon runner. And then…"

"Trixie, good to see you haven't let the day bring you down. Announcement… inside… now."

I turn around and Uncle is standing right behind me. My cigarette is stuck to my top lip and I just know my lipstick is smeared from guzzling champagne.

"Um yes… right in" as I rip the top layer of skin from my lip by pulling the cigarette off.

I don't think Kate and I have been gone for too long but the boardroom has really squeezed in a lot more people in the time we were outside. We squeeze surreptitiously into a corner just in time. Uncle taps on the microphone.

"Ladies and gentleman. Welcome. It is our great honour to host this evening and we would like to welcome all our visiting friends and, might I say, allies, to these celebratory drinks." Thank you, another champagne for me.

"BCF has been proud of it's growth over the last few years and I am particularly proud as a founding partner to be able to say that we see our future as a strong one including all our children. We are a close knit family. And we are delighted to announce that we are about to become a blended family." Jesus, this speech could not be any cornier.

"Please charge your glasses and help me welcome our brothers and sisters from ABC Lawyers. From this evening we will be merging into one practice, based in these offices and we will trade as ABC BCF… to new beginnings." Holy shit.

Everyone raises their glasses and chimes back, "new beginnings".

I can't believe they are merging. The rumour had been an alliance, some kind of work sharing, knowledge building relationship but a full on merger hadn't been on the cards. Wow. At least the drama of my day will fade into the background against all of this.

"Oh and one more thing," Uncle is back at the microphone, "our new family is on their way, some already here, so please make them feel welcome. We hope to hear from the managing partner of ABC later this evening."

Clearly, this is going to be a big party and I have a big day to forget.

'"Doesn't Ben Montan work for ABC?" whispers Kate.

The only solution to any of my problems is to drink a big amount of champagne and let it all wash away.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the pay rise poem

It's that time of year…
partner's hide your coffers,
the salary review is here!
Lawyers prepare the show-stoppers

that you will present
to the management committee
because they will resent you
if you just sit and look pretty.

So think about your virtues,
achievements and goals,
wonderful accomplishments
and great gaping holes.

The ones that you left
when you transferred in March,
on your grad rotation
or secondment to Mars.

Because that's where you'll be
if you haven't prepared
something great for them
like a rabbit, that's long-haired

to jump out of a hat
and make them gasp 'wow,
that woman's fantastic
give her a pay-rise now!'

The system it seems
so scary and big
but it's not that bad
if you have a dancing pig.

That should distract them
for about ten minutes
and you can scribble some numbers,
throw at them figures.

So sensible, wise,
grounded and sure
your offer will make them
want to pay you more.

You hope and you pray,
you've only just found God
but deep down he knows
you work very hard.

And even though the billings
aren't always six and a half
you've made a wonderful contribution
to office morale.

You joke and you laugh,
you dine and you wine
there's no I in team,
certainly not this time.

The admin staff
and office services
know you all personally
and you know they're all surfers.

They leave the office
on Fridays at noon
and they get in their cars
and drive all afternoon.

They drive to the coast
and surf all weekend
but you only know
because you're their friend.

You've never left
the office before five
unless it's on leave
or business that's live.

Because you're a hard worker
and have a heart that's big,
you deserve a pay rise,
where's that dancing pig?!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Night Drinks

Friday night drinks are a law firm institution. BCF does it well. It's in the board room with the balcony (which has a fountain in the corner of it). There are floor to ceiling windows which look out over the city and everyone is ready to unwind. The drinks are good, the food is provided and there are waiters passing it all round so you can just mingle and have a good time.

I've had such a crap day, drinks is the last thing (but also the only thing) I feel like. Judge Z and Mr Niffen squashed me in court. Apparently, if you fail to check out a little thing like WHO OWNS THE HELICOPTERS you just take the risk that perhaps the person you lease them from doesn't in fact own them.

Apparently due diligence is a shield and not a sword. Of course it is.

Clearly, a couple of years in Broadmeadow's Magistrates' Court does not a civil litigation lawyer make.

However, a blunder like this does make for a Senior Associate losing all autonomy and being mentored by a more senior Senior Associate. Goodbye autonomy and dignity.

Think of the pay cheque, think of the pay cheque.

I am just glad the day is over. The little digital numbers in the bottom right hand corner of my computer are just ticking over to five o'clock as my email chimes.

"Don't forget Friday Night Drinks in the Boardroom.

The Partners have an exciting announcement to make and strongly encourage all staff to attend and celebrate with a glass of champagne."

I was so excited about drinks this morning but now I feel exhausted just by the idea. I want to go home and eat a block of chocolate and drink myself silly in front of Sex in the City episodes. I don't want to mingle and feel elated about an "exciting announcement". I have only deflation after today.

The door to my office opens and Kate sticks her head in.

"Come on Trix", she beams.

"Katie…. I've had a shocker" I plead.

"No way missy. I am not letting you get out of this for the world".


"No, non, nein."

"The extra languages don't make it more convincing."

"Come on, you'll feel better after a glass of bubbly" she says, poking me in the side.

"Careful", I say, "my sweat patches have almost dried but you might get contaminated by my fluids."

"Trix, you're gross."


"No, shoes on, let's go. The partners will totally freak if you don't man-up and just suffer through some champagne. I know how much you hate Moet…"

"Moet? If you'd started with that, we'd be there by now."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back at court, much of the court room has emptied. Judge Z is clearly in a no-nonsense-court-clearing mood. He has a reputation for making the court room feel like a factory line - in and out in five minutes with a nicely manufactured result.
I've been waiting at the back for about ten minutes when the associate calls the case on.

"X and Others"

My skin tingles. I take my seat at the left hand side of the bar table and announce my appearance.

"If it please the court, my name is Allan, I appear for X". It has such a lovely ring to it.

My opponent rises.

"If it please the court…"

"Yes Mr Niffen, I know who you are", His Honour booms through his ruddy red cheeks.

Mr Niffen, shit, Mr Niffen.

I have never met Mr Niffen before. He is Mr Niffen QC. He is good, the best. He invented big litigation like this. I have never appeared on these sorts matters before. I feel scared for the first time in ages.

"Yes Ms Allan", says His Honour", "you have initiated this application."

Do it. Just stand up and tell him.

"Um… yes Your Honour. It's about an affidavit that we have…. It was done last night at about 11pm and I think the affidavit has something that ... and …. Um…"

"Ms Allan. I have been in this court room since ten o'clock listening to application after application and I am getting hungry. There are only twenty minutes before lunch..."

Oh God, that's it. Any confidence I had just leaked through the floor.

"Yes Your Honour." I can't speak. No more words. Mouth not moving. Sweat glands pumping like crazy.

His Honour sighs and looks at his associate, gesturing towards me.
"You have an affidavit?" His Honour asks.
Still can't speak. Brain computer has crashed.

The associate comes down from the bench and takes the affidavit I am waving round in the air like a fan. She gives the affidavit to His Honour.

"Are you going to tell me what it's about Ms Allan or do I have to read…" he flicks through the pages and looks at the number on the last page, "all ninety seven pages of it over my lunch break?"

"Ah….aah… it's an expert witness Your Honour…. My client has advice that no longer means we have to be liable." His Honour sighs and shifts in his seat.

"Mr Niffen, perhaps you could help shed some light on the situation".
Mr Niffen looks at me and smiles gently (I am not sure whether it is pity or sympathy, either way, it feels like hell).

"Certainly, Your Honour. The matter concerns a lease over some helicopters. I act for Madden. We own two helicopters. Big ones."

His Honour laughs. I am slowly dying inside.

"My client" Mr Niffen continues "had an arrangement with a third party not represented here today. We had arranged to store the helicopters in a warehouse that Cadmium owned. Without our knowledge, Cadmium leased the helicopters to Ms Allan's client."

"I see," His Honour peered over his glasses at me. I am shrinking.

"Ms Allan's client did not carry out any due diligence enquiries prior to entering into the contract."

A grumble of disapproval comes from the bench. I know that I have huge sweat patches growing under my armpits, ruining my perfect Friday outfit.

"The affidavit Ms Allan has brought to court today is from an expert witness and suggests that theher client should not be liable to pay the real owners for the hire of the helicopters because of the operation of a Peace Order which says it is immune from any actions in negligence."

"Negligence?" His Honour asks. "Isn't this a property or contract issue?"

"That's my position Your Honour. That the Order does not apply to this case because this case is not a negligence case".

Please someone wake me up. Is this a dream? Surely, this is a dream. How could I have made such a fundamental error? I have not only lost my ability to speak but also my ability to think. I am sure I did look at this at some point and work out why the Order did apply. Didn't I? I am sure I did. Crap crap crap.

"Well Ms Allan".

"I….I…..I…." stammer stammer stammer.

"Ms Allan, I think perhaps you should seek some instructions from a more senior lawyer?

"Yes Your Honour" Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.

"I will re-convene after lunch but I must say, Ms Allan, I will take some convincing to be swayed from Mr Niffen's position on this issue."
Judge Z removes his glasses and gestures to his tipstaff who stands.

"All rise. This honourable court stands adjourned".

I feel asleep. Maybe I am and I just don't realise?

Except that my sweat patches are very real. And very large.